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Two Imported COVID-19 Cases Spark Thai Anger

Thai people seek government responsibility for exempting COVID-19 quarantine

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Chatwan Mongkol
A freelance journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand covering Thai politics

THAILAND. Bangkok. Thai netizens criticized the government through hashtags on Twitter after the government allowed entries of two COVID-19 patients with exemptions from current travel restrictions because of their diplomatic and military privileges.

Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesperson of Thailand’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said at a press conference on July 13 that there were two foreign-nationals who tested positive for COVID-19 and were exempted from a 14-day mandatory state quarantine.

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One was an Egyptian military officer who stayed at D Varee Diva Central Rayong Hotel in Rayong on July 8-11. He visited Laemthong Department Store during his stay. According to Visanuyothin, 31 Egyptian military officers were allowed in under “a special exemption.”

Another case was a 9-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diplomat whose group was allowed entry because of the diplomatic privilege. The group was supposed to quarantine at the embassy, but they later moved into a condominium in Sukhumvit.

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Criticism from internet users. Despite over a month of zero internal transmissions, the government brought in COVID-19 patients. Thais expressed their frustrations on the government operation through trended Twitter hashtags: #รัฐบาลหัวควย (#DickheadGovernment), #รัฐบาลส้นตีนคนเชียร์ก็ส้นตีน (#FuckGovernmentFuckTheOnesWhoLikeThisGovernment) and #ประยุทธ์ออกไป (GetOutPrayut). The hashtags trended for two days.

Netizens criticized the government for having double standards for V.I.P. people. According to the current travel restrictions, all arriving passengers need to be in a 14-day state quarantine at a government facility or at an alternative approved facility. However, those two groups were exempted from the regulations because of their privileges.

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People also said the government has been telling them “not to let their guard down” but the government itself could not enforce its own regulations with its official guests.

Apologies offered, but responsibility still needed. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha publicly took the blame and apologized on July 14. The CCSA disclosed the information about their visits to Rayong and Bangkok on the same day. Both came after they faced a backlash from the internet.

The public seeks responsibility from the government. As local news reported, all schools in Rayong had been closed, 90% of hotel bookings in the province had been canceled and over 1,900 had been told to self-isolate.

Visanuyothin said the CCSA is sorry for what happened and will take this as a lesson. He also said that the government will review its policies with special guests.

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