Thailand’s cabinet will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday as officials struggle to address growing concerns over the government’s response to several ongoing emergencies.
The government has come under criticism for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the ongoing budget fiasco, a stagnating economy and Bangkok’s continued pollution problems.
One of the top trending hashtags on Twitter Saturday evening was #รัฐบาลเฮงซวย or #crappygovernment.
Many people used the hashtag to call out the government for its inaction in handling the ongoing emergencies.
The number of coronavirus cases in Thailand remained at five on Saturday but public health officials said they were monitoring an additional patient who showed symptoms of the virus. Thailand has the largest number of confirmed cases outside of China.
However, according to a report by Voice TV, officials at both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang Airports had removed temperature monitors for incoming tourists. Officials justified the removal of the temperature monitors by saying that China had already quarantined Wuhan city so there was no need to monitor incoming tourists.
Many questioned the withdrawal of the monitors despite government statements saying that it would keep a close eye on incoming tourists.
The situation was made worse when Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul posted on his Facebook account:
“Today, they already canceled all flights from Wuhan. Why would the airport keep monitors at the GATE, please think a little bit before you criticise. Right now we are controlling the situation.”
Airport officials on Saturday evening clarified earlier reports by saying that they were not monitoring all flights from China but had installed monitors for flights from at-risk areas.
Among the infected in Thailand were tourists from China who had passed through Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport.
Chinese tourist numbers have also increased over the weekend as tourists arrived in the country for Chinese New Year festivities.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha took the opportunity on his Friday television programme to dismiss concerns about Bangkok’s air quality.
Prayut said that people were now more aware of the air quality problem because his government had invested in more air quality monitors.
He also said that the government would be unable to provide masks for everyone as it would be too expensive. He urged people to buy masks for themselves.
Bangkok has experienced poor air quality over the past fortnight, with the air quality frequently reaching 170 on the Air Quality Index.
Prayut earlier told reporters that any measures to curb or punish polluters will create problems elsewhere in society and blamed the public for not taking more responsibility.
The parliament finally passed its long-delayed budget for the 2020 fiscal year two weeks ago, but its validity has come into question because of irregularities during the voting process.
According to members of the opposition and the ruling coalition, several MPs were not present during the vote on the bill but had friends submit their vote for them, constituting a breach of procedure.
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana insisted on Friday that there will be no government shutdown but said that the cabinet had prepared emergency measures if the Constitutional Court rules the budget to be invalid.
With global demand slowing down, government fiscal spending is seen as one of the vital engines that will support Thailand’s economic recovery this year.
(Reporting by Nannapat Purod and Erich Parpart)