Editorial: Enough with the threats and warnings, focus on transparency and clarity

 

For nearly every day of the last few weeks of the news cycle in Thailand as the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration lifts restrictions and regulations put in place to help control a potential spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus we have been treated to round after round of threats and warnings, veiled and not.

Here are just a few examples:

  -Threats over selling alcohol in restaurants without food

-Threats over keeping checkpoints previously used for curfew to stop parties and gatherings

 -Threats to re-implement curfew if a small minority of people do not stop racing motorbikes and having house parties

  -Warnings over social distancing in gyms and fitness centers

-Warnings about not dancing and staying seated at concerts

  -Warnings over live music in restaurants and having them be like an entertainment venue (later half reversed)

-More warnings on not gathering and not having parties after curfew ended

-Warnings and threats over not drinking and gathering on public beaches

The most amazing thing about all these warnings and threats? This was just in one week alone.  Warnings and threats have been common from Thai law enforcement and government officials throughout the Covid-19 period in Thailand, continually using a carrot and stick style approach, dangling tempting morsels like re-opening beaches, malls, allowing alcohol drinking and the ever present big carrot of opening entertainment venues. These are tempered with the constant warnings of bringing back curfew, arresting people for having a beer on the beach or a restaurant without a meal, etc.

Its even more astounding if you look at this expansive list of one week alone of threats and warnings about various activities and consider the numbers released by the Thai Government for Covid-19. If one was not aware of the numbers they would think Thailand is having an outbreak situation that is similar to say, the United States. However, as of this morning, Thailand has not recorded a single confirmed locally spread case countrywide in 24 days and looks highly likely to reach their goal of 28 days without a recorded locally spread case next Monday.

Pattaya, where many of the warnings have taken place due to the large amount of closed entertainment venues, has not had one recorded and confirmed case in sixty five days. Think about that for a minute.

Based on the official numbers given by the government, it is not hard for someone to see why many are “letting their guard down” and why many of the warnings are not being listened to. It is also easy to see why there is so much frustration with business owners on a variety of different rules that are given (and then often retracted like popcorn at movie theaters or one person per table at restaurants) that just don’t make sense. Entertainment venue owners have had the goalposts moved multiple times by leaders and doctors who continue to say “soon” for allowing them to open their business. Small bar and sports pub owners who have no “hostesses” and can fit no more then a dozen people are being put into the same categories as nightclubs that can fit thousands or strip clubs with close contact. It is easy to see why so many are frustrated.

Rather then continually warn and threaten, I would like to propose a different solution-Be clear and transparent. I am not saying leaders haven’t, because overall they have all handled the Covid-19 situation well. However we have often seen rather then explain why they are not allowing something-and giving clear, scientific and rational reasons why-some leaders will resort to threats and warnings, which start to come so often as the examples above that it is no wonder many are not listening.

Be transparent. If the bars are going to be closed until August or September-say that and be clear on the reasons. Don’t keep stringing along tens of thousands of businesses country wide and an estimated hundred thousand workers (40,000 in Pattaya alone) who rely on the industry to feed their families. It’s not easy to say that you will not open for months but it allows people to prepare better and make backup plans rather then have mixed messages and the continual “soon” if you behave speeches.

Be clear. If you are not going to let in foreigners with family stranded outside of the country until October-Say that now. Give the worst case scenario. It allows people to deal with the reality of the situation or consider bringing their family to their own country.

Be Transparent. If the plan is to keep mandatory mask wearing for months, versus threatening fines or begging people to wear them, say so and say why.

Be Clear. If you want restaurants to only sell alcohol with food, deliver one clear message to stop confusion. The message that restaurants that are also bars can open but bars that are also restaurants cannot has only caused further confusion. Remember, many of these business owners, foreign or not, employ many Thai citizens and they have been closed for months in most cases. Foot traffic is down already due to borders being closed…let people try to make a living.

Be Transparent. If the reason for keeping people from partying or going to bars is not because of the virus but because of a moral standpoint or anti alcohol coalition within the government, say so. Let people know where they stand. They may not agree but they will at least be able to have clarity.

In all these examples, you could easily under promise and over deliver, pleasing people if you decided to open things earlier, versus frustrate people by continually over promising or raising false hopes.

  The Prime Minister delivered what I view as a solid, uplifting and honest speech yesterday about the path forward for the country. This is the right approach. Hopefully this will also be seen across the board in communication messages regarding the current situations and we get less threats and warnings and more clear, transparent messages explaining why things are the way they are and gaining the confidence and backing of the public, versus cause the public to become further frustrated by continual warnings.

Being clear and transparent and not being afraid to deliver bad news but compassionately will win many more fans and lessen anxiety and frustration versus consistent threats, warnings and moving of goal posts.

Adam Judd

The Pattaya News

 

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