Rayong people have expressed disappointment that an Egyptian military officer was found positive for Covid-19. Police have arrested protestors without charge before a visit by the PM, while business representatives urge 14 days quarantine for all incoming passengers.
A police forced a protester into a car without any charge declared. (Source: Live stream/ Thai PBS)
On 15 July, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, along with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, made a hasty trip to Rayong province after a visiting Egyptian air force officer was tested positive for Covid-19.
Gen Prayut went to the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel and Laem Thong Department Store which the officer had visited and also visited the Star market to meet the people.
At the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel, 2 activists from the Eastern Youth Leadership Group livestreamed on Facebook a protest with the banner “Don’t let your guard down, dad”, a satirical reference to the repeated warnings from the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
8 minutes into the protest and before the PM’s arrival, the protesters were arrested and taken to a police station. They were later released without being charged.
Pol Col Thapana Khlosuwanna, Superintendent of Mueang Rayong Police Station, said he did not know what offence the protestors will be charged with. The investigators will look into the matter on 16 July.
On 16 July, Pol Col Kritsana Phattanacharoen, a Royal Thai Police deputy spokeperson said the two were charged with violating the Emergency Decree and the Diseases Control officer in organizing an infection-risk gathering, unreasonably disobeying the authorities and escaping the arrest. (Source: Thairath)
The 2 protesters also filed a complaint to the police for committing 4 offences; false imprisonment, abduction, abuse of power and physical assault.
The video footage from Thai PBS showed that the protesters resisted the police attempt to force them into the police car. Pol Col Kritsana said the protesters ran away from the police station to the Star Market after the arrest.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Secretary-General of the dissolved Future Forward Party, posted on Facebook a criticism of the police action. He asked whether the police’s claim of “orders from higher up” would give the police impunity and whether the country was ruled by orders or the law.
On the same day, entrepreneurs and people’s representatives from Rayong submitted a letter opposing visits by foreigners without 14 days in state quarantine which had let infected people into Thailand as was found in Rayong. They urged state quarantine for every foreign arrival without exception.
Group representative Thachaya Chuangsanthat said Rayong people have been enduring an economic struggle and applying public health measures to the point that there had been no infections in the province for more than 100 days.
But the decision by the government and CCSA to let an infected person into the country was unacceptable. What privileges are such people entitled to? Is there a double standard when the public was being told not to let their guard down?
Thachaya said that the government and CCSA acceptance of responsibility was not enough. They should resign if they cannot solve the problem.
Thairath reported that the incident has dealth a huge blow to Rayong people hope to get back on their feet after the lockdown. Almost all of hotel bookings for vacations or conferences were canceled as people concerns are increased.
Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoen, Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, said that the head of international disease control and all officials at U-Tapao International Airport have been replaced with officials from the Office of Disease Prevention and Control from Chonburi Province.
Suwanchai said the investigation revealed 2 mistakes: the Egyptian officers had violated regulations and the hotel lacked the proper means to comply with state regulations. Provincial Communicable Disease Committees are assigned to provide quarantine accommodation by designating a supervisor to make on-the-spot decisions on quarantine, strictly enforcing quarantine laws and regulations, and emphasizing disease control measures.