Wissanu plays down extension of emergency decree
published : 1 Jul 2020 at 20:19
writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
The government on Wednesday tried to allay concerns over its decision to extend the emergency decree until the end of July, saying most of its restrictions had already been lifted anyway.
“The emergency decree is still needed to ensure integration of the authority held by various state officials, which the Communicable Disease Control Act lacks the power to enforce,” said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
He was responding to growing calls by political and rights activists and the opposition for the emergency decree to be revoked.
“Neither the public health minister nor the Disease Control Department director-general has the authority [under the Communicable Disease Control Act] to tell the immigration officials or the police what to do,” he said.
“But the prime minister can exercise his power under the decree to order the more than 40,000 such officials to work together [in the fight to contain the coronavirus]."
Some critics may have over-generalised about it as being associated with limitations of freedom and rights but the fact is most restrictions on people's freedom and rights had already been lifted, said Mr Wissanu.
Of the six bans imposed under the emergency decree, only two remained in place and they had not been strictly implemented, he said.
The ban on public gathering for the sake of social distancing, for instance, remained but many people had been allowed to gather for a political activity on June 24 without punishment.
The ban on the media publishing distorted information also remained, he said, while freedom of expression through the media had never been prohibited.
Mr Wissanu also said the Communicable Disease Control Act was being amended so it would be better positioned to deal with future health crises like the coronavirus, so the emergency decree wouldn't be needed again.
The amendment is expected to take about a year to pass, so it won't be relevant to this coronavirus pandemic and the law is likely to be called the Communicable and Epidemic Diseases Control Act.
Learning from their experience in handling the coronavirus outbreak, the parties concerned agreed the law needed a major update so it could cover a wider range of emerging diseases like Covid-19, he said.
However, the new law would not compel anyone to wear face masks, self-quarantine or follow social distancing measures, Mr Wissanu said.