In Bangkok, nearly a hundred peaceful protesters were arrested on Sunday for violating public health measures. Also in Bangkok, just a few minutes away at the same time, hundreds in traditional garb gathered to surfskate without any arrests made, or any attempted interference by the police.
The apparent double standard has been called out by pro-democracy campaigners after 99 people were arrested yesterday at a protest near the Government House. They will be charged with violating the emergency decree by gathering in a large group and risking the spread of COVID-19, according to Maj. Gen. Piya Tawichai, deputy metro police commissioner.
The protest coincided with a mass skating event also held in the old quarter that was organized in part by the Culture Ministry. Dubbed “Rattana Go Surf,” it drew hundreds of people in traditional Thai costume. Although many were seen without face masks, it was not dispersed by the police.
“If you still think the law is meant to actually control the disease, see the disgrace yourself … it clearly shows the Thai government’s double standard,” the Ramkhamhaeng Network for Democracy wrote online. It also shared images of surfskaters without face masks posing for photos at the event.
A member of ruling, military-aligned Palang Pracharath Party, Watanya “Madam Dear” Wongopasri, defended the skating event, saying participants wore masks before starting and after crossing the finish line, but took them off while skating due to the hot weather. Moreover, Watanya said, the event was limited to only 300 participants, who she said practiced social distancing.
The protest was called to repeat the three primary demands that have animated the movement for over a year – the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, along with reforms of the constitution and monarchy.
It’s not the first time the authorities have been criticized for selective enforcement of the law. Under the junta, pro-military politicians were allowed to violate its political bans; while the same government has not pursued land encroachment cases against its supporters. Since protests resumed last year as the pandemic threat eased, the emergency decree, which as of last week has been in place for a year, has been used disproportionately to prosecute protesters and legitimize violence against them.
Protesters at 5pm today will gather downtown atop the Pathumwan Skywalk to call for the release of the 99 people detained.
The disparity was criticized in a number of memes circulating online.
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