There has been quite a bit of debate and editorial comment on the military dictatorship’s move to neuter and take over the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth). PPT hasn’t followed the mini-coup all that closely, but a few lines in a report today suggested a reason for increased interest.
As far as we can tell, ThaiHealth has been quite successful. Yet a couple of days ago, The Dictator used the draconian Article 44 to suspend seven board members of ThaiHealth along with 52 other “state officials ordered to leave their duties pending probes, mostly concerning alleged irregularities and malfeasance.”
A junta “investigation” reckons that the organization’s budget last year was misused.The junta claims conflicts of interest. (PPT can’t imagine the junta turning the same lens on itself, for the regime is riddled with such conflicts. Just another example of double standards.) In fact, a Bangkok Post report makes it clear that the board members followed the “rules” on conflicts of interest.
Rabid rightist-royalists have condemned ThaiHealth [clicking this link takes the reader to a very strange conspiratorial world linking Oregon and Bangkok] as a kind of NGO-cuddling cabal somehow linked to international and US-based organizations undermining the world and Thai sovereignty. Even the Puea Thai Party has got into the act on ThaiHealth.
According to the Bangkok Post story linked above, a government source says that ousting the board members will “provide an opportunity for the government to change rules governing the agency’s spending so it can use the money to fund the regime’s projects.” No conflict of interest there….
As well as getting its hands on the “sin taxes” that funded ThaiHealth, this move also allows the junta to twist a knife into some of the organizations it sees as too liberal and thus untrustworthy or as oppositional.
Vichai Chokevivat, the ousted deputy board chairman, sees that the junta has targeted ThaiHealth: “He said the charter writing panel headed by Borwornsak Uwanno attempted to take away the earmarked taxes from ThaiHealth last year and force the agency to obtain funds from the fiscal budget in the future.” When the charter writers backed down “the Office of the Auditor-General and the military regime’s panel investigating suspicious spending of state funds stepped in…”.
While not all anti-military, a bunch of groups targeted in this move include irritant groups like Isra News. It has been received some funding from ThaiHealth and has exhibited an interest in the junta’s wealth and military spending. ThaiPBS has been seen as unreliable for the junta and it also received some funding. The Komol Keemthong Foundation also received some funds, and that is associated with Sulak Sivaraksa, considered a thorn in the side of palace and military for many years. Also funded was the October 14 Foundation is generally considered a pain for the military, who, of course, have never massacred students.
More interesting are the foundations from the royalist side that have been supportive of the 2006 and 2014 military coups and which have been funded by ThaiHealth. The Rural Doctor Foundation has supported both military coups and is associated with the aged royalist busybody Prawase Wasi. That said, it tends to be supportive of the universal health program the junta would dearly love to scrap. Then there is the Thai Rural Reconstruction Movement, which is now miles removed from the ideals it was set up to achieve more than 40 years ago. Now run by a bunch of aging bureaucrats, minor princes and royalist propagandists for the loopy sufficiency economy idea.
It will be interesting to see how these organizations respond to the use of Article 44 to target them in a “case” that would appear concocted in order to serve the junta’s interests.