Thailand on Thursday confirmed 16,031 new COVID-19 cases and 220 related deaths amid calls to “protect rights” of demonstrators.
The new numbers pushed the overall caseload in the Buddhist-majority country to 1.338 million and 13,731 fatalities, according to official figures. Over 143,000 people are receiving treatment in hospitals.
More than 36.6. million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of 70 million, and at least 10.5 million people are fully vaccinated.
In July, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha extended for the 13th time the state of emergency for two more months until Sept. 30. The restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 were first imposed last March.
Protesters demonstrating against authorities' failure to control a surge in infections, and subsequent economic destitution have accused the government of using the decree for political purposes, i.e. to prevent them from rallying because it prohibits people from congregating in public.
Fortify Rights, a Bangkok-based human rights group, called on the government to “protect the rights of peaceful protesters and ensure any restrictions to prevent COVID-19 align with international human rights law.”
In a statement, it said police have “reportedly arrested and charged hundreds of peaceful anti-government protesters for allegedly violating restrictions under a state-of-emergency.”
“Thai authorities should follow guidance on how to facilitate assemblies while also addressing legitimate public health concerns,” said Amy Smith, the executive director of Fortify Rights. “COVID-19 should not be used as a pretext to trample basic rights.”