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Thailand-- Not The Land Of Smiles This Year

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, center, took power in a 2014 coup, when he was the head of the army.

I get my neuropathy meds in Thailand. It costs me a tenth of what it costs here. But it's closing in on two years since I've been to Bangkok and I've taken to getting the drugs in Mexico, which is still much cheaper than the U.S.-- but not a tenth. My friends keep asking me when I think we can go back to Thailand. Not soon, as far as I can tell.

The country is in it worst phase of the pandemic since it began. Friday there were 14,653 new cases reported; yesterday it was 15,942 and today another 15,452, bringing the total to 1,280,534-- along with 12,855 deaths. Just 11% of Thais are fully vaccinated. How does that compare to the other places we we visit frequently:

  • Spain- 71% fully vaccinated

  • Netherlands- 62% fully vaccinated

  • France- 61% fully vaccinated

  • Italy- 61% fully vaccinated

  • Turkey- 45% fully vaccinated

  • Morocco- 42% fully vaccinated

  • Mexico- 27% fully vaccinated

  • Indonesia- 14% fully vaccinated

  • Thailand- 11% fully vaccinated

  • India- 11% fully vaccinated

According to CNN, Americans can still get into Thailand but must quarantine for 14 days. "All travelers must provide proof of an insurance policy that covers treatment for Covid-19 up to the cost of $100,000 and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Another PCR test must be taken on arrival, after which all travelers (with the exception of fully vaccinated travelers flying to Phuket or Koh Samui) must quarantine at government-approved quarantine facilities or Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) facilities. This can include luxury hotels, some of which have developed quarantine packages... Currently, all travelers must arrive on direct international flights to Phuket only. Transiting through Bangkok is not permitted."

The Bangkok Post (English language) is always kind of upbeat about what the government wants it to be upbeat about. Today it highlighted that reported COVID cases have declined for 3 straight weeks. Today's NY Times focused on something else entirely: >anti-government protests.

In Bangkok, riot police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons laced with burning chemicals against demonstrators. "Thailand, which not long ago was seen as a virus-containing wonder," reported Muktita Suhartono and Hannah Beach, "has become yet another example of how authoritarian hubris and a lack of government accountability have fueled the pandemic. This year, more than 12,000 people in Thailand have died of Covid-19, compared to fewer than 100 last year. The economy has been ravaged, with tourism all but nonexistent and manufacturing slowed."

Anger is spreading, and not only in the streets. Opposition lawmakers in Parliament tried to pass a vote of no confidence in Mr. Prayuth, accusing his government of squandering the monthslong head start Thailand had to fight the coronavirus. That effort failed on Saturday, even though some members of the prime minister’s coalition had briefly fanned speculation that they might support his ouster.
This summer’s vaccine rollout, already late, was further hampered by manufacturing delays. A company with no experience making vaccines, whose dominant shareholder is Thailand’s king, was given the contract to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically. The government’s failure to secure adequate imported supplies has made matters worse. Only about 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and social inequalities have let the young rich leapfrog ahead of older, poorer people.
Antigovernment protests, which now occur daily, are growing more desperate, and security crackdowns more aggressive. In August, at least 10 demonstrations were broken up with force. At one, a 15-year-old boy was shot and is now in intensive care. The police have denied firing live ammunition.
“Earlier, people said they were not coming out to protest because of Covid, but now the thinking has changed to, ‘You stay at home and you will die anyway because of the government’s inability to take care of people,’” said Tosaporn Sererak, a doctor who was once a spokesman for the government unseated by the 2014 coup.
...[Prime Minister]Prayuth, who led the coup seven years ago as army chief, has concentrated power in his own hands, arguing that enhanced executive powers are needed to fight the pandemic.
He has tried to quash public dissent by instituting a state of emergency and criminalizing certain criticism. Hundreds have been arrested in recent months for sedition, for so-called computer crimes and for criticizing King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, which is against the law.
A prominent politician was charged with insulting the monarch after he asked why Siam Bioscience, the king’s company, was given the contract to churn out vaccines for Southeast Asia when it had not manufactured them before.

The protests are increasingly angry and the riot police and increasingly violent. Another reason why it's going to be a while before we visit Thailand.



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