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Ramifications of Amendments to Thai Communicable Disease Act

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing the Thai Communicable Diseases Act. I am going to go ahead and put this up. This is from the Bangkok Post print addition, Thursday 23rd September, 2021. The article is titled: Curfew Power Carries Over. This is pretty substantial in my opinion, legal news going on out here. So the byline is: New Act to supplant Emergency Decree. Quoting directly from relevant portions of this and I urge folks who are watching this channel, go check this out on line on; check out this article because there is a lot going on in here. I am going to try to do some analysis, I have discussed this with legal staff here in the office to the extent that there is speculation here, yes it is speculation, we don't know exactly what is going to transpire in coming months but we are just providing some legal insight based on what is being announced.

Quoting directly: "An amended Communicable Disease Act will grant the National Committee on communicable diseases authority equivalent to that of the Emergency Decree the Government said yesterday." Well that is huge. We have been under an Emergency Decree that is very broad reaching. I hesitate to use the term totalitarian because it is kind of cliché and I don't know that it quite encompasses all the nuance here but the system we have been under, under this Emergency Decree, there is a reason it is an emergency provision, it is not anything like standard operating procedure here in Thailand. It certainly in my opinion doesn't have a very democratic flavour to it. It is essentially as they say right here “the National Committee on communicable diseases”, well that committee has had a tremendous amount of day-to-day power over people's basic freedoms and over basic aspects of their lives to the point of micromanaging very, very tiny elements of how people go about their lives and do business etc., as well as major things like business closures etc. Quoting further: "The draft Executive Decree now awaits Parliamentary endorsement." I am going to get back to that. Parliamentary endorsement. I would really like to know what that means. Quoting further: "and publication in The Royal Gazette before coming into effect a Government House source said." The Royal Gazette for those who are unaware, I kind of liken The Royal Gazette to like the Federal Register in the United States. It is the publication of record and that is in a sense a formality associated with any regulatory or legal change here in Thailand. Again I am going to come back to that. I just want to quote this again. "The draft Executive Decree now awaits parliamentary endorsement." I will come back to that in a minute. Quoting further: "The draft decree will likely be forwarded to Parliament for endorsement when the new parliamentary session begins in November as the Government appears unlikely to request for a special session specifically for this purpose said the source." I was very curious when reading this. Does Parliamentary endorsement mean a debate? Does it mean a Parliamentary discussion? Is there some truncated fast lane of processing that is going to come about to promulgate this into law? This is a major, major change. This is not just a finite amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act that will pertain to some very narrow subset of the way life is run. No, the way this looks is the Emergency Decree made permanent. That is what it looks like to me. I mean that is a major legal change to what we had prior to March 2020 here in Thailand. We did not have this CCSA, this National Committee on Communicable Diseases; we did not have a permanent sitting committee that got to micromanage our lives prior to that. An Emergency Decree was invoked per the law and we have had to deal with that. I am not saying there is anything good, bad or indifferent about that state of affairs. That just has been what it has been but it has been under the old rules. Presumably they have had to renew this every couple of months because it is not meant to be permanent which begs the question, "Is it a good idea to make it permanent?" Quoting further: "as soon as, (and I noted this) as soon as a serious communicable disease is declared under the amended Communicable Disease Act, the Prime Minister who will become the Chairman of the National Committee on Communicable Diseases is granted authority equal to what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha currently has as the Director of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul." So I want to read that again: "as soon as a serious communicable disease is declared". What does that mean? What is the definition of a "serious communicable disease"? 

Bear in mind at the beginning of this whole situation again going back into March 2020, in my recollection and don't hold me to the triggerings of how this all went down, but it wasn't until a pandemic was declared by WHO and then subsequently actions were taken here in Thailand to deal with that, that we actually saw the invocation of the Emergency Decree and the promulgation of things like the CCSA and all of the different rules we have had to deal with for the past roughly year and a half. It was my understanding that the key moment, the inflection point, the catalyst if you will, the triggering mechanism was that declaration of a pandemic. That is what I thought. That was my understanding. Meanwhile now, the amendment is going to change whatever it was. The amendment will say "as soon as a serious communicable disease is declared." Well how is that declared? Who declares it? Does Parliament do that? Does the person that is going to chair the Committee do it on their own? Who does that, who declares that?” That is a question I would like to have an answer to. Quoting further: "Aside from the authority to impose a curfew and lockdowns, the Committee's Chairman will also have the authority to order any State Agencies to cooperate with the Committee in containing such a serious Public Health Emergency, Mr. Anutin said."

I kind of like how it is brushed off. "Well aside from authority to impose curfews and lockdowns", arguably the most intrusive thing humanity has maybe had to deal with in the last 70 odd years. I am not pointing fingers only at Thailand here. You can look at the US, Australia, Europe: all these places where "just curfews and lockdowns, what is the problem there?" On top of that, "the authority to order any state agencies to cooperate with the Committee". That is a lot of power; that is a substantial amount of power. So quoting further and they are quoting from Dr. Rewat Wisutwet a Thai Liberal Party List MP, quoting directly from Bangkok Post: "He added that he had some doubts about the Emergency Decree's overall effectiveness in containing the pandemic." Well I have got my doubts too. As I have noted in other videos on this channel, I have real doubts about the efficacy of lockdowns. I would really love to see the data that proves that has worked particularly well. It worked really well at hurting the economy, there is no doubt about that but as far as containing or having any kind of impact on the overall situation I fail to see where that has occurred but okay, reasonable people can disagree. Maybe I haven't seen all the data. I am perfectly happy to stand corrected on something like that but the "Emergency Decree's overall effectiveness". I mean so what, we make it permanent? It hasn't worked thus far, let's just do it forever. Is that the line of logic? I don't really understand the reasoning behind this. It is meant to be an Emergency Decree. It is meant to be an emergency state of affairs that is invoked. Well if the emergency no longer exists, why are we keeping it? If the emergency is still going okay we just keep the Emergency Decree going on the 2 month basis that has gone to this point. Why does this need to be made permanent? And why is it apparently now, it looks to me like we are going to have a different standard for even invoking this. Again, a "serious communicable disease" is declared. Well as we have discussed in other videos on this channel, I did the data, I did the numbers, it is roughly 1.8% of the population at that time had gotten COVID and of them about 1% had died from it. If that is considered a higher level disease than a serious communicable disease, I mean what can this ongoing emergency be based upon? The declaration that “sneezing” is a problem or something. I am not trying to be funny; I am not trying to be snarky, but these are major powers that are created and that are promulgated and that could become permanent under this kind of an amendment and I am just wondering if everybody's really thinking all this through especially in the long run. A good point somebody brought up, I was discussing this with, in the western context, and again not everything is about the West, I am a Thai. I very much respect Eastern thinking as well but sometimes there are good things from both sides. I was talking to somebody about in the context of American politics there is a saying that says "don't ever do what you don't want your enemy, your political opponent, to do to you". So the thinking is don't vote in legislation that creates a substantial amount of power. Okay for you at the moment, but you may not always be in the majority. You may not always be the one that is calling the shots. Do you really want to have to deal with that same instrument wielded by your political opponents? It is always a good question. 

Just a final note again, "the draft Executive Decree now awaits Parliamentary endorsement". I would really like to see know what that means. I really hope this is seriously vetted before a final decision is made on this. I really hope people sit down and think for a substantial period of time and take a big deep breath and try to think reasonably outside of the recent hysteria that we have had to deal with the last 18 months because the fact of the matter is this would be a substantial change to the jurisprudence of Thailand. It could have long-lasting implications and I don't think it should be undertaken lightly.