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A network of musicians and entertainment workers filed a petition to the Prime Minister on Tuesday (23 November) to demand that entertainment businesses be allowed to reopen, after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced on 12 November that their reopening date will be pushed back from 1 December to 16 January 2022.

Group representatives staging a small performance at the Misakawan Intersection

The musicians’ network นักดนตรีมีเสียง (“Musicians have a voice”), along with the Workers’ Union, filed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha demanding that nightlife and entertainment businesses be allowed to reopen on 1 December, as previously stated by the Prime Minister, as well as to extend the curfew on alcohol sales from 21.00 to midnight.

They also asked that the government and financial institutions provide them with a 6-month moratorium and to promote low-interest loans, and that those who are employed by businesses that are unable to reopen on 1 December must receive compensation.

The petition said that, since March 2020, the CCSA has issued at least 4 closure orders for entertainment businesses and bans on gatherings without compensating businessowners and workers, including musicians, artists, service staff, and security staff and without providing effective vaccines. Around 40-50% of entertainment businesses have closed permanently, causing difficulties for those who work in the sector, while the closures do not seem to help lower infection rates.

Sompat Nilapan, advisor to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, receiving the petition

The groups first planned to meet in front of Government House at 10.00 yesterday (23 November). However, they found that police officers had blocked off Phitsanulok Road on both sides. They were told that they are not allowed to hold their event in front of the Government House, and that they must stay in front of the Rajavinit Mathayom School, forcing them to move to the Misakawan Intersection.

Meanwhile, police officers asked reporters waiting at the Misakawan Intersection to move away towards the Ministry of Education, and to adjust their camera angles to avoid including an image of the King while photographing the event.

At around 11.00, the musicians arrived at the intersection. They set up speakers and staged a short performance, before submitting their petition to Sompat Nilapan, advisor to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Mongkol Smorban

Mongkol Smorban, representing musicians who are members of the Workers’ Union, gave a speech saying that many of his colleagues have been forced to change their career, as they have not been able to perform for almost 2 years and are unemployed and have no income, while many have committed suicide.

He said that the current restriction, which states that live music performances must end by 21.00 and can only include 3 – 4 performers, does not make sense, as larger groups will not be able to survive. Meanwhile, no government officials are helping them.

“We want to work. We want to go back to having a life with dignity, money, a future, where we are able to take care of ourselves and our families. Why are you postponing the reopening?  If there is no problem, then let us open, but if you can’t do anything, then this government should get out,” Mongkol said.

“Don’t say that we are selfish. We have put up with this for 2 years. We have no performances. We have no work. We have to suffer poverty. We have to take our families back home to the provinces. We are poor. We have less than a thousand baht to our names.

“We have to put up with being poor now. We have been starving for many months. We have to put up with it. We have to borrow money until we are buried in debt. There’s no work. No money is coming in, but our expenses stay the same. Don’t talk to us about tolerance. Do these 2 years prove it? I’ve been putting up with it for so long. I’m in trouble.”

After the event, labour rights activist Thanaporn Wichan said that police officers from Dusit Police Station were trying to give them a 100-baht fine for using a loudspeaker. Representatives of the group then negotiated with the police through the microphone and were told that they will no longer be fined.

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