Home Bangkok

Bangkok Gov. Pisses in Prayut’s Sandbox, Says Only He Can Decide When Capital Reopens

But Aswin Kwanmuang seems to have forgotten that he’s been overruled before

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang

Bangkok’s governor declared on Friday that only he can decide when Thailand’s capital reopens to foreign tourists. But Aswin Kwanmuang seemed to have forgotten that he’s been overruled before.

Aswin, appointed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha while he was the 2014 junta leader and recently spared an election for the foreseeable future, displayed his oversized sense of self-importance Friday, declaring that Bangkok wouldn’t reopen until he says it does, and that won’t come until 70 percent of the capital’s registered population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

That sets up a pissing match in the “sandbox” Thailand envisions for Bangkok between the Aswin and his patron Prayut, who heads the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Thailand’s economy is scuffling, its citizens standing in hours-long queues for free food and the pooyai are playing politics.

It seems Aswin forgets that he’s been overruled before when trying to call the shots about coronavirus restrictions. On May 31, Aswin put out an order allowing five types of business and activities to resume. Late that night, Prayut, wearing his CCSA hat, canceled the governor’s order, insisting that ongoing closures would continue until June 14.

In January, Prayut also overruled city hall, ruling that restaurants could reopen for dine-in services until 9 p.m. when Aswin had set the mandatory closing time at 7 p.m.

Speaking to reporters while inspecting a coronavirus vaccination site at the Port Authority of Thailand in Klong Toei District Friday, Aswin said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration earlier expected 70 percent of the city population would have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines by Oct 22

But if city hall obtained more vaccine doses, the governor said, Bangkok could hit 70 percent fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.

It’s notable Aswin and Thai jab counters consider Bangkok to have only 7 million people when its true population inside the 50 districts is about 9 million. Only legal adult residents are being counted, allowing the government to tout better numbers than they actually are.

Aswin also lifted a page out of Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s script, telling reporters he, also, never promised Bangkok could reopen on Oct. 15.

Aswin said city hall will prioritize the health of the city’s public before worrying about tourism.

Of course, a big chunk of Bangkok’s populace is dependent on tourism.

The governor meddled further in the CCSA and Health Ministry’s business by saying he might also impose quarantine on some foreign arrivals, depending on which country they’re from, even though the central government is promising a quarantine-free reopening.