Anger at the government of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha is growing over the slow rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Just 5 percent of Thais have been vaccinated amid the wave of the country’s deadliest coronavirus pandemic, while health officials warn the worst-case scenario may not yet happen.
Thailand hit a record number of new COVID-19 cases of 11,305 on Tuesday (20/7), adding to a dismal record number of deaths of 3,408 since April. The kingdom had received praise for successfully quelling the pandemic in previous chapters.
The wave of plague that has erupted since April has reignited political challenges for Prayut, who seized power in a 2014 coup and who last year quelled months of pro-democracy protests, smothering the movement with lawsuits and a tough police response.
Even senior medical experts now admit the kingdom is caught up in the latest wave of infections and has witnessed a sluggish vaccine rollout, with only about 3.5 million of its 70 million population having been fully vaccinated so far.
While a surge in coronavirus cases threatens the government’s pledge to reopen the kingdom to tourists in October, protesters are now back on the streets of Bangkok.
More than 1,000 people on Sunday opposed the closure of the capital, which is in effect in almost all areas, and an emergency order banning gatherings of five or more people. They demanded the government resign.
Protesters who burned the Prayuth statue near the Government Building were met with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets fired by riot police.
Demonstrators say the botched vaccine launch is a prime example of Prayut’s government being “less serious.” [lt/em]