Thai PM uses Covid fears to persuade protesters to postpone Saturday rally

PHOTO: Will Langston

The Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is rolling out his biggest weapon, fear, to try and persuade anti-government protesters to postpone tomorrow’s rally at the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus. He asked them to consider putting off their plans to hold the rally at least “until the Covid-19 outbreak is over”.

In a televised address, he asked Thais to unite in ending the Covid-19 crisis “before focusing on political issues”. PM Prayut has not mentioned ‘Covid’ as an issue before the other student rallies.

The rally has been planned for this Saturday with student and anti-government groups demanding amendments to the 2017 Thai constitution, dissolution of the parliament, an end to intimidation of government critics and changes to the role of the Thai Head of State.

Whilst Thailand has largely contained the worst of the Covid-19 virus, reaching 101 days without a local transmission, before a handful of 3 local transmission cases over the past 2 weeks. But Prayut claimed the rallies would “put Thailand at the risk of a 2nd wave of Covid-19 infections”. He went on to say the 2nd wave could affect the livelihoods of more than 10 million people “and further exacerbate the economic situation”. Prayut warned that protester should “not do anything that would prompt another lockdown”.

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His appeal, using Covid-19 as his main argument to stop the rally, will probably do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the anti-government groups. More likely, the forecast for a 90% chance of rain around Bangkok tomorrow will be a greater deterrent.

Thai PM uses Covid fears to persuade protesters to postpone Saturday rally | News by Thaiger

The protest organisers were hoping they could attract some 50,000 people to the rally but security officials say they predict the numbers will be more like 20,000. The August 19 Democracy Monument rally attracted up to 10,000.

Speaking about the planned protest, the PM has said, numerous times, that he wants to avoid any violence “at all costs”.

“I respect your opinions, but today Thailand is feeling the pain that we have to urgently tackle first, and that is to mitigate the economic losses brought on by the outbreak. We should not worsen the situation.”

During his TV speech last night, Prayut warned the protesters that political unrest would delay economic recovery, as it would dent investors’ confidence and deter tourists from visiting Thailand once the borders are open.

“Rallies will also shift the government’s focus from solving economic problems. Many places are already experiencing a second wave of infections, but Thailand has been able to successfully curb transmissions thanks to the collaboration of related parties.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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