An announcement has been issued by Chief of Thailand’s defence forces, Gen. Chalermpol Srisawat, in his capacity as the chief officer in charge of solving emergency situations related to security affairs, and published in the Royal Gazette yesterday, banning unauthorised public assemblies and gatherings in the wake of clusters COVID-19 infections resulting in a rising number of hospitalisations, severe cases and fatalities, despite more people getting their vaccine booster doses.
The move is in line with and complementary to the State of Emergency, in place since March 2020 and extended for the 19th time to the end of September 2022. Despite calls by pro-democracy and rights groups for the Emergency Decree and related bans to be scrapped, claiming that the restrictions have been used to suppress political movements and freedom of expression, the Decree remains and is expected to stay until at least November, when Thailand hosts the 2022 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit.
Under the terms of this edict, police can seek help from the military to enforce the ban and anyone who violates it is liable to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of 40,000 baht if convicted. Gatherings are allowed only when permission isgranted by authorities concerned.
The announcement claims that the ban is in line with the government’s policy of transiting to a post-pandemic period, to reopen the country and to drive the economy, in parallel with strict compliance with safety measures.
Besides public assemblies and gatherings, which present arisk of spreading the disease, other acts and activities, which are “deemed” to increase the hardships of the people or of contributing to the spread of the disease are also prohibited.
The announcement allows a window for public assemblies or gatherings to be organised under conditions stipulated in the Public Assembly Act. One of the conditions is that the organiser must notify the local police 24 hours in advance ofthe event.
On June 24th, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt designated seven locations in Bangkok in which public assemblies and gatherings can be held, on the condition that the organiser notifies the district office 24 hours in advance,so officials can make preparations, including the provision ofconveniences and security arrangements.
The seven locations are Lan Khon Mueang at City Hall, the Thai-Japanese Youth Centre in Din Daeng, a public space under the Ratchavibha Bridge, the car park in front of Phra Khanong District Office, the 72nd Anniversary Stadium in Min Buri, Chalerm Phrakiat Stadium in Thung Khru and Monthon Phirom Park in Taling Chan district.
Thailand’s COVID-19 hospitalised rate is reported to be just below 2,000 a day, with the number of mild and asymptomatic cases self-isolating at home at least 10 times higher. About 53.5 million people have received at least two doses of vaccine, almost 31 million of whom already jabbed with booster shots.
Thai PBS World, 2nd August 2022, https://www.thaipbsworld.com/new-public-assembly-ban-imposed-in-thailand-to-contain-covid-19/