Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai PM granted sweeping powers to curb Covid



Thai PM granted sweeping powers to curb Covid

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Thai cabinet passed a resolution on Tuesday transferring the portfolios of several ministers to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, placing him in charge of laws ranging from the Arms Control Act to the Computer Crimes Act. AFP

Thai PM granted sweeping powers to curb Covid

Thailand's cabinet has granted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha sweeping new powers aimed at curbing Covid-19 that critics fear could be used as a political tool to suppress dissent.

The country is struggling to contain a third wave that has seen a jump of more than 32,000 cases since an outbreak was detected in the capital's nightlife district.

Mandatory mask-wearing and restrictions on daily life have done little to slow the rising death toll, with Prayut's leadership coming in for criticism for failing to bring the outbreak under control.

Thailand has also been slow in vaccinating its population compared to regional neighbours, inoculating just 1.2 million people since its roll-out started two months ago.

On April 27, the cabinet passed a resolution transferring the portfolios of several ministers to the premier, placing Prayut in charge of laws ranging from the Arms Control Act to the Computer Crimes Act.

The latter is a controversial law critics say broadens the scope of the government's surveillance and censorship powers.

The move allows Prayut "the permission, approval, order and command to help in preventing, correcting, suppressing, and deterring an emergency situation", said an announcement in the Royal Gazette, a government website that publishes new legislation.

Authorities said the new powers were aimed at tackling the health crisis.

The leader of the opposition Move Forward Party lambasted Prayut on April 28 for what it said was his administration's "incompetent" handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

"They can't resolve the political and economic crises with a crisis of people's faith added to the list," Pita Limjaroenrat said.

"It is time for General Prayut to stop clinging onto power, which doesn't belong to him in the first place – return the power to the people."

A former general who masterminded a 2014 coup, Prayut was voted in as prime minister after 2019 elections administered under a military-scripted constitution.

Widespread discontent over the silencing of opposition voices – coupled with pandemic-spurred economic losses – later brewed into a pro-democracy protest movement against his government.

At its peak, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for Prayut's resignation.

But the movement has slowed this year partly due to Covid-19 but also because in recent months authorities have hit pro-democracy leaders with criminal charges.

"The bill is not entirely about Covid itself. It's meant to be used as a political tool by the government," said analyst Titipol Pakdeewanich.

"They want to have absolute power like what they had before."

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied