COVID pandemic: misinformation spreads in Thailand about police powers to fine people who fail to wear face masks in public
A claim was shared repeatedly on Facebook, Twitter and Line Messenger in March 2020 that police in Thailand could issue fines to anyone who does not wear a face mask in public during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The claim is false; Thai legal experts told AFP there was no law in the country that allowed police to fine people for not wearing face masks as of March 2020; Thai police issued several statements calling the claims “fake news”.
The claim was shared on the messaging app Line on March 26, 2019.
Below is a screenshot of the Line message:
The Thai-language message translates to English as: “When you go outside, don’t forget to wear a mask. Otherwise if you see the [police] checking point, you will be fine for 200 THB”.
200 Thai Baht is the equivalent of 6 US dollars.
The claim is false.
As of March 2020, there was no law in Thailand that enabled police to fine the public for not wearing face masks during a pandemic. During a phone conversation with AFP on March 31, 2020, Thai lawyer and human rights activist Ronnarong Kaewphet said: “No, there is no provision in the Thai legislation which mentions anything like this.”
Royal Police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen told AFP during a telephone conversation on March 27, 2020 the claim is “fake news”.
“It is indeed fake, and we have arrested a number of people who started spreading this kind of news,” he said.
It reads, in part: “The spokesman of the Royal Thai Police also denied that police charged a fine of 200 baht if (people) do not wear a mask, as per the news on social media, by confirming as fake news”
Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Centre, a government-run platform within the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, also published this report on March 26, 2020, labeling the claims in the misleading post as “fake news”.
Below is a screenshot of the Anti-Fake News Centre’s article:
The Thai headline translates to English as: “Fake news, don’t share! People who walk pass police checking point, not wearing a mask will be fined for 200 Baht”.