The food giveaway was held at the Surin Circle (also called the “Clocktower Circle”) in Phuket Town at 4pm, Capt Udom Petcharat of the Phuket City Police explained.
The donation was of 1,000 free food boxes, with the giveaway announced on social media, he explained.
“People from all over came to pick up food. They rushed to get the food, with no social distancing,” he said.
The rush of people and the crowd formed was recorded on video and posted online, with the people’s behaviour receiving harsh criticism.
Capt Udom explained that the organiser of the giveaway, who he did not name, had failed to manage the event properly in order to avoid any potential spread of COVID-19.
A representative of the organiser did present himself at Phuket City Police Station yesterday afternoon, he added.
“He has been charged with performing an act that breaches the [health] order that bans any public gatherings that risk the disease spreading,” Capt Udom confirmed.
Capt Udom declined to identify under which section of which law the organiser was charged.
Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana has repeatedly warned that breaking the order was punishable under Section 52 of the Communicable Disease Act 2015, which can incur a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to B100,000, or both.
Breach of the order may also be punished under Section 18 of the Emergency Decree, which may incur a penalty of up to two years in prison or a fine of up to B40,000, or both, the order noted. (See here.)
Of note, in issuing the order for people in Phuket to wear face masks at all times while in public, Governor Phakaphong warned that breach of that particular order would constitute a breach of Section 51 of the Communicable Disease Act, which has a maximum fine of up to B20,000. (See story here.)
In response to the incident yesterday, Muang District Chief Anuphap Rodkwan Yodrabum said that any person organising any such giveaway must inform their local administrative officials first.
“I want to thank the donor [in this case for their good intentions], but any person who wants to give away food or other essentials must notify their local administration before holding any such giveaways in the future.
“They can hold their giveaways at their local District Office or police station, where social distancing can be managed,” he explained.
“Everyone needs to avoid the risk of spreading the disease, ” Mr Anuphap said.
UPDATE: Phuket Provincial Police Chief Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri later confirmed that the organiser was fined B1,000 and placed on probation for the incident. Maj Gen Rungrote said he expected the action taken by police would help prevent any further such incidents.