The cabinet decided today (30 June) to extend the State of Emergency to the end of July, even though Thailand has now gone over a month without any cases of local transmission of Covid-19.
Uniformed police officers setting up railings in front of MBK Center before the start of the rally at Pathumwan Skywalk on 24 June.
Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokesperson of the Office of the Prime Minister, announced the extension in a press conference following today’s cabinet meeting, and said that there is no other motive behind the cabinet’s decision than public health.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said following the cabinet meeting that he will not be commenting about the movement calling for the government to lift the Emergency Decree, as there is a reason and a need for it. According to Matichon Online, he said that the government doesn’t want to block the people from doing anything, and that if anyone would like to organize a demonstration, they can still request permission according to the Public Assembly Act, but the Decree is there to prevent a large number of people from gathering.
This is the third time that the State of Emergency has been extended since it was declared at the end of March to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Since its declaration, the Thai authorities have used the Emergency Decree to restrict freedom of expression. According to ARTICLE 19, at least 25 individuals are facing legal prosecution for alleged violations of the Decree after participating in peaceful protests, and today’s decision to extend the State of Emergency “heightens concerns that the pandemic is being used as a pretext to silence government critics.”
“The government is giving Thais the green light to pile on to crowded trains and spend Sunday afternoons at the mall, while at the same time charging activists that gather in far smaller numbers,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “The danger to protesters in Thailand is not COVID-19, but a government intent on silencing its critics.”
According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand has not found any local cases of Covid-19 in 36 days, with the exception of cases found in state quarantine.