Thailand has extended its ban on passenger flights for another month to June 30, citing the need to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand issued the announcement on its website on Saturday to extend the ban from May 31.
No passenger flights originating outside the country may land at Thai airports until June 30. The exceptions are state or military aircraft, emergency or technical landing, humanitarian aid, medicine and relief flights, repatriation and cargo aircraft.
The extended flight ban has led to speculation that the state of emergency decree may also be prolonged beyond May 31, although the number of new Covid-19 cases has remained steady for two weeks, even falling to zero on two days this week.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, the cabinet’s legal expert, said on Saturday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had asked him to consider which laws could be used to contain an outbreak if the decree was scrapped.
While Mr Wissanu admitted that the communicable disease control law gives provincial governors the power to take necessary actions, he said he worried about inconsistencies in its application.
He cited the examples of Phuket, Krabi and Phangnga, neighbouring provinces that had different restrictions, prompting migration of people in those provinces.
“Such problems made it necessary to issue the emergency decree in the first place to trump provincial orders. … Our only fear is that we’re going to have 77 different standards if we rely only on the disease control law,” he said, referring to the 76 provinces in Thailand plus Bangkok.
Discussing the flight ban extension, Mr Wissanu said it had nothing to do with a possible extension of the emergency decree. “If the emergency decree is scrapped, we can still restrict flights if the situation warrants it,” he said.
However, he ruled out the possibility that martial law or security laws, with give even more power to officials, would be used.
A difference between the emergency decree and the disease control law are the latter gives power to governors to issue orders while the former centralises all power. As well, the emergency decree empowers the government to impose a curfew and bans criminal or administrative actions against officials performing their duties.
As well, the emergency decree allows the government to ban gatherings and to censor or stop any communication that it feels could undermine its efforts. The disease control law has no such provisions.