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  • Activists launch online campaign to boycott Icon Siam

    Pro-democracy netizens on Tuesday launched an online campaign to boycott high-end shopping mall Icon Siam, after a female activist alleged she was slapped by a security guard during a protest. The hashtag #แบนไอคอนสยาม or “Ban Icon Siam” was trending after a female pro-democracy activist from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) was allegedly […]

    The post Activists launch online campaign to boycott Icon Siam appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Pro-democracy netizens on Tuesday launched an online campaign to boycott high-end shopping mall Icon Siam, after a female activist alleged she was slapped by a security guard during a protest.

    The hashtag #แบนไอคอนสยาม or “Ban Icon Siam” was trending after a female pro-democracy activist from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) was allegedly slapped by one of the male security guards from the department store.

    A video of the confrontation between the activists and security guards was posted online and eventually lead to the online call for the boycott.

    The video shows one of the security guards in a suit from the department store forcefully taking away a protest sign from Bencha, one of the female protestors, and then pushing the camera away before she is heard saying that she was slapped in the face.

    The video ends when the group of representatives and security guards walked away from the protestors who are asking why one of the guards slapped their friend.

    The pro-democracy activists, mostly university students from UFTD, were holding up signs questioning the government’s covid-vaccine procurement and production plan in front of the department store, which is owned by Siam Piwat, a major real estate developer.

    The mini flash mob came after Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former leader of the dissolved Future Forward Party and other critics, have questioned why Siam Bioscience, which is owned wholly by the Crown Property Bureau, is the sole company the government is allowing to produce the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Thailand. (Read more here)

    Apart from the 200 million doses that the company will be producing per year, the company is also receiving funding worth 1.45 billion baht from the government to develop a viral vector vaccine, Thanathorn added.

    He said that this as a conflict of interest because the government is only providing a very important public funding to one private entity.

    “Is this an attempt to gain a political credit?” Thanathorn commented on his live social media session on Monday night.

    The hashtag had gathered more than 80,000 Tweets at the time of writing, and the company had yet to provide any comment on the alleged assault.

    According to the Thai Lawyers Human Rights, the pro-democracy activists were escorted off the premises by the security guards who also tried to take away their phones.

    They have now been taken to the Pak Klong Sarn Police Station for questioning where protestors and pro-democracy protest leaders from UFTD, including Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong ‘Mike’ Jadnok are gathering.

    Bencha and her friends were released after the questioning before the guard who allegedly slapped her also arrived at the police station. The two parties briefly exchanged words before the police separated them, according to Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw).

    The police have handed back the signs that were taken by the security guards but they have stopped the protestors from continuing to protest at the police station. The situation is now calm at the station.

    The post Activists launch online campaign to boycott Icon Siam appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23101
  • Alleged murderer turned online celebrity lashes out during interview

    “Uncle Pol”, an unemployed rubber tapper who rose to internet stardom after being accused over his infant niece’s death, was in the headlines on Tuesday for assaulting a reporter during a live interview. Chaipol Vipra, better known as Loong Pol  or “Uncle Pol”, lashed out when asked about the case, snatching the microphone out of […]

    The post Alleged murderer turned online celebrity lashes out during interview appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    “Uncle Pol”, an unemployed rubber tapper who rose to internet stardom after being accused over his infant niece’s death, was in the headlines on Tuesday for assaulting a reporter during a live interview.

    Chaipol Vipra, better known as Loong Pol  or “Uncle Pol”, lashed out when asked about the case, snatching the microphone out of the hands of a journalist and slapping him.

    It was the first time Pol has lost his temper in public since launching his social media career after his sister-in-law went public with accusations that he was involved in the murder of her three-year-old daughter in May.

    The incident went viral with the hashtag #ลุงพล (Loong Pol) being retweeted more than 260,000 times on Tuesday. “This guy shouldn’t have been famous in the first place,” a user commented. “He has always been a criminal.”

    Pol hit reporter Napas “Fah” Pranitpol of Amarin TV twice before shoving him in the shoulder. “Don’t hurt me please, I am just doing my job.” the reporter was heard pleading. Pol went on to hit the journalist in the back, and attempted to strangle the journalist and pull his mask off, before being pulled away by observers.

    “Which channel is this, give me your mic, I want to hold it.” Uncle Pol said, while attacking the reporter. “It’s okay (mai pen rai), give me your mic, this channel.”

    Pol started making headlines across Thailand in May, after the body of Orawan “Chompoo” Wongsricha was found naked in the woods 5 kilometres from her home in the Ban Kok Kok community in Thailand’s north-eastern province of Mukdahan.

    The girl’s mother, Pol’s sister-in-law, accused Pol of being behind the killing. No charges have been formally brought and the case remains unsolved.

    Three autopsies yielded no cause of death, preventing the police investigation from moving forwards, according to some local media. Other reports said the body was found with multiple knife injuries.

    Since then, Pol has launched a YouTube channel, appeared in entertainment events, become the presenter and face of many local products and services, and turned his home into a tourist attraction.

    His success has been met with some criticism from media and the public, with commentators questioning his use of the girl’s death to boost his online presence. He was also facing allegations of embezzlement and tax evasion, Amarin TV reported.

    Uncle Pol has never shown violence or signs of anger in front of reporters or on screen prior to Tuesday’s events, Napas commented. The reporter said that he is still shocked over what has happened, and is now considering filing a case against him.

    The post Alleged murderer turned online celebrity lashes out during interview appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23103
  • Government criticizes Thanathorn for ‘false analysis’ of Thailand’s vaccine situation

    Members of the cabinet said on Tuesday that comments criticizing Siam Bioscience (which is owned wholly by the Crown Property Bureau) and its place as the sole local producer of the coronavirus vaccine were a distortion of the truth and show that the critics were ungrateful to the crown. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said that […]

    The post Government criticizes Thanathorn for ‘false analysis’ of Thailand’s vaccine situation appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Members of the cabinet said on Tuesday that comments criticizing Siam Bioscience (which is owned wholly by the Crown Property Bureau) and its place as the sole local producer of the coronavirus vaccine were a distortion of the truth and show that the critics were ungrateful to the crown.

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said that comments made by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former leader of the dissolved Future Forward Party, and other critics have “distorted everything” and was not based on facts.  

    “I have instructed the authorities to prosecute anyone that distorted the truth and presented it as facts to the press and on social media so please be careful,” he said.

    “I am not using the law to threaten anyone but I have to keep the confidence in this government or else anyone can do or write anything that they want,” Prayut said.

    Thai prominent opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (C) attends a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok on September 19, 2020. – Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters massed close to Thailand’s royal palace on September 19, in a huge rally calling for PM Prayut Chan-O-Cha to step down and demanding reforms to the monarchy. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

    Thanathorn’s Comments

    Thanathorn questioned during a Facebook Live session on Monday why Siam Bioscience is the sole company the government is allowing to produce the vaccines in Thailand.

    He said the company is tasked with making 200 million doses per year with 174 million doses destined for other Southeast Asian countries and only 26 million doses meant for Thailand.

    He said that Siam Bioscience and its subsidiaries have been failed businesses with the company accruing losses of over 581 million baht over the course of its existence.

    “It is uncertain why the company was entrusted to be the vaccine producer for almost 100 per cent of the vaccines the government is distributing to the Thai people,” he said.  

    Thanathorn said apart from the 200 million doses that the company will be producing per year, the company is also receiving funding from the government to develop a viral vector vaccine worth 1.45 billion baht as well.

    Thanathorn said that this was a conflict of interest because the government is only providing public funding to one private entity and asked for the National Vaccine Institute to provide more transparency to the public.

    He also asked why the government was only relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine to be produced locally and buying China’s SinoVacs vaccine.

    He criticized the purchase of the Chinese-made vaccine as being too small because the order was only for two million doses which is only enough for 1.5 per cent of the population.

    He pointed out that Charoen Pokphand group, Thailand’s largest conglomerate with close ties to the government, holds a 15 per cent share of Sinovac’s vaccine producing arm.

    Siam Bioscience

    Siam Bioscience was established by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) in 2009. The CPB owned 100 per cent of the company with a registered capital of 5 billion baht ($170 million).

    The pharmaceutical company signed a letter of intent with the Ministry of Public Health and AstraZeneca to produce and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine called AZD1222 that was co-developed by Oxford University.

    Siam Bioscience will also serve as the distributor of AstraZeneca vaccines to other South East Asian countries. The company expects the first batch of the locally-made vaccines to be available by mid-year.

    Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul (C) walks with fellow party MPs into the parliamentary vote for Thailand’s new prime minister in Bangkok in June 5, 2019. – Thailand’s new lawmakers are set to vote for a prime minister on June 5, with junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in pole position to sweep away the challenge of a charismatic billionaire leading the anti-military bloc. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

    Public health minister reply

    Anutin Charnvirakul, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, told reporters that Thanathorn was wrong in his accusations and assumptions.

    He thinks he knows everything but what he does not know is how to be grateful for the royal institution and what they have done for us, Anutin said.

    Anutin said Thanathorn should be grateful that the royal institution had established Siam Bioscience and that the reason why the country’s medical system is internationally accepted is because of all the funding and donations from the royal institution.

    Apart from its support in the past, the health minister said the current monarch, King Vajiralongkorn, had also donated 20 mobile covid-testing vehicles and personal protective equipment (PPE) suits worth billions of baht during the coronavirus pandemic.

    There is nothing to criticize because the king has only done good for the nation and the country, he said.

    The post Government criticizes Thanathorn for ‘false analysis’ of Thailand’s vaccine situation appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23085
  • Carabao Group shares rises on the market after news of new products

    Energy drink giant Carabao Group (CBG) saw its shares rise 3.42 per cent to 136 baht on Tuesday after the morning session ended based on news of new products being launched. It was the biggest moving stock with a trade value around 2 billion baht. The new Carabao products launching this year are going to […]

    The post Carabao Group shares rises on the market after news of new products appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Energy drink giant Carabao Group (CBG) saw its shares rise 3.42 per cent to 136 baht on Tuesday after the morning session ended based on news of new products being launched. It was the biggest moving stock with a trade value around 2 billion baht.

    The new Carabao products launching this year are going to be relaxation beverages, said the Chief Executive Officer Sathien Setthasit.

    One of CBG’s best selling product, Woody C+ Lock is also launching a new flavor in the second quarter after selling 100 million units in neighbouring countries in the past year.

    Carabao Group believes that its total revenue in 2021 would grow at least 20 per cent year-on-year even though some overseas markets have been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak causing some delay in the distribution process.

    “We anticipate the sales volumes to scale up to 200 million units for both can and bottle products,” said Sathien.

    An analyst at Krungsri Securities has rated ‘Buy’ on CBG with a target price of 145 baht per share, saying there are several drivers for positive growth this year.

    The analyst cited a new packaging plant, solar power rooftop projects, tax reduction from new machines, and a cut in sponsorship cost with Chelsea will drive Carabao group to record strong financial performance, said the analyst.

    “[The] Revenue from the sales of alcohol products is estimated to grow 70 per cent year-on-year, which could improve gross margin and enhance captive consumption of glass bottle packaging,” the analyst added.

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    The post Carabao Group shares rises on the market after news of new products appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Main
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23084
  • Thailand finds 171 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours

    Thailand’s government said on Tuesday that it had found 171 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. Of those, 158 were local infections and 13 were found in quarantine facilities, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). This brings the total number of infections since the pandemic began last year to 12,594. […]

    The post Thailand finds 171 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Thailand’s government said on Tuesday that it had found 171 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

    Of those, 158 were local infections and 13 were found in quarantine facilities, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

    This brings the total number of infections since the pandemic began last year to 12,594. Of those, 9,356 people have recovered from the disease and 3,168 patients are being treated. There was no new recorded fatality, leaving the death toll at 70 people.

    OF the 158 local infections, 125 were found through contact tracing in hot spots (red zones) while 33 were found in the general public. 

    The second wave of the outbreak, which began in mid-December, has led to 8,357 confirmed cases since December 15. Thailand is currently ranked the 128th country worldwide in terms of Covid-19 cases. 

    “While we are doing better with numbers and are seeing encouraging signs, I urge the government sector, private sector, and the public to cooperate and work on this together,” said government spokesman Dr Thaweesin Visanayothin. “This is how we can fight the virus, and keep our country safe.”

    Clusters and provinces

    The second wave of the outbreak has reached 61 out of 77 provinces in Thailand so far. Currently, the virus has not spread to any of the 16 provinces considered safe and within the “white” zones.

    Of the 77 provinces, there are currently four that are treating over 100 active patients, 10 treating less than 100 active patients, 32 treating less than 10 active patients, and 31 without any active patients. Of the 61 provinces with a history of contracting the virus, 31 have now been cleared as “yellow”, which is considered as provinces without any active cases in the past 14 days.

    Cases of concern

    When asked by reporters about the current situation, Dr Thaweesin said there are now three main areas of concern.

    The first concern is Samut Sakhon, which continues to be the hardest-hit province since the second wave of outbreak began, he said.

    The government is still trying to actively search for infected patients in more than 10,000 factories within the province through contact tracing, said the government spokesman. However, there still remain obstacles to testing and reaching all the workers, migrant and local, within those areas due to the number of factories and time constraints. 

    “We want to study and look at similar cases in our neighbouring countries like Singapore, who took three months to manage the outbreak,” said Dr Thaweesin. “However, it may be three months too long and we do not want the lockdown to last that long. This is why we need to try to find all the infected patients who are waiting for treatment.”

    The second concern is Bangkok, where active case finding is still considered a priority. 

    “We are finding most cases in the west of Bangkok, why? We noticed that the infections stem from entertainment venues and services,” said Dr Thaweesin, referring to the area’s massage parlours. He also said infections are found along the coast of Bang Khun Thian district, to the west of the city.

    The third area of concern is the southern region of the country. Neighbouring Malaysia said more than 3,000 cases were discovered on Monday. 

    “When we look at our neighbouring country Malaysia and its infection rates, we can learn from them and apply that to our southern region,” said the government spokesman. “What we must do is try to seal and secure our borders so that the infection will not spread. We do not want a lockdown, so please take care of those respective areas and be responsible.”

    The post Thailand finds 171 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23075
  • Woman sentenced to record 87 years for lese majeste; rights groups cry foul

    The Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced a woman to 87 years in jail Tuesday for violating the country’s lese majeste law, which protects the monarch from any insult. It was the longest sentencing for the crime under the current administration. Anchan, whose last name was redacted, was convicted of sharing online a secret recording of an […]

    The post Woman sentenced to record 87 years for lese majeste; rights groups cry foul appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    The Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced a woman to 87 years in jail Tuesday for violating the country’s lese majeste law, which protects the monarch from any insult. It was the longest sentencing for the crime under the current administration.

    Anchan, whose last name was redacted, was convicted of sharing online a secret recording of an unknown businessman, known only by his online handle Banphot, talking about the monarch and Thai history.

    As the plaintiff pleaded guilty her sentence was halved to 43 years and six months.

    She was in pretrial detention for three years and nine months.

    A man accused of being Banphot is currently remanded in a Bangkok jail but authorities have declined to release details of the case to the public, citing sensitivity.

    Strong reaction from human rights groups

    According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, this is the longest sentence ever handed down for a lese majeste case.

    Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Thailand, said that the verdict sent a spine-chilling signal to would-be critics of the monarch.

    For the past three years, the courts have refrained from using the lese majeste laws and have used other means to protect the monarchy including the use of the computer crimes act, Sunai said.

    “The resumption of the use of lese-majeste law is bringing back the climate of fear that used to loom over Thailand under the military junta,” he told Thai Enquirer. “We expected that Anchan will be found guilty by the court but the severity of the verdict is shocking as this is a record-breaking jail term for lese majeste.”

    With this sentence, the message is clear, according to Sunai. “Do not commit lese-majeste or the consequences will be severe,” he said.  

    A warning to protesters

    Since July of last year, pro-democracy protesters have taken place throughout the country with tens of thousands of demonstrators taking to the street to demand the government of Prayut Chan-ocha step down.

    The protests have occasionally touched upon the need to reform the country’s royal institutions including rolling back some of the royal privileges enjoyed by the institution.

    The protesters have at time used inflammatory language on stage and on marches which has irked and provoked Thailand’s conservative forces, who accuse the protesters of trying to overthrow the monarchy.

    “Tuesday’s verdict sends a clear message from the country’s conservative institutions that the monarchy will be protected at all costs,” said political analyst Arun Saronchai.

    “It is a message to the protesters that if they keep going down that road, they too will face lengthy jail sentences.”

    Over 40 protesters have already been charged by the police with violating the country’s lese majeste laws. They currently await trial.

    Prime Minister Prayut said in November 2020 that he was forced to start using the lese majeste laws again because of the unacceptable rhetoric of the protesters. He previously said that King Vajiralongkorn had prohibited the government from using the law to prosecute dissidents.

    The post Woman sentenced to record 87 years for lese majeste; rights groups cry foul appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23054
  • Four staff infected with Covid-19 at Siriraj Hospital

    Four non-medical staff at Siriraj Hospital are infected with the coronavirus, the hospital said Tuesday. The infected staff are clerks that worked in a non-medical building that is used for lecturing, performing biopsies, and the mortuary, said the teaching hospital affiliated with Mahidol University. The staff were not infected from patients within the hospital, but […]

    The post Four staff infected with Covid-19 at Siriraj Hospital appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Four non-medical staff at Siriraj Hospital are infected with the coronavirus, the hospital said Tuesday.

    The infected staff are clerks that worked in a non-medical building that is used for lecturing, performing biopsies, and the mortuary, said the teaching hospital affiliated with Mahidol University.

    The staff were not infected from patients within the hospital, but from the communities where they live.

    “The four cases have been accepted into medical care and there are now 60 low-risk cases” who have been quarantined, said Deputy Dean Naris Kitnaron,  referring to people who had been in contact with the infected staff.

    The post Four staff infected with Covid-19 at Siriraj Hospital appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23066
  • Thai AirAsia to put three quarters of current workforce on unpaid leave

    Low-fare carrier Thai AirAsia is to suspend 75 per cent of staff still working until May, due to sharp declines in passenger numbers and liquidity. The company would not lay them off but request them to join the unpaid leave programme to cope with the current Covid-19 impact, chief executive Santisuk Klongchaiya said Monday. “It […]

    The post Thai AirAsia to put three quarters of current workforce on unpaid leave appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Low-fare carrier Thai AirAsia is to suspend 75 per cent of staff still working until May, due to sharp declines in passenger numbers and liquidity.

    The company would not lay them off but request them to join the unpaid leave programme to cope with the current Covid-19 impact, chief executive Santisuk Klongchaiya said Monday.

    “It was a difficult and painful decision,” said Santisuk, pointing out that if the company went under completely, it would not be able to employ anyone at all.

    The chief executive said the ongoing outbreak would not last as long as the previous one and that the situation is going to gradually improve. “The company is planning to find new sources of income as soon as possible,” he added.

    The programme consists of two employee groups. The first is made up of those who were already on unpaid leave from last year, and scheduled to return to work after March. These will be given another two months of unpaid leave until May. The second is the group of employees who are currently still active, of whom 75 percent will be asked to stop working until May.

    Thai AirAsia employs 5,974 people according to the company’s 2019 annual report. 

    Tassapon Bijleveld, chairman of the Asia Aviation (AAV), which is the airline’s largest shareholder, said he held little hope of receiving any financial aid from the government and that the company was seeking loans from banks instead.

    AAV reported a third-quarter net loss in 2020 of 1.8 billion baht, steeper than the loss of 1.1 billion in the second quarter. 

    An analyst at SCB Securities maintains a very cautious view and recommends investors avoid the airline sector since AAV’s losses are expected to continue in 2021 with high earnings risk and rising liquidity concerns amid the uncertainties brought by the pandemic.

    As of 11.05 am, AAV shares fell 1.74 per cent to 2.26 baht, with a transaction value for the session of 35.24 million baht. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index rose 1.12 per cent or 16.91 points to 1527.04 during the Tuesday morning session.

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    The post Thai AirAsia to put three quarters of current workforce on unpaid leave appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23053
  • Thailand is “months away” from privately distributed vaccines despite millions of orders

    Reports this week that Thailand’s private hospitals have ordered millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines are unlikely to factor in the short term because of government regulations, multiple sources told Thai Enquirer on Tuesday. According to the sources, Thailand is weeks away from approving private purchase of the Chinese Sinovacs vaccine and months away from […]

    The post Thailand is “months away” from privately distributed vaccines despite millions of orders appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Reports this week that Thailand’s private hospitals have ordered millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines are unlikely to factor in the short term because of government regulations, multiple sources told Thai Enquirer on Tuesday.

    According to the sources, Thailand is weeks away from approving private purchase of the Chinese Sinovacs vaccine and months away from approving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for distribution among the public.

    The slow response to vaccine approval has been a growing source of frustration and concern for the medical community with companies unable to import or distribute vaccines.

    Private hospitals that are looking to procure vaccines include the Bangkok Dusit Medical Services group, the Bangkok Chain Hospital (BCH) group, the Thonburi Healthcare Group (THG), Bumrungrad International Hospital and Vibhavadi Hospital.

    According to Dr Boon Vanasin, the Chairman of the Thonburi Healthcare Group, the hospital has already ordered 1 million Sinovacs vaccine with the option to purchase millions more.

    The company is currently preparing the documentation to submit to regulatory bodies but will have to wait for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval before they could import any vaccines.

    Likewise, Vibhavadi Hospital was ordered to pull down advertisements about the vaccines it was procuring by the Ministry of Public Health and await FDA approval.

    The hospital said this week that it had ordered 50,000-60,000 doses of the Moderna’s vaccine and it will be open to preordering again after the relevant regulatory bodies approves Moderna vaccines. Chaisit Kupwiwat, Vibhavadi Hospital’s director, said last week that they expect the FDA to approve the vaccine and in the coming months.

    Growing Frustration

    While the private hospitals have outwardly showed a willingness to comply with government regulations and the approval process, there is growing frustration inside the hospitals over the perceived sluggishness of the government.

    A source at Bangkok Dusit Medical Services told Thai Enquirer that the company has been hamstrung by the prospect of waiting months for regulatory approval for certain vaccines.

    “The truth is, people coming to private hospitals want the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and not the Chinese ones or the locally produced ones,” said the source who asked not to be named.

    “But at the current pace of approvals, that means we will not see the vaccine until mid-year at the earliest. Which means we take a risk in pre-ordering the vaccine now.”

    The logistics involving in shipping the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Thailand is also great with the serums needing to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.

    “So we have to worry about the logistics, the backlog, and the worry that even if we order it now, we might not get the vaccine approved by the local FDA.”

    The concerns that some vaccines may not be approved were furthered this week after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha posted on his social media page on Sunday that he will not risk vaccinating Thai people with a vaccine that has not been properly tested.

    “For Thai people, I decided not to take that risk,” he said.

    Prayut was referring to countries that were already injecting its citizens with vaccines “that might not have been thoroughly tested for safety.” We will not be a country that experiments on its citizens, the prime minister said.

    According to a senior doctor at Bumrungrad Hospital, this effectively pushes the country towards the Chinese-made Sinovacs vaccine or to wait for the Crown Property Bureau-owned Siam Bioscience to produce a locally made version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

    ”The government’s statements and the slow pace of the FDA means that unless you’re willing to wait until Q3 or Q4 of this year, your only vaccine options will be SinoVacs or Siam Bioscience,” the source said.

    “I think most private high-end hospitals would like to bring in the other vaccines but logistics and worry over regulation hassle means we will likely have to order closer to home first.”

    Private-Public partnership

    Chalerm Harnphanich, BCH’s Chairman and chief executive, said last week that the FDA is currently surveying the demand for the vaccines and that they are expected to have a discussion with the public sector to provide more clarity about the procurement process in one to two weeks’ time.

    He said none of the hospitals can order or make any communication about the vaccines because they are waiting for the FDA’s approval even though there are sales representatives from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in Thailand already.

    In response, the FDA said on Monday that they are not blocking the private sector from procuring Covid vaccines but they must gain approval first – a process they say must take time to ensure safety of the public.

    Secretary General Paisarn Dunkum said that the FDA has yet to receive a request to import vaccines. He said that the only entity that had asked to import a vaccine is the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO).

    “The FDA have not received the registration request from any private hospital and we have never been contacted by any foreign company,” he said.

    Paisarn said that once a request came in, the FDA were willing to move with speed to approve vaccines for emergency use.

    It is unclear why the FDA needs private requests to move ahead with vaccine approval and testing.

    The post Thailand is “months away” from privately distributed vaccines despite millions of orders appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23021
  • Opinion: Thai police have, in the past decade, evolved to be zealous enforcers of Thai conservatism

    In the middle of the night, the Royal Thai Police came for Sirichai “New” Nathuang, a student at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus. Accused of lèse majesté or defaming the Thai monarchy for spray painting political messages on the portraits of three members of the Royal Family, he was then charged with a cybercrime charge later […]

    The post Opinion: Thai police have, in the past decade, evolved to be zealous enforcers of Thai conservatism appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    In the middle of the night, the Royal Thai Police came for Sirichai “New” Nathuang, a student at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus. Accused of lèse majesté or defaming the Thai monarchy for spray painting political messages on the portraits of three members of the Royal Family, he was then charged with a cybercrime charge later for refusing to surrender his computer password to authorities. Sirichai is one of over 40 people that have been accused of lèse majesté since Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha began using it as a political weapon against political protesters. 

    Several people were arrested over the weekend as pockets of pro-democracy protesters defied the emergency law imposed during the recent Covid-19 outbreak to rally against Article 112 charges being directed at them. While the Ratsadon group have paused large-scale activities in light of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, some have used flash mobs and creative stunts to bring national and international attention to lèse majesté usage. The violence on display at Victory Monument is a sign that the police are willing to escalate their tactics toward protesters and the possibility that protests might not always remain peaceful, as Thai police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk warned that his officers would “use force if necessary.”

    With Article 112 being employed so often, the use of the Royal Thai Police to implement the will of the Prayut-led government is extremely concerning. Over the past few decades, the police have become the main instrument for whomever has power, with senior leadership echoing the same nationalist and pro-institution rhetoric employed by past governments. Gone seem to be the days of the so-called “tomato police, officers who had divided loyalties and sympathies. After the May 2014 coup, the police have worked in close collaboration with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to silence regime critics and now have used harsh tactics to disperse protesters championing monarchical reforms.

    The Royal Thai Police have become instruments of both the military and Thailand’s conservative establishment. The Volunteer Spirit 904 training, which incorporated military-style discipline over as long as six weeks, drilled into participants a glorified, nationalistic version of Thai history focused on the work of the country’s past monarchs. Graduates were then tasked with promoting the monarchy and progress was tracked through messaging applications. As many as 3,000 have cycled through the military-style camp since it began in 2018.

    Thai police chiefs of the past have also made defending the institution as their top priority. In 2010, Police General Wichean Potephosree wanted to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy toward those that would break section 112 of the criminal code, a challenge to those associated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, including Red Shirt protesters. Wichean was later instrumental in helping dismantle Red Shirt-affiliated radio stations and communications. In one instance, authorities closed 13 stations for airing a live speech by UDD protest leader Jatuporn Prompan, which was deemed to have violated the country’s lèse majesté laws.

    When Chakthip Chaijinda succeeded Somyot Pumpunmuang as chief of the Royal Thai Police in August 2015, the number of lèse majesté-related investigations spiked. In the period of mourning after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Chakthip pursued investigations of dozens of individuals suspected of defaming the monarchy and threatened to pay the airfare for potential offenders to leave Thailand, noting “I’m willing to go into debt for the country from paying these people to leave the country.” October 2016 was also an ugly period, where numerous cases of suspicion of lèse majesté pitted royalist mobs against unsuspecting shopkeepers. Chakthip has now been appointed to a position inside the palace, along with royalist former Royal Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong.

    The question now is what to make of this long sequence of events. While the Royal Thai Police have a history serving whatever master assumes the mantle of leadership, does recent history reveal a police force much more willing to those advocating for reform of the institution and fighting for change? What is clear is that without substantive changes at the top, the Royal Thai Police will continue to be a blunt instrument of the state.

    The post Opinion: Thai police have, in the past decade, evolved to be zealous enforcers of Thai conservatism appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    19 January 2021
    Current Affairs Main
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=23033