Updated: International embarrassment I

3 06 2021

Cod Satrusayang recently had an op-ed at Thai Enquirer that declares “Siam Bioscience has become an international embarrassment.” He makes some excellent points.

He does not say that Siam Bioscience is the king’s company and that the regime gave it the AstraZeneca contract. Perhaps that is now widely understood, but we think this needs to be constantly repeated for royalism cripples even the most important of public policies.

Here’s some clips from Cod:

We knew the delay was coming from Siam Bioscience, Thai Enquirer reported as much three weeks ago. According to our sources, the AstraZeneca production target for June was never going to be met by SBS [Siam Bioscience] and right we were….

As far back as last year, pro-democracy protesters had pointed out discrepancies in SBS securing the AstraZeneca contract with opposition politicians also chiming in.

As Reuters points out (see below for link):

Thai police earlier this year laid criminal royal insult [lese majeste] charges against opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, saying he had defamed the monarchy in a Facebook Live stream when he accused the government of mishandling the vaccine campaign and of giving an unfair advantage to Siam Bioscience.

Thanathorn’s case is pending trial.

Back to Cod:

We knew, even back then, that the government trusting an unproven company with no track record of producing vaccines was risky, we knew that scaling and technology transfers were going to be a problem, we knew that and we continued down the course anyway.

… Why did the government feel it was a good idea to put all their eggs in the collective SBS basket?

Who knows? There are many theories. Special interests, arrogance, idiocy, whatever the reason, people have died and are continuing to die because of government incompetence.

The answer is that ridiculous royalism led to bad policy, gambling with people’s lives for a dose of royal/palace propaganda.

Cod notes that ridiculous royalist policy now has international ramifications, referring to a Reuters report that “[d]elivery to the Philippines of the first batches of a promised 17 million doses of Thai-made AstraZeneca … vaccines has been delayed by several weeks and reduced in size…”.

The report adds:

The delay raises questions about AstraZeneca’s vaccine distribution plan in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made in Thailand by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by the country’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.

It was not immediately clear if other countries slated to received Thai vaccine exports would be affected by similar delays….

Inside Thailand, questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are extremely sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is sole owner of the company…. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The Philippines comment comes from “presidential adviser Joey Concepcion, who has been coordinating vaccine procurement with the Philippine government and private sector…”. He stated that “AstraZeneca had informed him that delivery of the first batch of 1.3 million doses would have to be pushed back from the third week of June to mid-July and also reduced to 1.17 million doses.” In addition, the “second batch of 1.3 million doses would also be reduced to 1.17 million and has been moved from July to August.”

Concepcion said AstraZeneca told him “there were delays in Thai production.” He added: “It is a new plant they are running … that is how it is when you start a new plant…”.

That is an embarrassment.

As if to respond to criticism, somehow Siam Bioscience has suddenly produced a local delivery of AstraZeneca’s vaccine:

Siam Bioscience said the first locally produced AstraZeneca doses were delivered to Thailand’s Ministry of Health ahead of the June 7 start of the country’s official mass vaccination program. It did not say how many were delivered.

Update: According to a report in The Nation, “AstraZeneca (Thailand) has confirmed that it will deliver 6 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine during June after submitting documentation to the Department of Medical Sciences for vaccine quality inspection…”. The Department of Disease Control announced that “the first lot of 240,000 AstraZeneca doses will be sent to 58 provinces, or around 3,600 doses each, by … June 2.” It added that the “next lot of 350,000 doses will be sent to the other 19 provinces in the next two weeks…”.

Meanwhile, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization announced it will import 11 million Sinovac doses from June Health Minister Anutin said: “So far we have received 6 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, 5.5 million of which were through purchase and 500,000 of which were donated by the Chinese government…”. He added: “Sinovac will complement the main vaccine that will be used in Thailand, AstraZeneca…”.Anutin observed that Sinovac “has an efficacy rate of 51 per cent reported from clinical trials, Sinovac offers nearly 100 per cent protection against symptomatic infection and hospitalisation…”.


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