By Thai Newsroom Reporters
PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul were today (Sep 1) held accountable for alleged failures to promptly procure a variety of coronavirus vaccines, thus resulting in a million-plus infection cases and 11,800-plus fatalities.
On a second day of censure debate against the premier, the deputy premier and four other members of cabinet at parliament, opposition MPs charged that Prayut and Anutin had ”deliberately” delayed the procurement of such vaccines as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik V only because they arbitrarily preferred to buy a low-quality, high-priced Sinovac manufactured in China and AstraZeneca manufactured in Thailand.
Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhana-adisorn and Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Charoenchua alleged that Prayut and Anutin had managed to slow down the official process for the purchase of the mRNA Pfizer, offered to provide for Thailand since the last several months.
On the contrary, the delivery of Sinovac to Thailand only took a couple of days after it had been officially approved, they said.
Though the Chinese vaccine was internationally known to be incapable of fighting the Delta variant, it has sold for 580 baht a dose, compared to 421 baht for a dose of Pfizer and 162 baht for a dose of AstraZeneca, Jatuporn said.
The Pheu Thai MP said Sinovac’s relatively high price might ironically be ”more tempting” to the Prayut government than those of the other vaccines.
The Move Forward MP alleged Prayut and Anutin had decided to buy as many as 13.5 million doses of Sinovac despite its low quality for use against the Delta variant only to make up for a short supply of AstraZeneca, manufactured by Siam BioScience Co, since a total of 61 million doses of it had been demanded by the end of this year.
Wiroj said a large number of patients would not have died if the Prayut government had appropriately handled the procurement and administration of the quality vaccines.
Nevertheless, the deputy premier-cum-public health minister contended during the marathon censure debate that the 61 million doses of AstraZeneca will eventually be provided by schedule in addition to a total of 30 million doses of Pfizer the purchase order for which had already been placed.
Pheu Thai Party secretary general Prasert Chantararuangthong accused some two-billion-baht profit had been unduly reaped up by unnamed, government-associated parties from the sales of the Chinese vaccine.
Through a little-known middleman firm, owned by a great-grandson of Charoen Pokphand tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont, the Chinese vaccine manufacturing firm had sold its Sinovac to Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization with the sales profit having allegedly slipped into the pockets of the unnamed government-associated parties, Prasert said.
The opposition MP said Sinovac had been strongly advised by medical experts and doctors for use as an alternative vaccine but the Prayut government had heavily relied on it as a primary one while the Delta variant has quickly and widely spread across the country.
The opposition MPs have resolutely insisted Prayut and Anutin resign so as to take full responsibility for their alleged failure to tackle the sustained pandemic situation nationwide, which has so far resulted in a million-plus infection cases and over 11,800 fatalities.
Prayut categorically dismissed accusations that he had merely looked to make undue gains either for himself or any others involved in the procurement of the Chinese vaccine the quality of which, he said, should not have been ”under evaluated.”
Prayut declined to respond to the allegations of undue gains which the unnamed parties had made from the Sinovac dealings through the government-associated sales agent.
Anutin denied that such undue gains had been made by the top-level government officials or any others. He said the selling prices of the Chinese vaccine had been considerably cut and that the government had returned the unspent money to the state coffer.
Top: Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhana-adisorn slamming Prayut and Anutin in Parliament today.
Home Page: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha talking to reporters this morning. Both photos: Siam Rath