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28 Apr, 2021 16:36

Thai PM given greater powers to tackle Covid pandemic, days after being fined for not wearing a mask

Thai PM given greater powers to tackle Covid pandemic, days after being fined for not wearing a mask

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been given greater powers to combat the pandemic by the country’s cabinet, as Thailand fights to control a third wave of the virus, days after the PM himself was fined for a Covid breach.

The new rules give Prayut the broad “permission, approval, order and command to help in preventing, correcting, suppressing, and deterring an emergency situation.” Earlier Covid-fighting measures, including mandatory mask-wearing and lockdown restrictions, failed to bring Thailand’s third wave of the virus under control.

The Thai government has faced criticism for failing to do enough to control the virus amid rising Covid-19 case numbers and a slow vaccine rollout, compared with other nations in the region.

Prayut’s new powers follow a resolution from the cabinet supporting the transfer of a wide range of portfolios from other ministers to the PM. The expansion of powers has drawn criticism from opponents of Prayut’s government, who fear it will be used to further solidify his political control and suppress dissent.

“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,” the leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat, said on Wednesday.

Also on rt.com No exceptions: Thai PM slapped with $190 fine after photo showed him mask-less at meeting

The increased centralization of Thailand’s Covid response comes days after the PM was fined 6,000 baht ($190) for failing to follow his own government’s coronavirus restrictions by not wearing a mask at a vaccination meeting.

Since the start of the pandemic, Thailand has reported 61,999 cases and 178 fatalities, with a spike in both in recent weeks, as mutated strains of the virus continue to spread through the country.

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