The province of Rayong is in partial lockdown.
By order of the governor, as of 14 July, schools are to close down immediately for an undetermined period of time. The fear is the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 13 July, Doctor Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesperson for the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), announced to the nation that a 43-year-old Egyptian soldier recently arrived in Thailand has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Why he was let in
According to Article 9, Section 6 of the emergency decree for the COVID-19 situation, airplane crews are allowed to enter the kingdom without the required 14-day quarantine.
The soldier was a member of a 31-person airplane crew that arrived at U-Tapao Airport in Rayong Province and stayed at Dvaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel.
(The floor the soldier stayed at, and another level, are shut down temporarily due to the incident. The hotel is currently disinfecting its facilities and said no staff had been infected.)
However, according to reports, some members of the group went shopping at a local mall called Passion Shopping Destination, which is also undergoing disinfection.
Hence, the panic over the possible spread of the virus.
Why the internet is angry
Because U-Tapao is also a military base, and the infected person is a soldier, the Thai internet places the blame on the military. Yesterday, the hashtag #อีแดงกราบตีนคนไทย top trended.
The hashtag means “bitch Red kowtow at the feet of the Thai people.” (Twitter is not known for civility.) The “Red” in question is Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong, whose nickname is “Daeng” or “Red.”
In response, the army released a statement denying any involvement in the incident. The statement insisted that the blame and the hashtag is the work of people with “evil intentions” who intend to do “harm” to the military.
Why the internet is still angry
After a long absence, the hashtag #รัฐบาลเฮงซวย (government sucks) and #โควิด19 (COVID-19) made a comeback.
Social media is also angry with Dr. Taweslip.
Dr. Taweesilp has said the incident serves as a “reminder” that the virus is still “near” us and that we all should “keep our guards up.”
He said the situation is “blameless” and that there were no “mistakes,” but that this is an example of the risk that we must learn from as COVID-19 is a new virus.
However, social media has pointed out that in regards to the Phase 5 easing of restrictions for businesses, the spokesperson earlier said this:
“We let you open as you want. But if there is just one infection, we would have to treat hundreds and millions. Business operators must take this responsibility.”
Here’s a timeline of the Rayong Incident
On 6 July, the soldier left Cairo, Egypt, on a trip to the United Arab Emirates, as part of an airplane crew numbering 31 persons.
On 7 July, the group arrived in Pakistan.
On 8 July, the group arrived at U-Tapao Airport. They then checked in at the hotel.
On 9 July, the group made a one-day trip to Chengdu, China.
On 10 July, the group was checked for COVID-19.
On 11 July, the group left Thailand.
On 12 July, test results showed the soldier in question tested positive for COVID-19.
In related news, also due to exceptions in the emergency decree, a newly arrived diplomat and his family have been allowed to stay at a condominium in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area.
The young daughter of the diplomat has tested positive for COVID-19.