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Thailand’s health minister says there’s no legal requirement to wear a face mask

Maya Taylor

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Legally, we can’t force you to do it, but just do it, okay? That seems to be the message from Thailand’s Public Health Minister in relation to the wearing of face masks. According to a report from the National News Bureau of Thailand, Anutin Charnvirakul has confirmed there’s no legal mandate for the wearing of face masks…. at least that’s what he says. However, he says people should continue to wear them to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Anutin was responding to warnings from the CCSA that those who refuse to wear a mask could be fined. According to an order published in the Royal Gazette back in June 2021, face masks are required to be worn in public places. First-time violators face a fine of up to 1,000 baht and the fines can go up to 20,000 baht for repeat offences. The CCSA recently made a post on Facebook, reminding the public of the penalties, but has since removed the post.

In a meeting with Thai media yesterday, a reporter mentioned the CCSA’s Facebook post on the mask mandate and asked if foreigners will face these penalties for not wearing masks in public? Anutin responded by saying he didn’t know about the mask mandate and the CCSA never shared the information with him.

(Translated from Thai) “I still didn’t know much about the details. There is still no report to the MOPH right now. It has to be considered again. In my opinion, people should wear masks at all times. If residents were all agree to do, it’s fine. But if someone claims that they want the freedom that will affect others, the measure should be considered to operate…

… Some foreigners don’t want to wear a face mask. As in Koh Samui, there is a report that Thais are willing to wear face masks. However, some foreigners don’t want to wear it maybe because of the different culture. So, the topic has to be discussed during the CCSA meeting.”

He says his ministry and other related bodies have not confirmed this and the issue needs to be discussed further. While he considers face masks a valuable disease-prevention tool, Anutin says enforcement would not be necessary if everyone just wore one.

The health minister says he plans to discuss this issue with the CCSA, adding that while the wearing of face masks may not be required in their home countries, visitors to Thailand should follow public health regulations while in the kingdom.

Anutin hit the headlines both here and internationally in the early days of the pandemic when he berated foreigners (aka, “dirty farangs”) for not wearing face masks. His comments were seemingly fuelled by a loss of face as bemused foreigners refused the free masks he was handing out as part of a PR stunt at a Bangkok station. He then went as far as to suggest that foreigners should be kicked out of the country. His tirade went viral and many blame his comments for a disturbing wave of xenophobia that emerged shortly after.

According to a National News Bureau of Thailand report, when asked if Thailand would introduce stricter measures if daily case numbers reach 10,000 again, Anutin says that situation is one of a number of scenarios envisaged by the Department of Disease Control. If the number of hospitalised or severely ill patients doesn’t increase, and people continue to get vaccinated, he can’t see any stricter measures being introduced at this time. However, he is urging everyone to remain on their guard and for the country to pull together to curtail the spread of the virus.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

 

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