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Asia Minute: Thailand Extends State of Emergency

AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
People line up for the coronavirus test in Rayong province, Thailand, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Thailand’s government plans to extend its state of emergency for another month—at least until the end of August. At the same time, officials have announced several steps to gradually open the country a bit more.

Thailand’s nickname is the “land of smiles,” but these days it’s also a land of contrasts. Its COVID-19 cases are stable – there have been no reports of any local transmission of the virus in two months. But there have also been no tourists, and trade has slumped.

Thailand’s Central Bank expects the economy to shrink by 8% this year — one of the sharpest declines in the region.

Half a dozen cabinet members have resigned in the past week — including the ministers of finance and labor.

At the same time, pro-democracy protests led by student groups are growing.

Critics says the extension of the state of emergency has less to do with public health than with political control – a charge the prime minister denies.

The ASEAN Post quotes Prayut Chan-o-cha as saying, “We are not using these laws against protesters—but what I’m worried about is their movements—which authorities would have to manage carefully.”

Prayut is a former army chief of staff who led a military coup that seized control of the government in 2014. He became prime minister following an election last year.

Apart from the political turmoil, Thailand is moving ahead to allow certain foreigners to enter the country — not tourists, but among other groupings, foreign business representatives, diplomats, migrant workers and foreign film crews.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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