Military screws Thailand again I

14 07 2020

Puea Thai Party’s chief strategist, Sudarat Keyuraphan is right to accuse “the Government of lowering its guard when it allowed an Egyptian military mission to enter and stay in Thailand without being monitored or quarantined” when at least one of them had the virus.

She’s also right to recall that it was the Royal Thai Army that arranged a boxing match – against regulations – that resulted in the country’s largest virus cluster. And, she’s right to observe that there’s been almost no accountability on that case. In this sense, she may be off target when she only blames the government. She should be lashing the military.

Certainly many members of the public are pointing at the military. It is reported that the “hashtag #อีแดงกราบตีนคนไทย (Daeng should prostrate before the feet of the Thai people), referring to the army chief Apirat Kongsompong, reached over 1.5 million tweets and shares between Monday night and Tuesday morning.”

Now, some 400 people have to be traced, tested and quarantined. Up to 1000 may be impacted.

The regime and the military has gone into damage control, suppression and blame shifting.

The response from the military: “The army has denied that it played any role in the soldier’s transit.”

Might someone explain why the Egyptian military was in Thailand? We at PPT hadn’t noticed a relationship previously. But there were 31 in the “delegation.” That sounds official and not like a simple stopover. Someone must have granted permission for the visit and stopover.

Cover-up is the main response. The regime has refused to provide details: “The soldiers — whose identities and ranks were withheld by the government — stayed in Thailand before leaving for a one-day visit to Chengdu, China on July 9. They returned to Thailand on July 10…”. It is claimed that “[s]ince it was an official trip, it is understood that the government exempted the group from a number of entry requirements, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine. It was also reported that the soldiers were allowed in because they were listed as ‘air crew’.”

Cover-up exposed:

The military is distancing itself from the case, with U-Tapao airport officials telling reporters “only one out of 31 delegates sneaked out”. Such an explanation is ridiculous and leaves some questions unanswered. For instance, how could the soldier (or soldiers) leave the assigned accommodation with a liaison officer around?

Blame shifting has seen the governor of Rayong Province reassigned after the “foul-up which exposed people within Rayong to possible coronavirus infection.” In this case, blaming the governor is buffalo poo. It is the military. Move Forward MP Taopiphop Lim is right: “This is a move that is on the military and government level and not on the provincial level, the governor is just a scapegoat…”.

Why not blame Egypt? “All flights from Egypt will be barred from landing in Thailand, following an incident last week when members of an Egyptian military mission defied Thai regulations by not confining themselves to their hotel in Rayong.” That reporting is weak-kneed rubbish. It is the Thai military and regime that defied regulations. Why? Because they can and do, all the time. It is the usual impunity.

Or blame the Egyptian Embassy:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, put the blame on the Egyptian embassy in Thailand for arranging hotel accommodation for the Egyptian delegation instead of sending the visitors to a state quarantine facility.

“Regulations require the quarantine during their stay but the embassy contacted the hotel directly. Health and security teams learned later about the incident and did their best to cope,” he said.

Huh? If this is right, then Taweesilp, doing his own credibility huge damage, is saying the government knew nothing. So how did they land at the military-controlled airport? No answer.

The Air Force has blamed the Ministry of Health:

The health ministry was responsible for allowing an Egyptian military delegation later found to include an officer infected with Covid-19 to go shopping in Rayong during their stopover in Thailand, air force chief ACM Manat Wongwat said on Tuesday.

A stopover by a military airplane on a long-haul flight for refueling and to rest the crew and passengers was normal international practice, ACM Manat said.

The role of the air force was to approve or disapprove a stopover request by a plane carrying a military delegation. The health ministry was responsible for coronavirus checks and quarantine….

ACM Manat said when the Foreign Ministry received a stopover request from an embassy it was forwarded to the air force for approval.

Buck-passing may not work if the Air Force’s role at its airport is to not control anything, which is buffalo manure. So the next trick is an “inquiry.” Can anyone recall the last time anyone n the military or the regime was held responsible for anything during an “investigation”?

Hopeless minister

9 07 2020

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul has been a disaster in his post. Of course, he’s not the only hopeless minister under this regime.

Not only does he have conflicts of interest, but his behavior has often been odd. As we mentioned in a recent post, we stated that Anutin’s performance on the virus crisis has been so hopeless and so bizarre that he was pushed aside and has barely been seen in public.

A Khaosod report refers to his early virus crisis rants.

Now Anutin has been forced to apologize for “ignoring his own advice on wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Anutin unmasked in an earlier outing. Clipped from Der Farang.

Anutin attended Fourth of July celebrations at the US Embassy without a face mask.

It doesn’t matter whether one things masks are necessary. As the reports states: “The health ministry requires visitors to all public venues to put on their masks, citing the threat of coronavirus infection.” As minister, Anutin should be a model of masking up, following his ministry’s directive.

Along with the treatment of the American general and his entourage and the unmasked king and queen visit, including meetings with ambassadors, the double standards are obvious.

Anutin has been forced to come up with an apology: “Sorry for letting my guard down…. Dear citizens, don’t let your guard down like I did. I humbly accept their criticism. I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

Not long before he had “dismissed reporters’ questions about the photo [of him unmasked] by laughing and saying ‘so much drama’.”

Updated: Inventing royal nonsense

8 07 2020

How do they come up with this stuff? It is remarkable that palace sources can invent utter nonsense and have it published.

The official propaganda outlet of the government has piled it high for the king and queens less than one day visit – at taxpayer expense – to Thailand from their homes in Germany and Switzerland.

Worse, the outlet makes it appear like the truant king and queen are residing in Thailand and carefully following events. As everyone knows, the king is living in a luxury hotel with a harem of women and the queen lives in a luxury resort in Switzerland. They have spent almost no time in Thailand this year, and each time they have returned, the country’s bankrupt airline has to mobilize a special aircraft for them, disguising it with regular flight numbers. That the king has several aircraft under his control counts for nothing as these are just used for fun, flitting about Europe. How tiresome it would be for the king to have to use one of these when it would need to refuel en-route. Better (for him) to order a TG special flight.

The report says that “this week” the king and queen “granted an audience to Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul” and a bunch of health officials. “This week” implies that the royals were in town for more than a few hours. It’s sleight of hand. And, Anutin’s performance on the virus crisis was so hopeless and so bizarre that he was pushed aside and has barely been seen in public.

It then claims that the “King and Queen presented one biosafety mobile unit and 12 prototype units. The vehicles will be given to 12 health region offices nationwide. Medical personnel will use them to collect COVID-19 test specimens in schools, temples and communities safely and efficiently.” The report claims the king gave these to the Ministry: “Their Majesties granted funds for the procurement of the biosafety mobile units.”

That’s nonsense. Such “presentations” are also sleight of hand. The taxpayer pays for the gear and the Ministry buys it and the king “presides” over its “presentation.” He gets the credit and “merit.”

The report then gets hilariously ridiculous when it claims “the King … delivered a speech on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.” How on earth would he have any idea about it. He’s flouted virus rules in Europe and during his couple of visits to Thailand and, based on the speed of his departures from the country, he’s uninterested in Thailand. Who knows what he said? We can’t believe he could come up with anything serious.

But the report anticipates such critical thinking, claiming “the King and Queen have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation, and have expressed concern for the people’s health and well-being as well as the safety of medical personnel, who are on the front line of this pandemic.” They may have made a statement to that effect, as this is standard fare for all leaders these days. Watching a bit of news from Thailand in between bike rides and lounging around with the harem hardly adds up to “closely monitoring.”

Update: We found another article telling of some royal “work” the king and queen did on their quick excursion in Thailand.

Is universal health care too expensive?

7 01 2016

The military junta has, several times, floated the idea of changing the universal health care system in Thailand, introduced by Thaksin Shinawatra’s government from 2001. Each time they have, the regime has then retreated. Most recently, the “promise” to keep the scheme has sounded far less certain, with The Dictator stating, “that it was impossible for the programme to cover all the 70 million population as that would require a huge amount of budget that the government could not afford.”

As a result, doctors reportedly continue to worry about funding for the scheme. Some doctors prefer a privatized health system as this increases their incomes.

So how much does the coverage of all Thais and quite a few migrant workers cost? In a recent Prachatai report, some figures were provided.

Working on a population of 65 million and breaking down costs for bureaucrats (who continue to have a gilt-edged scheme), social security fund members and the general public, it is estimated that the total cost of health care for all Thais is between 18 and 30 billion baht a year.

Disclaimer: We can’t vouch for their accuracy, but as their are ranges used, we guess that the figures are good enough to make some comparisons. When we checked, the Budget Bureau figures for health care in 2015 seemed reasonably close to the top estimates in the Prachatai report. We welcome corrections.

Is 30 billion baht huge? Khaosod, reporting on the military budget states: “The budget to solve the problem in the south in fiscal 2016 consists of 30.176 billion baht…”.

If the military budget for operations just in the south, consider the funds allocated to maintaining the royals and their various projects in 2015: this was about 107 billion baht. The amount allocated to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and the Royal Household Bureau alone was almost 4.2 billion baht.

On this basis, the amount spent on the health of 65 million Thais seems quite reasonable.


Corruption admitted

29 12 2009

PPT has to give credit where it is due. The Minister of Health has announced that he will resign over a report on corruption in the Thai khemkaeng projects associated with his ministry (The Nation, 29 December, 2009, Public health minister resigns”). Less than 2 weeks ago PPT expressed concerns that these investigations were going nowhere, despite our first post on the topic that concluded: “It seems unlikely that this case – with complaints from groups that should be Democrat Party allies – will be able to be kept quiet and out of the headlines, unlike the earlier case of corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. That case seems to have all but disappeared now that it is run by palace cronies.

Witthaya Kaewparadai “ announced his intention to quit as a show of responsibility for lapse of duty in supervising the … project.” The report that prompted his resignation statement is also reported in The Nation (29 December 2009: “‘Guilty’ of negligence”).

The investigation panel recommended “disciplinary action over purchase orders for overpriced medical equipment and supplies” in the ministry. In addition, several other political appointees and officials were named, accused of negligence.

The panel’s report made it clear that evidence and testimony showed a high probability that politicians and senior officials had been involved in unusual procurement of medical equipment under the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package.” This included “budget allocations for hospital construction [that] were skewed in favour of some politicians’ selected constituencies…” and “procurement plans [that] were unnecessary...”.

There was evidence of direct intervention by Deputy Minister Manit Nop-amornbodiand who was also “incriminated in an agreement to purchase overpriced ambulances.” The latter case also involved the minister’s secretary.

The government must now send the case on to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. At the same time, the Democrat Party-led government needs to ensure that the other allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Education and Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects get proper attention. PPT expects that these cases will be used by the Peua Thai Party in their censuring of the government.

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