Further updated: Thanathorn and lese majeste

21 01 2021

When a security guard at the luxury IconSiam shopping mall – partly royal owned – slapped a university student who was holding a lone protest in front of the center, it seemed kind of “normal” for royalist Thailand. What the student was protesting was anything but normal.

A member of the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, the student was holding a sign inscribed “Vaccine Monopoly is PR for the Royals.”

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak highlighted the message saying: “This person came out to campaign on behalf of the interest of the people…”. As has been known for some time, the Crown Property Bureau will make the “vast majority of vaccines to be used in the [virus] inoculation campaign…”. The CPB’s wholly-owned firm, Siam Bioscience, has been handed the contract.

Now, after comments about Siambioscience, the regime has gone royalist  bonkers spilled their lese majeste marbles:

The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) will file a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against … Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the ministry said on Wednesday.

The complaint against Mr Thanathorn under Article 112 of the criminal code will be filed on Wednesday afternoon, according to an official ministry memo sent to reporters.

Then, Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “slammed the government for its tardiness in providing Covid-19 vaccines and pointed out that the company tasked with manufacturing the vaccine locally is owned by the King.”

Thanathorn

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience “is tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorised capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

This led the Public Health Ministry to “clarify.” Permanent secretary for Public Health Kiattiphum Wongrajit defended the deal with Siambioscience and rejected “accusations that the government had delayed the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, as it was expensive, and had failed to cover the public.”

One official explained:

Our deal with AstraZeneca company isn’t just a regular vaccine deal, but also involves technology transfer during the crisis period. The company that receives knowledge of the technology needs to be qualified and ready for it. Only Siam Bioscience is capable of receiving the tech from Oxford University. Even Thai Pharmaceutical Organization does not have  enough potential because of the  use of modern technology….

He added that:

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

the Public Health Ministry, the NVI and SCG, as well as the government had  collaborated in the negotiations and showed the potential of Siam Bioscience, which originally produced only biological material or drugs to increase blood cells in patients with renal failure. The vaccine production plant will get Bt500-million support from the government and Bt100 million from SCG to buy the required equipment.

In other words, Siambioscience wasn’t ready to receive the technology. A deal was done. He confirmed this saying: “This success is built on a potential base.”

Then it went royalist propaganda and decidedly weird:

There is a misunderstanding about our support. I insist that it is our work in accordance with the philosophy of King Rama IX, under which Thailand has laid the health foundation and built medical expertise over 10 years.

An initial reaction from the regime came from the erratic Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who criticized Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn, “accusing him of not being grateful to the ‘Mother Land’ for his alleged attempt to politicize the government’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Anutin went full royalist, suggesting that Thanathorn was onto something:

Anutin … said that Thanathorn appears to know everything, but doesn’t know how to be grateful to the late King Bhumibol, who set the foundation for medical and health development in Thailand for the betterment of his subjects.

He suggested that royal PR and royal business were inseparable, damning Thanathorn, asking/accusing:

… whether he knows that the 20 mobile laboratory units, being deployed across the country to carry out pro-active COVID-19 screening, were sent by the Bureau of the Royal Household.

He further said that the PPE being used by medical personnel also came from the Palace, adding that funding, amounting to several billion baht, was donated by the late King for the development of hospitals and medical services in the countryside for the benefit of rural people…. He also said that, this afternoon, he will take delivery of 770,000 PPE suits, donated by the Palace for use by medical personnel.

All of this royalist madness suggests there’s much to hide.

Mad as hell Anutin was followed by his boss, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who “warned Tuesday that legal action will be taken against people, in mainstream and social media, who distort facts about the deal to procure COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca by the government…”.

The predictable result was an allegation of lese majeste that will inevitably lead to charges:

The complaint accused Thanathorn of making 11 separate counts of critical remarks about the monarchy during his Monday night’s Facebook Live titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?,” in which he questioned the role of Siam Bioscience, a Thai firm wholly owned by King Vajiralongkorn, in the production of coronavirus vaccines in Thailand.

“His comments can cause misunderstandings in society,” vice minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Thotsaphon Pengsom said. “It can create intolerable damage to the country and the works of the government.”

He added, “Therefore, we must take legal action immediately and we will go after each and everyone who shared it.”

… The vice minister said the complaint filed today also accused Thanathorn of violating the Computer Crime Act for spreading false information, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Because Siambioscience is so opaque it is impossible to know if any of the claims made about its capacity or lack of it are true. As far as we can tell, Siambioscience makes two products under license. But, the regime’s hostile reaction suggests that there’s plenty going on in this deal done in secret and announced in sparse press releases, none of which appear at the company’s website. We could not find an announcement of the Siambioscience deal at the AstraZenca global site.

But let’s just add a bit to this mix.

In December 2020, it was announced:

Bangkok-based Siam Bioscience signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca late last month to make 200 million doses of the British pharmaceutical firm’s COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, said Nakorn Premsri, director of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry and the local conglomerate SCG [another firm with a major palace shareholding], with its packaging and chemicals divisions, also joined the deal.

Nakorn said most of the doses would head abroad.

Thailand will secure only 26 million doses. We may ask for more, but it will not be a big part, so maybe more than half of that [200 million] can be exported,” he told VOA.

Thailand did order more, but still only sufficient for half the population, and that was only after criticism mounted. The Chinese vaccine is linked to CP, but only a minuscule amount has so far been ordered.

There’s much in this story that needs explanation. The relish with which the regime went after Thanathorn needs no explanation.

Update 1: It is somehow “fitting” that the quisling Suporn Atthawong, now vice minister to the military PM’s Office, was the one filing the lese majeste complaint at the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Who can forget that Suporn’s own lese majeste charge evaporated when he flipped to the dictators.

Update 2: Unbowed, Thanathorn responded: “Prayut has always used the royal institution to hide the inefficiency of his administration, saying that he is loyal to the monarchy and protecting it…. Is this not why many people are raising issues with the monarchy institution?”


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