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Friday, June 18, 2021

Thailand Holds Its Elections Amid New Wave Of Pandemic

Recording-breaking daily cases are reported relating to an outbreak in a shrimp market

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

THAILAND: Voters headed to polls on Sunday for local elections after the health authorities reported over 600 new cases in the last 24 hours.

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The elections happen for the first time in at least six years since the military coup in 2014. Voters across 76 provinces, excluding Bangkok, will elect their chief executives of the provincial administrative organisations (PAO), and PAO representatives.

According to BBC Thai, this is the first time people aged 18-26 are voting as the last local elections happened in 2012. Around 7.3 million voters are first-time voters.

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In recent months, the ongoing anti-government protests took the national spotlight, this is the first time residents outside Bangkok have the opportunity to voice their opinions through elections. Most local candidates are from government parties and opposition parties.

COVID-19 New Wave

Following the discovery of 689 new COVID-19 cases relating to an outbreak at a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, the province immediately went into lockdown. 

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The restrictions including the closure of the market, schools, shops, and department stores in Samut Sakhon were enforced. Restaurants switched to take-out only. Migrant workers are banned from leaving the province. The provincial government also imposed a night curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Despite that, the governor encouraged Samut Sakhon residents to still go out and vote for the elections after as he said the province has taken a step to decrease maximum capacity at each poll. He also asked voters to put on masks when going to polls.

The outbreak in Samut Sakhon started when a 67-year-old woman without travelling history tested positive for the virus on 17 December. The Disease Control Department suspects that the origin of the virus came from Burmese migrant workers at the shrimp market who made up 90% of those positive cases.

Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Kiattipoom Wongrajit said more testing is underway, and there will be more cases.

New cases bring Thailand to a total of 4,907 cases, as of 20 December morning, with 60 deaths.

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