COVID-19 Op-ed

What Indonesia Could Learn from Thailand during the COVID-19 Crisis: An Untold Success Story

Written by admin

Muhammad Maulana
Master of Arts in Asia-Pacific, Thammasat
Institute of Area Studies,Thammasat University

While South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam have been praised by
many due to their governments’ responsive action in handling the spread of
COVID-19 (Breen, 2020; Chau, Gregorio, & Nixon, 2020; Gan &
Lendon, 2020), the mainstream media has paid relatively little attention to
what the Thai government has done.In May 2020, South Korea, as one of the
successful countries in dealing with this pandemic, has expressed
appreciation toward Thailand through its Ambassador f the Thai government’s
effectiveness in coping with the outbreak and flattening the curve (Wangsri,
2020).In Indonesia, in contrast, Achmad Yurianto, the spokesperson for
COVID-19-related issues, has been awarded Public Relations of the Year by
Indonesia Corporate Branding PR Award 2020. Although this was not intended as
a celebration, but rather to appreciate his hard work, still, the recognition
from outsiders, especially from other countries which have successfully coped
with the outbreak, would be more noteworthy.In Thailand, almost 20 million
people have registered for government financial aid. This program intends to
help people who are severely affected by the outbreak, specifically those who
lost their jobs, who got suspended from work, and whose businesses have been
closed on government orders. This program was arguably effective despite its
challenges. As of early May, it was recorded that 13.4 million people have
passed the qualification screening and are about to receive a subsidy of
5,000 baht/month. Another scheme initiated by the Thai government is also
intended to give financial aid to 10 million farmers (Languepin, 2020).The
pre-employment (Prakerja) program launched by the
Indonesian government in early May has received criticism (Rahman, 2020b;
Virgil, Selo, & Angdreas, 2020). The critics against the
preemployment program emphasized that the scheme does not align with the
priority during the crisis. These criticisms also underline that people who
have lost their jobs due to the pandemic should be given direct cash
assistance instead of online classes and skills training which could be
easily found freely in other learning platforms. Besides, another criticism
has pointed out the conflict of interest of the Special Presidential Staff,
Belva, who is also the CEO of education technology startup ‘Ruangguru’ which
was appointed as one of the platforms for the pre-employment program,
resulting in his resignation from the position (Oktavianti, 2020; Primayogha,
Easter, Juliantari, Zabar, & Alamsyah, 2020).In a similar manner, the
Indonesian government has launched social aid disbursement
“Direct-Cash-Assistance” (Bantuan Langsung Tunai) amidst
the COVID-19 crisis. However, this program has been criticized due to its
data inaccuracy in distributing the aid to the intended beneficiaries
(Gorbiano, 2020a). The government’s unpreparedness also exposes the bad
governance due to lack of reliable data for targeted recipients, as well as
lack of coordination between regional and central governments (Gorbiano,
2020b).It is not only social and financial aid given by the Thai government,
but also in a newer case, the authorities have launched a new user-driven app
to facilitate tracking as the next measure to ease the lockdown has taken
place. Everyone who wants to enter any public place is obliged to scan the QR
code. This breakthrough innovation has effectively controlled the spread of
the virus although some argue that it might lead to a data breach. As of May
28, no new locally-contracted cases have been found in 65 provinces in the
last month (Praphornkul, 2020), although imported cases still can be found
from people who return from abroad. However, the privacy issue is one of the
human rights concerns as the app tracks the users. The Centre for COVID-19
Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry
asserted that the data will be strictly used only for disease-control
purposes.Indonesia’s aim for ‘new normal’ has been assessed as a premature
move, given the fact that the curve has not been flattened down and instead
there has been an increase in the number of infections every day
(Fachriansyah, 2020). Harmonious data and public accountability are necessary
to handle the situation seamlessly. Again, lack of coordination and distorted
data have obliged many volunteers to play an important role in reporting the
data (e.g., LaporCovid-19 or Report COVID-19 and
KawalCovid19 or Guard COVID19). Activists have been
criticizing the government because of its refusal to reveal the data just
because the government did not want to create ‘social panic’ (Daraini, 2020;
Rahman, 2020a).However, learning the best practices from Thailand is
necessary because Indonesia shares a similar geographical and demographic
structure. Indonesia could learn something from Thailand particularly
concerning technological innovation that can practically control and track
the spread of viruses taking into account the biased data found in Indonesia.
Of course, the counterargument will necessarily underscore the privacy issue.
Nevertheless, during this unprecedented time, people should reduce their
expectation of their privacy in public when visiting public places anyway –
because public safety should be the top priority. On top of that, the
regulation that protects data privacy should be immediately
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