Emergency decree coming Thursday

Emergency decree coming Thursday

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gestures after announcing the government's plan to declare an emergency and impose measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic, at Government House in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gestures after announcing the government's plan to declare an emergency and impose measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic, at Government House in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The government will declare an emergency and introduce new measures to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) on Thursday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said the state of emergency would last about one month. 

In his live televised announcement at Government House, Gen Prayut said new requirements to control the disease would be enforced and a committee would be formed to work them out on a daily basis.

"Requirements will be announced the day after tomorrow. They will be issued on an ongoing basis to reduce the epidemic. Some will be requests for cooperation and others will be compulsory," the prime minister said.

"Do not return to your home provinces, or you will face penalties. There will be checkpoints along the way. Please do home quarantine (at your current location). Quarantine facilities will be opened locally and also by the government." Gen Prayut said. Various places would subsequently be closed, he added.

 "Many people have been infected. There must be field hospitals and large-scale quarantine areas," the prime minister said.

"If the situation does not improve, there will be a total lockdown," Gen Prayut said.

During the state of emergency, Gen Prayut warned, people must be careful what they post on social media. Those who abuse social media would be arrested and prosecuted, he said.

Those who raise product prices unreasonably will also face penalties, he said.

The government is taking the new measures by invoking its right to exercise an executive decree on public administration in an emergency situation, Gen Prayut said.

What does 'state of emergency' actually mean for people in Thailand?

A prime minister may announce a state of emergency under a 2005 executive decree when he or she believes the situation warrants it, restricting some of the rights and liberties of the people.

With the cabinet’s approval, the prime minister may announce a state of emergency for a period of up to  three months (although it can be renewed). Once declared, all authority and duties of agencies involved in preventing and mitigating the situation are transferred to the prime minister.

During a state of emergency, the prime minister may:

  • prohibit anyone from leaving home for a certain period
  • ban assembly at any place
  • ban the reporting, selling, distributing or disseminating of any media that includes content that may frighten people or cause unrest, or that intentionally distorts news and information, in the area where the emergency has been declared or all over the country
  • prohibit the use of certain means or routes of transportation
  • prohibit the use of certain buildings or places, or evacuate people from certain areas

If the prime minister deems the situation is severe — such as one involving terrorism, use of force or a threat to national security — he or she may declare a state of "extreme emergency" during which he may:

  • detain suspects for up to seven days, extendable by further periods of up to seven days, for a total of up to 30 days
  • summon anyone for information
  • seize goods, chemicals or products
  • search or demolish buildings
  • open mail, tap telephones or stop any communication
  • prohibit anyone from leaving the country
  • order soldiers to help police
  • require reporting of purchases, sales and possession of certain goods

The law forbids petitioning to the Administrative Court, so people who want to take action against officials during an emergency must go to the Criminal Court.

Section 17 of the decree also gives civil, criminal and disciplinary impunity to officials as long as they have "acted reasonably".

The penalty for violation of either type of emergency is a jail term up to two years and/or a fine up to 40,000 baht.

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