Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was fined 6,000 baht ($190) for not wearing a mask at an emergency government meeting on Monday, according to local officials in Bangkok.
“The prime minister agreed to pay the fine,” Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on Facebook on Monday, explaining that he had visited Prayuth with several senior police officers several hours after photographs of the Thai leader attending the event without a mask spread online.
Prayuth has not publicly commented, but a photograph that showed him as the lone maskless attendee at Monday’s government meeting has been deleted from his Facebook page.
The prime minister had contacted Bangkok officials to ask them to investigate if he had broken the local rules on masking, according to Aswin’s account.
Thailand is in the midst of a surge of new covid-19 cases, with 2,048 new infections reported Monday. Although the country has not recorded as many cases or deaths as many other nations — 57,508 cases and 148 deaths — the rising pace has led to new rules, including numerous mask mandates.
Forty-eight Thai provinces, as well as the capital, Bangkok, have extended mask laws to include almost all locations outside personal residences, including outdoors and inside a vehicle with more than one person inside.
As the rules took effect Monday, Prayuth was likely one of the first in the nation to be fined under them. However, he escaped the maximum fine of 20,000 baht ($636).
A former general in the Royal Thai Army, Prayuth came to power in 2014 as leader of a junta after a coup ousted Thailand’s democratically elected government. His government has been accused of cracking down on dissent and undermining the country’s democratic institutions.
Although Thailand avoided the worst of the pandemic in 2020, in part due to border closures, increasing numbers of cases since the new year and a comparatively slow vaccine rollout have increased pressure on Prayuth’s government.
At the meeting Monday morning, Prayuth was working to source new vaccine supplies, and the aim was to distribute 300,000 or more vaccine doses per day by the end of the month, he wrote on Facebook.
The Thai prime minister himself was inoculated in March with the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca. The 67-year-old was the first person in the country to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca. He said he was publicly shown getting the shot to reassure the public of the safety of the vaccine, which forms a major part of Thailand’s supplies.