COVID-19 Op-ed

Enough is Enough: Saving Thailand from a Democratic Crisis amid
Covid-19

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Punnawit (Sharp) TantirapanStudent, Asia Pacific
MA Human Rights and Democratisation
Global Campus of
Human Rights Asia Pacific
Institute of Human Rights and
Peace Studies, Mahidol University

The COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand started in January 2020,
making it the first country outside China to experience this deadly viral
infection. It has been the toughest year for the country’s economy, since the
present Prime Minister came into power in 2014. The Government is still the
same as the last one, but the prime minister retired from the military and
became a politician in late 2018. It was not so obvious at first that people
didn’t want this government, most people who preferred democracy as a
political system was living in silence most of the time throughout 2019 as
there were people being jailed or prosecuted before the election in 2019. The
military regime exiled many politicians and activists, which many feared
would happen to them if they don’t keep their thoughts. However, this
pandemic has highlighted cracks within Thai society. This article is not
directly related to COVID19, but how the government has been using the
pandemic to violate people’s rights.Recent student-led pro-democracy protests
have been demanding the State to make changes in ways it governs the country.
First, they are asking the prime minister to step down from power. Second,
students are pushing for constitutional reform and third, the government
needs to stop curtailing the freedom of its people to express their views on
critical issues (Yuda,2020). In their declaration of three demands, Prime
minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha must resign from his role and let the people have
a fair, clean election process.At the height of COVID-19, the government
failed
to fix the economy,
resulting in high unemployment rates throughout
the country. Many small to medium sized businesses closed down during the
pandemic. Some people lost everything they had, leading to some commiting
suicides. Jiamsupa was one of them. He drove a taxi for two decades and the
lockdown forced him to stay home without income. This is one of the reasons
why people no longer have faith in the Government (Pongpipat,2020).With the
declaration of the state of emergency, people were unnecessarily arrested and
harassed by the officials. Moreover, a number of pro-democracy activitists
have been arrested and charged due to violation of the emergency decree.
People were arrested for allegedly breaking the law, and some were charged
with controversial draconian laws that debilitate rights, freedoms and social
justice.The current government tore the previous constitution and constructed
a new one by themselves. The ex-military government appointed 250 senators to
vote for in favor. They won the election without any objections. It shows
that the current government intended to remain in power in many more years to
come (Bangkokbiznews,2020).Thailand is regarded by many as a champion of
combatting Covid-19. There have not been any new cases domestically in nearly
three months. The death toll remains at 58— which is low compared to its
ASEAN neighbors. Despite this, the government has been extending the state of
emergency decree to prevent any disruptions towards socio-political harmony
and economic recovery. This has had a chilling effect on the state of human
rights, freedoms and social justice in the country. Sadly, democracy is
merely a concept that exists in the constitution of Thailand under this
current regime. This has to change to not just salvage the nation from any
greater threats to lives, but to preserve what is left of every Thai person’s
dignity and aspiration to enjoy a free, just, equal country.References:กรุงเทพธุรกิจ.
2020. ‘เยาวชนปลดแอก’ เปิดแถลงการณ์ข้อเรียกร้องฉบับเต็ม. Retrieved
from https://www.bangkokbiznews.com/news/detail/890036Department
of Disease Control. 2020. Thailand situation. Retrieved from https://ddc.moph.go.th/viralpneumonia/eng/index.phpThe
Thaiger. 2020. CCSA recommend an extension to the emergency decree in
Thailand. Retrieved from https://thethaiger.com/coronavirus/cssa-recommend-an-extension-to-the-emergency-decree-in-thailandThailand
Law Library. 2020. Royal Family (Sections 107-112). Retrieved from https://library.siam-legal.com/thai-law/criminal-code-royal-family-sections-107-112/Thailand
Law Library. 2020. Offense Internal Security (Sections
113-118). Retrieved https://library.siam-legal.com/thai-law/criminal-code-offense-internal-security-sections-113-118/Thansettakij.
2020. ครม.เคาะต่อ พรก.ฉุกเฉิน อีก 1 เดือน. Retrieved from https://www.thansettakij.com/content/politics/443577Yuda,
M. 2020. Thailand’s peaceful student protests press for bold reforms.
Retrieved from https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Turbulent-Thailand/Thailand-s-peaceful-student-protests-press-for-bold-reforms

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