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Thai PM challenged on 1st day of censure debate over failure to contain pandemic

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was singled out for fierce attacks by opposition Pheu Thai MPs, over his alleged failures in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the first day of the censure debate in parliament this morning (Tuesday).

The start of the debate was delayed by about 40 minutes, due to a lack of the required quorum, prompting a party-list MP for the Bhumjaithai party, Wirach Pantumapol, to propose, informally, that the debate should be postponed to the next parliamentary session. More MPs showed up shortly afterward to make the quorum, so the debate could proceed.

Taking the floor as the first speaker at about 10am, Pheu Thai party leader Sompong Amornvivat accused the prime minister of incompetence and complete lack of knowledge, resulting in failures in several areas of national administration, specifically in the management of the coronavirus pandemic, causing the death of thousands of people and extensive damage to the economy and businesses.

He questioned the prime minister’s honesty in the procurement of a certain make of COVID-19 vaccine, despite its inferior quality, and likened the government’s vaccine procurement policy to putting the people in peril.

Pheu Thai Secretary-General Prasert Chanthararuangthong blasted the prime minister and the minister of public health, Anutin Charnvirakul, for every failure in the fight to contain the pandemic, from the procurement and distribution of vaccines and the failure to take Thailand into the COVAX program to the procurement of rapid antigen test kits.

He said that the dependence on Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines while, at the same time, forbidding the private sector to procure alternative vaccines, has led to a shortage of vaccines in Thailand and deprived the population of rapid access to vaccines as COVID infections increases.

He questioned whether someone in the government might have benefited from the procurement of such a large amount of the Chinese Sinovac inactivated virus vaccine, despite its dubious efficacy.

The government’s decision not to join the COVAX program has deprived Thailand of access to free vaccines and of the opportunity to enhance the country’s vaccine security, while several other ASEAN countries have joined the program, said the Pheu Thai secretary-general.

He also accused the prime minister of flip-flopping over the procurement of 8.5 million antigen test kits, adding that the pandemic situation in Thailand has worsened, to the extent that the United States, Britain and Hong Kong have issued travel advisories for their citizens against visiting Thailand. “I would like to ask the prime minister how come Thailand has descended to this level?” he asked.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on, Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin and Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwat Thanakamanusorn are also to be targeted during the censure debate expected to be wrapped up either Thursday or Friday.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

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