Complaints have been furious on social media over the past several days about large numbers of people on local beaches, both Thai and tourists, with many folks asking why the beaches haven’t been shut like other countries and what authorities were doing to promote social distancing to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
The answer is complicated.
There is no lockdown or shutdown order for Chonburi and even if there was the beaches would not be affected officially. Beaches in Thailand are considered public land and owned by the Ministry of the Interior. In order to close the beaches a decree would need to come from the absolute highest level of the Thai leadership and would also effect roads and public areas adjacent to the beaches across the country. This is highly unlikely to even be considered for many reasons, as it would also cause shipping ports and fishing areas to close. An adjustment of what could and could not be closed would need new laws.
As none of these are feasible options, the most authorities can do at this time is to do discourage mass gatherings, remind people that this is an important time to socially distance and protect the community. If Thailand was to pass some sort of curfew or mandatory stay at home order, which at this time is not on the table, it could be used to enforce people being outside or on the beaches.
The Governor of Chonburi is aware of dozens of images of packed beaches and patrons throughout the province and is concerned, but has told people if you choose to go keep your distance from other people and practice proper social distancing.
Arguments on social media are mixed. Some people argue they can go lie on a beach and be many, many feet from anyone else and are very distant. However, firm proponents of staying home argue there is risk even in that activity.
For now, however, it seems the most authorities can do is encourage people to stay home.