Virus of double standards V

15 04 2021

The Bangkok Post has a useful editorial that points to the double standards being applied by the regime in dealing with the virus outbreak.

It refers to “growing concerns over possible foul play in the investigation process concerning the [Thonglor] clubs where the bug spread.” It mentions “blatant breaches of the law by the management of two exclusive clubs, namely Krystal and Emerald, as well as its staff and patrons.”

It doesn’t discuss how it is that these clubs can be so blatant but everyone knows that the police collect “rents” from all entertainment venues to “allow” rules to be bent and to enrich senior police.

The editorial then moves on to the main issue the minister involved. No names, but it is probable they mean Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. It is stated:

Instead of ordering a probe into a Covid-infected minister who was said to have visited one of the clubs — with all of their reckless violations of disease prevention measures — and who may potentially be a super-spreader, Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha chose to protect his minister. He made a tongue-in-cheek comment, saying cabinet ministers shouldn’t be naughty.

The police sprang into action to cover their posteriors and those of higher ups by charging the clubs’ managers – employees, not owners. But:

Instead of taking a harsh line, the police seemed to adopt a low-key approach, which is unusual given the high-profile nature of the case.

The managers were sentenced in record time, with this action causing “suspicion to arise that the quick action was intended to avert public attention from the real culprits.” And guess what?

The owners are said to have strong connections with the powers-that-be, particularly a high-ranking police officer, Pol Maj Gen Pantana Nuchanart, who is known to be a shareholder in one of the clubs. The officer, attached to the Central Investigation Bureau, told Isra News Agency he was only a partner in a restaurant of one of the clubs.

The editorial focuses on the police and says little more about the “naughty” minister or ministers. Why is Saksayam permitted to apparently skirt laws that other Thais must follow. Why are so many police now infected and/or quarantining? Is the super-spreader responsible? Why is it only small fry and demonstrators who seem to be under the law?





Virus of double standards IV

14 04 2021

With virus numbers spiking all across the country, increasingly the culprits for this outbreak are seen to reside in the regime. It has been infected by not just the virus but by double standards, arrogance and dopey decision-making.

Saksayam

Surprisingly, after a shaky start in 2020 and even with a flaky Health Minister, the regime did quite well, allowing medical technocrats to run the health response to the virus.

Now, all that is being undone. Part of it is due to a privileged minister who refuses to follow the rules and is being protected by regime and some health officials in his family’s fiefdom in Buriram.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob is a disgrace. Half the cabinet, many in his ministry, police and many more are now infected or in quarantine. And Saksayam still does as he pleases, according to his “standards.”





Updated: Virus of double standards I

10 04 2021

The double standards that characterize Thailand’s legal system run through the bureaucracy. No better example of this is seen in the treatment of the virus infected. No that Thailand’s good work – most of it due to health professionals – is being undone, with outbreaks across the country, in the police force, among senior corporate types and with half the cabinet in isolation.

This outbreak seemingly stems from entertainment venues visited mainly by the rich and powerful, including members of parliament and officials, and perhaps even a minister or two.

But there’s a cover-up and the reasons for it remain opaque and might be interpreted as pure blockheadedness but which display the usual characteristics of impunity and double standards.

Recent reports illustrate how the blockheads are also thin-skinned.

It was reported on Wednesday that Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, is infected with Covid-19 and has been admitted to Buriram Hospital for treatment. The minister quickly denied “he had not been out in the Bangkok nightlife scene where the virus has been rushing back, with hundreds of new cases found in recent days.” He claimed that “he got it from one of his staffers who had earlier tested positive for the disease.”

Saksayam

From The Nation

Most of the Bhum Jai Thai Party parliamentarians – 61 of them – and staffers are said to be quarantining. That includes Health MInister Anutin Charnvirakul who was pictured maskless with Saksayam.

But then the political instincts kicked in as netizens wondered about Saksayam’s denial and then about his vague timeline of activities (legally required for contact tracing). It was soon stated that “[t]hree people in close contact with him got the virus. One of the three is Kittichai Ruangsawat, BJT’s Chachoengsao MP, who was quoted by the media as admitting that he had accompanied Mr Saksayam to a club in Thong Lor in mid-March.” People asked if he’d been back in recent days.

Of course, when the “new” story was being concocted, Kittichai “backtracked, saying the media got it wrong.” Not him, but the media. Then it was noted that Saksayam’s denial came a day before he was virus tested as positive. One response from the minister was to lie, saying he was fully vaccinated – he wasn’t.

This fibbing was compounded when “the minister refused to unveil his timeline of activities during the period. Only after mounting social pressure did his team release one, but it was incomplete.”

With all the media and social media attention, the minister enlisted a Buriram-based doctor to defend him. Of course, Buriram is a Chidchob family fiefdom. The doctor appeared in the media:

Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.

“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether.”…

Buriram provincial health “released the minister’s timeline on Thursday” showing that he did not visit entertainment places. But it was a timeline with gaps, so the banter continued.

To deal with that, Saksayam’s lawyer “warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.” Sounds a bit like a miniature version of the regime’s approach to political repression. By Friday, the minister’s complaints were being lodged with Buriram’s tame police.

Backing him is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s threatened “legal action against anyone who used the expression ‘Thai Khu Fa Club’ to mock the government amid reports a minister had contracted Covid-19 at a nightclub in Thong Lor.” The mocking appearing to consider the cabinet as constituting a “club” of entertainment venue visiting ministers.

Gen Prayuth said: “I have ordered the legal team to consider whether it is against the law or not. Using the term Thai Khu Fa … is not [right]…”. Infecting half the cabinet seems okay….

It is yet another example of the tendency to double standards – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else – and the almost natural response to criticism being political repression.

Update: It is reported that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has “called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with Covid-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.” He targeted “corruption and law-breaking” as associated with the most recent virus outbreaks, mentioning  hi-so entertainment places in Bangkok and illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants…”. He might have mentioned the Army’s boxing stadium. In fact, it is difficult to find an outbreak that is not associated with corrupt actions and impunity.