Thai government declares state of emergency

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced that the government will impose a state of emergency that will give it wide-ranging powers to enforce its stay-at-home directives to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He said it will take effect starting Thursday and lasting one month.

Speaking in a televised address, Prayut said the enactment of the 2005 Royal Decree of Emergency Situations is necessary to stem the coronavirus epidemic, which claimed four lives in Thailand as of the latest count.

Under the decree, the Prime Minister will have the sole authority in implementing policies designed to combat the pandemic through the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation, Prayut said. The center will meet daily at 9.30am to monitor the epidemic and take necessary actions.

He said specific measures concerning the public will be detailed at a later date, though the emergency decree empowers authorities to impose curfews, ban travels, and close down buildings without warrants.

Security officers will also have the power to censor and shut down media if deemed necessary.

The Emergency Decree at a glance

The emergency decree gives the Prime Minister wide-ranging powers to use as he deems appropriate, including the ability:

  • To ban people from leaving their houses or accommodation during specific time periods, unless permission has been granted by authorities. In order words, to impose a curfew
  • To prohibit public gatherings
  • To prohibit the dissemination of reports or distorted news which may lead to public panic. In other words, news censorship.
  • To prohibit the use of or entry to buildings
  • To evacuate people from any area for public safety or to prohibit people from entering designated areas

Bangkok Post report

“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.

Sources: Thai PBS, Khaosod English, Bangkok Post