Following protests at the health ministry this afternoon in Bangkok and scheduled protests this weekend in Bangkok, the Thai government announced through the Royal Gazette tonight, July 16th, 2021, a nationwide ban on “mass” gatherings.
The ban, which didn’t specifically refer to the aforementioned protests, takes effect immediately until further notice.
The language used in the order did not give specific numbers around what a “mass gathering” could be considered but did note that at least in maximum control areas like Bangkok and surrounding provinces that the current limit on gathering was five unless given permission by relevant officials, such as vaccination campaigns.
The order was also very clear that those who violate the order can face extensive prison time up to two years and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht.
The order could also be combined with previous orders banning gatherings such as the Emergency Decree, Communicable Disease Acts, provincial municipal orders, and others-making those who violate the rules possibly facing many charges and extensive fines and prison time.
The order notes that any sort of gathering that isn’t ceremonial and approved by the government is essentially banned currently, mentioning banquets and carnivals as well.
One particular paragraph states verbatim “It is forbidden to mix together in a manner that is at risk of spreading a disease or an act of taking advantage of opportunities to aggravate the suffering of the people or bullying for spreading disease anywhere throughout the Kingdom.”
The order was written by General Chalermphon Srisawad, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
This follows planned protests this weekend against the government as well as protests that took place this afternoon at the health ministry, although the government claims the orders are NOT political, but to protect people from the Covid-19 virus. The recent protests have been for a variety of reasons, such as wanting Prime Minister Prayut Chan O’Cha to resign, anger at Covid-19 restrictions, closures, and measures, and anger at what the public says is the lack of Covid-19 vaccines, especially ones such as Pfizer and Moderna.
Protests this afternoon at the health ministry were centered on those angry with the rollout of vaccines in Thailand and related restrictions in place, closing many businesses. Two people were reportedly injured when the group of protesters attempted to forcefully enter the Ministry of Public Health, one a police officer.
Dr. Rungruang Kitphati, a consultant and spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, stated that the Ministry was open to rational dialogue and conversation but claimed the protesters were not reasonable and not open to an honest dialogue, using force, cursing, and other actions. He also stated that gatherings like the protesters made this afternoon only made the situation more difficult and caused more issues resolving the Covid-19 situation.
Protesters, meanwhile, expressed their opinion that they were fed up with what they said was a major lack of vaccines and as a result the related measures leading to the closure of many businesses and sectors.