Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government are suffering a barrage of attacks from critics and political rivals as Thailand is hit by a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
Thai PBS has reported that observers are warning of a popular uprising if the government fails to tackle this fresh outbreak successfully.
The attacks came after the number of daily infections rose past 2,000 over the past week, up from less than 100 before the fresh outbreak. Saturday alone saw a record 2,839 infections with deaths from COVID-19 hitting an alarming number of eight on Saturday and 11 on Sunday.
Opposition politicians and critics have blamed the soaring infections on the government’s mismanagement and its refusal to impose a national lockdown over concern for the economy.
They are also complaining of a shortage of vaccines, slow rollout and insufficient medical facilities, especially hospital beds, amid growing calls for more government aid for those affected by COVID-19.
Some academics have warned that the growing public discontent could land the government in hot water. Even its supporters could turn against the government over claims it is doing little to ensure public safety and ease economic hardships caused by the outbreak.
“People who feel insecure about their health or face financial crisis could ally with the anti-government movement even though they do not share its ideology,” said Yuthaporn Issarachai, a political scientist from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.
Authorities blame the infection surge on people travelling upcountry during the Songkran festival in mid-April, though the government has confidently declared the situation would ease two weeks after the long holiday.
“If infections keep rising and the shortage in [hospital] beds continues, we are likely to see a popular rising,” Yuthaporn warned. “Imagine if more infected patients are forced to stay at home because there are no beds in the hospital, others in the community may very well besiege hospitals to show their anger,” he said.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a political scientist at Rangsit University, reckons the government may struggle to survive until the scheduled mass inoculation drive kicks off in July.
Though the government insists it is rushing to acquire more COVID-19 vaccines, critics say long-winded procurement regulations are making the process far too slow.
In his televised address on Friday, General Prayut said his administration aims to acquire 100 million doses to inoculate 50 million of Thailand’s 70-million population this year. He added that his government has succeeded in securing the purchase of 5-10 million Sputnik V vaccines from Russia and an equal number from US pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer. However, he did not say when these vaccines would be delivered.
The government had earlier announced plans to inject 2 million doses of Chinese-made Sinovac in frontline medical workers and vulnerable people by May.
Then in June to December, the plan is to administer 10 million jabs per month to the general population, once domestic production of 61 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses starts up.
The worsening COVID-19 situation has armed Prayut’s political rivals with fresh ammunition. But with fear of infection keeping the anti-government movement off the streets, the opposition has decided to launch its attacks online.