Short on good sense and vaccine

14 06 2021

The regime’s vaccine rollout is spluttering and seems to have pretty much failed to meet expectations.

Let’s be clear on the reason for this. It is because Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and, we suspect, the palace decided that they could get some excellent royalist propaganda by betting on the AstraZeneca vaccine and the ill-prepared and tiny Siam Bioscience. By producing AstraZeneca at the king’s company, they reckoned – like dams, water supplies, roads, rain and more – they could convince the public that the king had saved the country from the virus.

VaccineAs they were warned ages ago, this was a fraught strategy.

Now it is looking like a PR failure for regime and palace. The reports of shortages are everywhere.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has postponed Covid-19 vaccination for people who have registered via Thai Ruam Jai website.

Hospitals across the country are in trouble on vaccines, causing Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to deny “that the Public Health Ministry has anything to do with the postponement of vaccination appointments, scheduled for this week, by numerous private and state hospitals and health centres in Bangkok and other provinces.” As in previous buck-passing, he cannot tell the truth: that Siam Bioscience can’t produce sufficient vaccine. To do so would be to criticize the king.

The vulnerable are being left behind in vaccine rollout as it becomes more privatized and it is dog-eat-dog in getting a shot, meaning the rich are okay but the poor, the aged, and such groups are left behind.

Now, the “Rural Doctors Society is demanding that the government, and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), tell the truth about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines…”.

Truth is not the regime’s usual approach to problems. When it involves the monarchy, PR/fake news and silences are standard. The more usual approach in dealing with criticism is repression and threats, not transparency.





International embarrassment II

10 06 2021

The regime’s embarrassment should be increasing now that other countries are reporting that Thailand’s AstraZeneca production is severely delayed.

Reuters reports that, in addition to the Philippines, both Malaysia and Taiwan are saying deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand will be delayed. AstraZeneca reportedly made the king’s Siam Bioscience the production site for much of Southeast Asia.

Covid vaccinate

Clipped from The Rand Blog

The report states that “AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia … depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.” It adds:

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King … Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison….

Siam Bioscience and AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to requests for comment….

In Taiwan, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said “orders from AstraZeneca would be delayed by a month due to production problems at the firm’s Thai plant.”

In Malaysia, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters he is also expecting delays.

In Thailand, Thai Enquirer reports that

A source inside Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health told Thai Enquirer that part of the reason for the delay is because the Thai government has decided to focus first on inoculating its own citizens.

“I think the government has been criticized from all sides due to its decision to heavily rely on SBS vaccines and it is especially sensitive right now,” the source told Thai Enquirer by phone.

“So they are halting or delaying exports of the vaccine to focus on the inoculation drive to gain back some credit.”

Remember when Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was demanding that AstraZeneca deliver doses to Thailand as contracted? What’s he saying now? Such “vaccine nationalism” has been seen elsewhere, but what about contracts?

Meanwhile, even in Bangkok, the supply of vaccines continues to run short. But the private sector seems to be able to access a flow of vaccines. What’s going on?





With 3 updates: A royal shemozzle IV

31 05 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has provided “further assurances that all Thais will receive Covid-19 jabs and warned the media not to sow confusion over the state vaccination programme.” He did this as the government cancelled its booking app.

He continued to say that “the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine planned for next month … will proceed as planned.”

Meanwhile, the private sector is taking a increasing role in the vaccine campaign, especially in Bangkok, with department stores, malls, the Board of Trade of Thailand and private hospitals seemingly taking the lead.

And, it seems the Princess playthingChulabhorn Royal Academy’s ham-fisted foray into vaccines, cutting through constitution and law, is morphing. It is as if no person responsible for the administration of the “Academy” had thought much about the sudden royal intervention.

The Bangkok Post reports that Dr Nithi Mahanonda, the Academy’s secretary-general announced that “[o]ne million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese state-owned Sinopharm will arrive in June and be offered as a paid alternative for particular groups who don’t want to wait…”. He specifically targeted the “private sector or any agencies which are at risk and want to speed up the process…”.

Dr Nithi added “that as the vaccine will be procured with the academy’s budget, it could not be offered free of charge.” He said the price would “not exceed 1,000 baht per shot…”.

This was something of a shock, for as the Bangkok Post states, “most people assumed that the imports would be offered free of charge as an adjunct to the state vaccination programme.”

The price is not out of line with prices cited in other places where the sale price per dose of the two-dose regime for the Sinopharm’s vaccine is reported to be between $19-$36. As usual, the Chinese government does discounts and “friendship prices” for some places. AstraZeneca is less than half of the lowest price in this range.

(For those interested in efficacy, this non-medical article might be of some interest.)

Nithi then further sank the public’s understandings and maybe even hopes when he stated: “I do not think that members of the public can come to receive it…”.

This led to predictable criticism, with Nithi clarifying: “I apologise if I might have talked too fast during the press conference, causing a misunderstanding that we’ll profit from the vaccine…. We won’t charge an extra baht…”.

We are left to wonder why? Why a royal intervention? Was it a propaganda opportunity? Was it a way to cover up for delays at Siam Bioscience? Did some royal do a deal in or with China? Did the Chinese government make an offer to a royal? Given the private sector’s increasing role, approved by the state, why was a royal intervention necessary if it is just acting like other vaccine procurers? More importantly, what of the constitutional and legal bending and cracking that it involves? Why?

Update 1: The shemozzle looks more bizarre by the day. Thai Enquirer reports that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has ordered that “provincial governments must gain approval from the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) before they buy coronavirus vaccines…”. This order “came after Pathum Thani governor Chaiwat Chuenkosum said that his province is ordering 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA).” This potential collaboration and sale has been confirmed by the “Academy.” So fully half of the vaccines it imports will be sold to one province. What on earth is going on? Any of our readers know?

Update 2: A comment by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha makes the royal (imported) vaccine muddier still. He is reported to have stated:

On the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout, he said the government will proceed according to its plan.

“Every vaccine must be imported with the government-to-government method. We have a committee working on this,” he said.

So why was there an “Academy” intervention?

Update 3: The royal intervention has done little but has made the constitutional waters muddier than ever. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has reiterated that Siam Bioscience is a problem:

As for the bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be mainly used in the country during the second half of the year, Anutin said that the allocation is based on the doses deliverable under the contract with AstraZeneca, regardless of where they have been manufactured. Some are produced in Thailand and some will be imported to meet the contracted deliverables.

Meanwhile, Chulabhorn’s self-named “academy” is now just an also-ran among “universities,” and a bunch of private sector forays into the vaccine market.





A royal shemozzle II

28 05 2021

A reader asks how it is that a person designated a princess, with no obvious constitutional or legal authority can issue a decree that appears to carry the weight of law?

We could simply say: well, this is ultra-royalist Thailand and strange, extra-constitutional happenings seem increasingly common.

The Bangkok Post observes:

His Majesty the King’s sister [Princess Chulabhorn] has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout.

As can be seen in this sentence, the princess is only a sister of the king and yet she may bypass government. As also noted in the sentence, she’s responding to anger about the government’s strategy. As everyone knows, from the beginning this strategy hinged on a “royal vaccine,” which now seems delayed (at best). In the Post’s words: the regime “relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.”

This intervention was made without the knowledge of the health minister. Anutin is reported as “unaware of the royal order before it was published.” Notice that the Post as it as a “royal order,” as if Thailand is an absolutist regime. He is quoted: “I just saw the announcement last night…”. He then had to do the royalist-loyalist two-step: “But if it is a benefit to the country, we are ready.”

It was then level to the regime’s slimy legal eagle and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to try to clean up the constitutional and legal scraps, saying “the academy had to issue the announcement so it could qualify to import drugs and medical equipment and supplies.” That’s buffalo manure.

buffalo-manure

How high?

He added: “But this does not mean it can do so freely — it will have to comply with related laws in full, such as seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.” We don’t believe him. The announcement gives itself the right to circumvent government, as it already has.

Wissanu then fumbled some more, saying “that the institute could do so only during the Covid-19 crisis and when the vaccine supply was inadequate.” In fact, other readings of the vague announcement suggest that the “institute” has wider self-awarded power than that.

He squared the circle when he “added the institute, like private hospitals, could deal with foreign companies to import the vaccine using its own budget.” The budget for the “institute” is provided by the taxpayer and it is not a hospital. And, if Wissanu is correct, then the announcement is not required. Nor is the “institute’s intervention needed when private hospitals have already contracted to supply and sell 10 million doses in addition to the state’s purchases and orders.

But the royals want to make some propaganda gains in a situation where the king’s company appears to be failing.

Who will sort out the constitutional and legal mess? We suspect that no one will and that the precedent will see royals having even more power to do whatever they fancy.

The students were repressed but they were right. The monarchy on its current course is seriously dangerous for Thailand.





A royal shemozzle I

27 05 2021

It has been an exceptionally busy 24-36 hours for the regime’s virus “strategy.” Failures, turnarounds and a royal intervention point to a shemozzle. More significantly, they point to a royal/royalist failure and a rescue attempt.

The media is reflecting a broader discontent as it refers to the aspects of the vaccine “rollout” as a “fiasco” and talk of corruption hampering the regime’s response to thousands of cases a day, pointing to human smuggling:

In January, Gen Prayut set up a special panel to tackle labour smuggling, but it’s unclear what the panel has really achieved.

By setting up such a panel, the government hoped to appease critics, by giving the impression something was being done, when in fact the opposite was more accurate. The panel also gives credence to the belief that regular mechanisms are dysfunctional or beset with graft…. It’s an open secret that unscrupulous officials are involved in these activities.

It seemed clear to most people that there were major problems unresolved:

In October last year, the government chose the AstraZeneca vaccine as its main weapon against COVID-19. However, arming itself with AstraZeneca shots has proved difficult, and it now looks like the shortage will last longer than expected.

Then, in no particular order, a series of revelations pointed to the deadly results of the shemozzle. First, there was the report that the surge of virus cases in prisons continues, despite an earlier assurance from the Corrections Department that it could “bring the situation under control.” It has only gotten worse and deadly. The Corrections Department has now “reported 1,243 new infections and three deaths among inmates, raising the total number of prison cases to 17,138.” Being in prison now means almost certain virus infection and the possibility of death.

Second, it is clear that the cases among mostly migrant workers in construction camps around Bangkok are rivalling the rates in prisons, and the response is essentially to lock the workers up, infected and uninfected (so far) together. Businesses wanted to keep working and their profits rely on migrant workers. Leaky borders require official connivance in keeping wages low and migrants in shit conditions, even as they are infected and die.

Third, the regime began panicked changes to its own virus measures.

Vaccine registration through app Mor Prom was suddenly suspended. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s explanation that this was “to forestall a bottleneck” seems to confirm that the vaccines are just not available in sufficient quantity to meet demand. We had posted on the delays to vaccine availability earlier, associated with the king’s company Siam Bioscience. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: “If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. This probably put him in conflict with the monarch’s outfit and he may well have been saying that he wasn’t prepared to wear the criticism for Siam Bioscience’s failings.

Then, the palace responded (that’s how it appears to us). Overnight on Wednesday, without fanfare, a peculiar announcement appeared at the Royal Gazette website, purportedly signed by the ailing Princess Chulabhorn and on behalf of her personal fiefdom, the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Chulabhorn Institute.

It declared that:

the academy had granted its secretary-general the power to enter into a trade agreement with public and private organisations, both domestic and overseas, in matters relating to the provision of medical and public health services during the emergency situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement added that:

…all medical equipment, drugs and vaccines imported by the academy would be considered its property for the purpose of medicine and public health and will not be liable to any kind of legal execution.

The “academy” promises to provide more information on how it plans to procure and import Covid-19 vaccine from Sinopharm.

As we know, earlier in the week, “Bio Genetech Ltd, an importer of Sinopharm’s Covilo vaccine, had submitted complete documentation to register the vaccine for use in Thailand and expected approval to come soon.” We can’t find any information on that company, but it may well be a Thai subsidiary of a Chinese company. WHO information on the vaccine is here. Information on Sinopharm is available here.

Thai Enquirer has two reports. One says of the announcement:

The announcement, which was ambiguously worded, could be interpreted to say that the institute would now be able to bypass government red-tape [regulations] and bring it vaccines as it sees fit…. [It] also gives the organizations sweeping powers to carry out work….

But the other report goes entirely royalist being written by the deeply yellow Fuadi Pitsuwan. While noting that the right to procure and import vaccines “was reserved for only the Thai government,” it somehow construes the power grab as “most certainly a benevolent gesture by the Institute,” adding that “it highlights the royal frustration and the split among the ruling elites over how the Prayuth government is handling the crisis.” It babbles on:

HRH Princess Chulabhorn is taking the matter in her own hands. She is trying to do what she can to alleviate the dire healthcare situation and to compensate for the delay in vaccine procurement by the Ministry of Health and its relevant agencies.

This is self-censoring rubbish to avoid Article 112, adding:

But the royal move, exercised in this manner however well-intentioned, calls into question the political legitimacy of the government and its authority in the management of the crisis. It is a no-confidence censure and a royal rebuke of both Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Minister of Health Anutin Charnveerakul.

To be fair, the report notes dangers in another royal interference.

When our top institution becomes too involved in people’s welfare, whether it exercises that power directly or through an agency, it exposes itself to being politicized and thus such a move is a double-edged sword that could end up hurting its own reputation and sanctity.

It adds:

For now, we can be sure that the ruling elites have split and that move by … Chulabhorn has highlighted the royal anxiety over the government’s mishandling of the crisis. What this means in practice is that our government is no longer in control of its health care apparatus and there is a functioning, competing alternative health-care system led by … Chulabhorn herself.

And, the author does worry about a broader royal takeover:

If Prayuth and Anutin do not step up their game quickly, it will be to no one’s surprise when a more powerful intervention beyond the healthcare arena finally takes place

This latter point is certainly true. The royal family is politically dangerous. But, while we think this general interpretation of the intervention could be true it  misses a lot because of its royalist spinelessness.

We think that the whole AstraZeneca/Siam Bioscience deal was concocted by the regime and the palace to “save” Thais with the “king’s vaccine.” The fact that Siam Bioscience has failed leads to claims that the whole regime-royal strategy has failed Thais. This throws a spanner in the whole royal propaganda machine. With Anutin demonstrating that he isn’t prepared to take the blame, the the monarchy has had to find another means to be seen to be “saving” Thais. 

Whichever interpretation is correct, the monarchy’s interfering is dangerous for Thailand.





Further updated: King’s vaccine delayed

24 05 2021

Probably based on a royalist ideological position, the military-backed monarchists of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government initially decided to put all of its vaccine eggs in just two baskets. One was the the Sino-Thai tycoon’s Chinese vaccine. The other was the king’s vaccine, where with state support a little known company, Siam Bioscience, owned by the king, was allocated the task of producing the AstraZeneca vaccine.

While the Chinese vaccines have been rolling in – some of it reserved for Chinese citizens – AstraZeneca production has been slow. Some now say it is delayed:

Covid vaccinate

Clipped from The Rand Blog

Public hospitals such as Vajira, Chulabhorn, and Thammasat announced that they were short of vaccine stock over the weekend and will thus be delaying their scheduled shots, The Standard reported.

The report did not give details on the shortfall. Representatives of Siam Bioscience were not available for comment.

The news comes after earlier reports that the Siam Bioscience is not on track to fulfil its commitment to produce 6 million doses by the end of June. The schedule also states production levels of 10 million per month from July until the end of the year.

Dr Satit Pitutaecha, assistant governor to the Ministry of Public Health in an interview with The Standard explained that the initial 1.7 million doses for May will not be ready in time because the ministry had requested a change from the original production schedule.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday that he had made no commitment to having vaccines available by June 1, only to start administering them on June 7.

As might be expected of a small and inexperienced company, there would appear to be problems in scaling up production, with some reports suggesting “production levels in June were likely to be around half of what was scheduled…”.

The plan of having Thais vaccinated by the king’s graces seems to have stumbled and fallen.

Update 1: Following reports of delays, “health authorities” have said that “more AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by schedule next month…”. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: ““If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. So it seems pretty certain that locally-produced vaccine will fall short.

Concerns about delays were also exacerbated when it a plan was announced to delay “AstraZeneca second shots by four weeks for an interval of 16 weeks instead of 12 originally.” While doctors say this is based on health research, most people read it as a delay. Reports from readers suggest that the best way to get AstraZeneca is to connive with the health personnel currently offering AstraZeneca as an alternative to Sinovac for a payment of several thousand baht.

Update 2: Anutin is at it again. He’s reported in this way:

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists the government will be ready to launch a massive Covid-19 vaccination programme as promised from June 7 using AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

… Speaking after meeting with company representatives on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said that AstraZeneca had given him updated information and the discussion had been very positive.

Whoopie! Jabs to come. But:

He did not specify the exact date the company would deliver its first vaccine batch to the ministry but said the company would provide further deliveries every month.

And he went on to be imprecise:

What we can say right now is that the company will be able to send its vaccine continuously every month…. The amount will be based on discussions between the company and the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

A couple of days ago he was talking about a contractual requirement…. And his evasion went on:

We can’t say the exact date we will get our first delivery from the company but we are confident that it will be ready by June 7.

Even the Bangkok Post is not finding Anutin very convincing. We hope the vaccine is available and distributed free as promised rather than “auctioned” as it is currently being done in some places.





Regime’s virus failure

17 05 2021

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have failed in many areas, but on the virus they are shown to be hopeless.

In 2020, after some awful initial decisions, not least those by the military and Health Minister

Unmasked

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

Anutin Charnvirakul, for reasons unknown – perhaps fear – the regime handed over virus control to medical professionals. Aided by some luck – many Thais were mask wearing because of terrible air pollution – and a network of local health workers put in place from the 1980s, Thailand became something of a star performer. The virus case load was reduced and was kept low.

For reasons unknown – perhaps arrogance – in 2021, the dopes in the regime were set free. The result is the highest daily infection rates seen in the country: 25 deaths and 9,635 new cases in a 24-hour period.

The blockhead regime has failed. To emphasize this, these statistics came only a couple of days after Gen Prayuth announced that his “government has waived the face-mask rule for speakers during parliament sessions and meetings, although MPs are only allowed to take off their masks when speaking.” The relaxation “also applies to meetings nationwide and will remain in place until further notice.”

Apisamai Srirangson, an assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), was reported as insisting “the main regulation requiring the public to wear a face mask when in public has not been relaxed and only specific exceptions are being made for speakers at some important … meetings.”

The accelerating virus numbers came as Gen Prayuth allowed “the resumption of limited dine-in services in restaurants in four dark red zone provinces, including Bangkok.”

And, recall that it was only a few days ago that Corrections Department director-general Aryut Sinthoppan declared that “he considered the number of infected inmates [in his prisons] to be small when compared to the number of infections throughout the country.” Today, it is reported that “9,789 Covid-19 infections have been found during testing at 12 prisons over the past five days…”. According to The Nation’s data, Chiang Mai Central Prison has an infection rate of almost 61% while the Bangkok Remand Prison infection rate is about 65%.

We hardly even need to mention the regime’s ideological decision to put all of its initial vaccine faith in the king’s company, which is still not delivering any vaccine. Hence the rush to buy more/any vaccine.

Vaccine

This is a potential disaster for the country, delivered from a regime of dunces. Because the regime’s response has been politicized and even personalized by a dullard Minister of Transportation, it seems unlikely that the medical professionals can get back control. With so little vaccination, the next few days and weeks portend spiraling cases.

 





Blockhead regime

8 05 2021

The regime is not only composed of criminals but of a bunch of blockheads. The past couple of days have seen several examples of their status as cretins displayed for all to see.

There was the example provided by the blockhead Palang Pracharat MP, who decided on a bit of political point scoring by “claiming double standards in the distribution of queue tickets for COVID-19 screening and vaccination to residents in the crowded communities…”. This after the regime and the MP’s party had completely failed those communities on the virus outbreak. Community leaders responded, demonstrating that they had thought about what they were doing.

Then there is the minister for making things worse. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was asked by Thai PBS “what he thinks is the most challenging factor in the latest wave of the COVID-19.” A reasonable question you’d think, giving a minister with less arrogance a chance to explain the multiple issues associated with the virus. Here was a free pass to explain why cases remain stubbornly high for Thailand and deaths are increasing. But not Anutin. His response: “There is no challenge…”. 

He goes on to show his mammoth arrogance when he says that all the complaining about the terrible vaccine planning and rollout is from just a few: “Anutin pointed out that people who get infected or are related to them will, of course, say the rollout is too slow.” He seems to be serious. He seems to be a mad man.

At around the same time, Anutin announced that “Pfizer has agreed to reserve 10-20 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine for Thailand, expected to be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of this year…”. Is this a serious announcement? Is it 10 million or 20 million? Is this just the kind of talk around a table in Thong Lor. Seriously, is this how governments and real companies do business? We suspect that it is just blockhead Anutin and his loose lips.

That’s enough. We could go on to the crazy bow-tied looney royalist at the Ministry of of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation who wants to put Thailand in a space race when it can’t get its vaccine policies in order and prefers to spend his time harassing academics for not breaking any laws. Another blockhead.





Dictatorship of fools

28 04 2021

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has been pretty much a disaster in that position. Where Thailand had done reasonably well in the first year of the virus, this was mainly because Anutin’s early missteps led to the regime handing over to medical professionals.

Unmasked

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

In recent weeks, however, Anutin and the regime have had criticism heaped upon them, even before virus cases increased substantially.

There was criticism of vaccine reliance on a state-subsidized Siam Bioscience and its production of AstraZeneca. As royalists, the regime threw money and (it hoped) prestige at the king’s company. And, it threatened critics with lese majeste for daring to question this (now) shaky decision. Now that decision has partly been undone as the regime scrambles to buy vaccine from multiple sources.

Then there were the political figures who became a virus cluster and the double standards involved as the regime refused to investigate. That masks were demanded and both Anutin and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have been caught unmasked has reinforced the idea that rules don’t apply to the big guys.

Of course, that the king, queen, and palace slitherers regularly appear in the royal news unmasked cannot be criticized.

In short, people realized that the virus response was politicized and failing. And, it is now thought that Anutin is making things worse and that policy is a “shambles.”

Pointedly, Anutin has fought back, declaring that the decisions are being made by Gen Prayuth:

On Monday night, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul deflected responsibility for the third wave of the pandemic by shifting blame to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and saying that every decision was made by the premier.

In his tell-all Facebook post, Anutin said that his ministry had constantly advised the government on the correct decision but the prime minister and the covid emergency response centre were making decisions unilaterally.

Not only is the virus response a shambles, but so is the coalition. As Andrew MacGregor Marshall suggests, the coalition is fighting for survival.

The regime’s response is to hand The Dictator dictatorial powers:

The Thai cabinet today (Tuesday) designated Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the sole authority in charge of all responsibilities and duties, previously vested in his ministers, to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The powers vested in various ministers, by virtue of various laws regarding the issuance of orders, permits and approvals which will help in preventing or containing COVID spread or in helping the people, will be vested in the prime minister on temporary basis.

That’s as scary as Anutin running the show. As Thai Enquirer states:

Now with Prayut calling all the shots, the fate of the country rests in the hands of a man who did not even bother to research the vaccines his country will be bringing in before a nationally-televised press conference.

The notoriously poorly-informed, intellectually uncurious Prayut will now be charged with making the correct decisions to guide us out of this pandemic hellscape.

God help us all.





Further updated: 112 updates

9 02 2021

It is reported that lese majeste case No. 58 of the current round of repression has been lodged – we seem to have missed cases 56 and 57 – with a 37 year-old man being charged “with the royal insult, or lese majeste, for allegedly mocking the monarchy at a shopping mall in December…”.

A fanatical royalist from Thai Pakdee accused Pawat Hiranpon “of feigning to genuflect and saying ‘Long Live Your Majesties’ at Siam Paragon on Dec. 20 when several pro-democracy activists were walking past him…”. The mad monarchist thinks he was being sarcastic.

At about the same time, UN human rights experts are reported to have “expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws to curtail criticism of the monarchy, and said they were alarmed that a woman had been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.”

They stated: “We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences…”. They added: “We call on the authorities to revise and repeal the lèse-majesté laws, to drop charges against all those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been imprisoned…”. The regime will not heed such calls. It never has. It heeds the king, and it is he who has directed this repression strategy.

Meanwhile some better news, with the Criminal Court having “dismissed a petition by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to remove a clip criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.” The ministry claimed it constituted lese majeste. He criticized the secret deal between regime, the king’s Siam Bioscience, and AstraZeneca.

After being ordered to take down his half-hour analysis, Thanathorn challenged the order. He was successful after the full clip was played in court, with the court “saying no part of the clip clearly showed he criticised or raised questions in any way that could be deemed insulting to the monarchy.” It added: “There is no clear evidence it affects national security…”.

The court asked Thanathorn why he used the term “royal vaccines”. His reply was wonderful, pointing out that “he was not the first to use it.” He pointed out that: “It was Gen Prayut and government agencies who first used or implied it that way…”. They were milking propaganda for the king and that was turned back at them, and the court agreed: “The court viewed the term was borrowed from what the government had said earlier about the local vaccine production to show the mercy of the king. Mr Thanathorn’s use of the word was therefore not a lie, which could cause damage to the king.”

Of course, the regime is now scrambling on vaccines, issuing statements that seem designed to mollify growing criticism. For a useful report of further questioning of the king’s Siam Bioscience, see Khaosod.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the 112 case facing Pawat (using Phawat ‘Pocky’ Hiranphon). It states that the “charge was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun), a member of Thai Pakdee…”. Further,

the investigator gave as the reason for the complaint to a cosplay activity at Siam Paragon on 20 December 2020, where Phawat was seen paying respect by bowing, giving a ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting) , saying ‘Long live the King’, and presenting flowers to Parit Chiwarak and Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, who cosplayed King Rama X and the Queen wearing crop tops.

The investigator alleges this was an act of mockery toward people paying respect to King Rama X.

Phawat is seeking evidence to file a complaint against Narin, as he sees the complaint as politically motivated and damaging to his reputation and income. Narin also is not the one offended by Phawat’s action.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for the regime to get on with vaccination rather than defending itself. The editorial notices:

Bombarded by criticism that it has been too slow and overly reliant on two sources, AstraZeneca and Sinovac, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to explain the government’s immunisation strategy last Sunday.

The PM was far too keen on defending the government than shedding light on the crucial vaccine drive. Although he addressed some of the main points of criticism, the PM offered no new information.

His claims and promises also appeared unsubstantiated, with little or no detail at all.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.

The public health minister has only made things worse. Bent on protecting himself and the government, Anutin Charnvirakul essentially told people to keep quiet and stop questioning the vaccine procurement and immunisation plan. He also told other politicians who are not in the government to keep their advice to themselves.

Mr Anutin’s tantrum only reinforced his image as being out of touch.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.