In explaining the latest round, Phase 3, of the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions, Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, on Friday (May 29) explained very clearly: “This is the general principle the general foundation of the relaxed measures from the central government. Each province would take this as a general guideline, but then each province around the country will take precedence when they have these their own specific local measures as well, which of course would be tighter than the general national guidelines.”
Our local officials have taken a very oblique understanding of how the lifting of the lockdown provisions are to be regulated. In implementing the lockdown provisions, our provincial government issued specific provincial orders to make sure they were to be applied in Phuket, as Mr Natapanu explained.
Specifically, the ban on any unauthorised persons visiting any beaches in Phuket was publicly announced after 8pm on Mar 28. The order became effective immediately, and was worded to remain in effect until at least April 10.
Since that order, and the other initial provincial lockdown orders, were issued, our provincial government has issued orders extending lockdown restrictions in Phuket – but has not publicly issued a single order lifting any restriction. Not one.
Instead, our local provincial officials hide behind the national announcements made in Bangkok. They literally post nothing more than copies of the orders published in the Royal Gazette, which each time stipulate that the businesses and activities listed in the order “may” resume. Correctly, the national order leaves the final decision to local authorities, again just as Mr Natapanu explained.
For some reason the powers that be in Phuket have failed to grasp that simple understanding.
As Mr Natapanu pointed out very clearly, provincial orders override any national announcements if the local regulation is more stringent in preventing the spread of the virus.
And so, with the restrictions lifted so far, all the reopenings that have taken place across Phuket since May 17 have been under the assumption that the Bangkok order applies. Whether it does or not is a ridiculous legal loophole. A technicality for sure, no one really cares until authorities actually take action against someone for breach of a health regulation issued under the Emergency Decree, even if Bangkok has approved the activity. Fun stuff.
It is difficult to believe that any of the persons in Phuket involved in this level of obscurity graduated in any form of public administration training. Decent governments attempt to engage in a dialogue with the people. In Phuket, the monologue has been appalling.
As of tomorrow, at least according to Bangkok, fitness centres, sports training centres and even massage centres will be allowed to reopen. Yes, massage centres where therapists even literally lay their hands on clients. Even cinemas will be allowed to reopen, where up to 200 people will be allowed to sit in the same room barely metres away from each other, breathing the same air, but not allowed to consume drink or eat popcorn.
The situation is starting to become farcical at best, while officials continue to bleat that all people must follow the ‘new normal’ health guidelines.
How can anyone justify that walking, standing or sitting on a beach is COVID unsafe while cinemas and massages are deemed less of a threat is beyond anyone’s guess.
If anything is dangerous at the beaches right now, it is the return of the rip currents that arrive with the annual southwest monsoon, which is making its presence felt along the west coast this weekend.
As simply as we can put it: open the beaches (and enforce all the anti-COVID health regulations) and make it illegal to go in the water – for now.
How difficult is that?