Covid-19 and political protests in Thailand


Valentine’s Day is a day internationally known to celebrate love; this year the holiday also happened to fall on the same weekend as Lunar New Year festivities. The weekend was dedicated to honouring all types of love

Amidst the celebrations, however, came rising Covid-19 concerns and political turmoil for Thailand.


Delayed Covid-19 vaccines


14th February 2021, or Valentine’s Day, was the due date for the arrival of government-imported Covid-19 vaccines. However, many netizens pointed out that there has been no confirmation regarding the arrival of imported vaccines. 

 

Twitter reaction to Thai Covid-19 Vaccines
“14th February is the day the government promised to initiate inoculation, but nothing comes.
All we can do right now is to look at other countries’ governments getting vaccines for their people. It’s like waiting for a rose bouquet that never came, while others are posting their roses online.”
Image credit: Twitter

As of today, 15th February 2021, government officials only made a statement defending their decisions of missing out on the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s COVAX programme.


The departed COVAX train


The government spokesperson, Mr. Anucha Buraphachaisri, issued a statement on 14th February 2021, responding to the netizen’s backlash against the government’s decision against participating in the WHO’s COVAX programme. 

According to Reuters, the spokesperson repeated his explanation that if Thailand decided to join the Covax programme, the country would have to risk paying a higher price for vaccines with no fixed delivery date. 


New strain of Covid-19 in Thailand


While there are no updates on the Covid-19 vaccines, there is an important update on the Covid-19 virus. According to Thairath, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health’s Disease Control Department (DCD) announced on 15th February 2021 that a new South African Covid-19 variant had been detected in a 41-year-old Thai man returning from Tanzania. 

 

Dr. Karnkawinpong also dispelled rumours that the new South African Covid-19 strain is resistant to vaccines – he explained that there is limited evidence suggesting that vaccines will prove ineffective against the new strain. The doctor also assured the public that the 41-year-old patient had been properly quarantined, thus there is no risk of the new Covid-19 variant spreading throughout the city.

Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, Director General of the DCD
Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, Director General of the DCD
Image credit: Terra BKK


Political protests awaken


Love and Covid-19 are not the only “hot” things happening during Valentine’s Day: thousands of Thai anti-government protestors took centre-stage at the Democracy Monument. The rally was dispersed by 9.30 PM and was said to have resulted in a clash between the protestors and the Royal Thai Police.  

13 Feb Protests
Protesters gathered at the Democracy Monument
Image credit: Twitter

13 Feb Protest Thai Police Tear Gas
Image credit: Twitter

Live reports, online pictures and videos suggest the alleged use of tear gas by the Thai police during the protest. Thailand’s Police Commissioner responded with a statement denying the use of tear gas, according to Thairath.


Police under fire after attacking volunteered medical staff


Police officers were under fire after photos and videos of enforcers violently attacking a volunteer medical staff during the protest dispersion went viral on social media, sparking callouts online. 

One video shows officers in full riot gear beating a man who appeared to be wearing a green medical vest on the ground, causing the hashtag #policebeatingmedic to skyrocket on Thai Twitter.

According to the Bangkok Post, Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk issued a statement explaining that the person in the green medical vest was not a medical professional, but a medical volunteer.

Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk
Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk after the incident
Image credit: Matichon

“We have to see the situation through,” said General Jangyodsuk, according to an interview on Channel 3. “We have to see the intention of the so-called “medical” personnel. It’s clear that his intention was to create disturbances as he was among the protesters so he must be apprehended.”

The police’s alleged actions have resulted in the Medical Council of Thailand, a provincial alliance of doctors, denouncing the authorities for the incident. The group claimed that it is international law to refrain from attacking any kind of medical staff, and demanded a proper explanation and legal actions against the officers involved in the incident.

statement from the Medical Council of Thailand
An official statement from the Medical Council of Thailand denouncing the incident
Image credit: ThaiMedCouncil Facebook Page


Hope for the best in the upcoming Songkran


While Thailand’s 2021 Valentine’s Day may not seem like the best day for Thailand, we still encourage everyone to keep up with news updates and to look forward to the upcoming Songkran Day – Thailand’s traditional New Year. 

We also believe that it’s important to be hopeful in this situation, as a famous saying, a storm may pass, and the sun will shine upon us again. (Yes, I’m quoting the Avengers.) 

Read more about interesting happenings in Thailand here:


Featured image adapted from: World Economic Forum, American Medical Association, Twitter

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