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Thursday, October 29, 2020

State Of Emergency Extended In Thailand

Citizens face off with their government and demand an end to the emergency decree

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

THAILAND. Bangkok. Despite zero internal transmission of the virus, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided on 22 July to extend the imposition of the Emergency Decree for another month. It´s currently set to last until the end of August as the National Security Council (NSC) proposed.

The cabinet will have to approve the decision on 28 July before the extension.

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The NSC said there were three reasons for the extension. The authorities need to control the entries and exits of both Thai and foreign nationals. They also need the order to centralize power for a faster response to an emergency situation. Lastly, they need to use the decree as a tool to slowly ease other restrictions.

The Thai government originally imposed an emergency decree on 26 March due to COVID-19. It was initially set to end on 30 April but has been extended four times.

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Emergency decree grants authorities more power. Under this mandate, the prime minister has the authority to impose curfews, ban gatherings, censor information that creates fear, restrict all types of transportation, and ban the use of certain buildings or areas.

The order also stated that if the situation is considered a serious emergency, authorities would have the power to arrest people that might worsen the situation. Authorities can issue a summons, seize suspicious items, issue search warrants, deny citizens the right to exit, deport non-nationals, and suspend activities perceived as security threats under this decree as well.

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Violators can face up to two years in prison, a fine upwards of 40,000 Baht, or both.

A perfect excuse to control people? The government has been criticized for using the emergency decree as a political tool to suppress the opposition and dissidents. Several political activists have been arrested and charged for violation of the mandate after they organized protests against the government.

However, NSC Secretary-General Gen Somsak Rungsita said that the decree will no longer ban gathering after the extension.

Protests against the government order. In recent months, people have protested and demanded that the government lifts the emergency decree. On 10 July, People GO Network group marched from a subway station to the civil court in Bangkok to file a lawsuit against the statute. Messages on signs people held at the event include, “Stop citing the pandemic to shut people’s mouths.”

On 8 July, the Student Union of Thailand led nearly 200 people in a protest in front of Pathumwan Police Station. A sign at the event stated, “Stop medical coup.”

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