17/05/2021

THAILAND DAILY

NEWSPAPER / MAGAZINE / PUBLISHER

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Thanathorn ordered by a court to erase vaccine comments online as a danger to national security

The latest move against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit highlights the critical and sensitive nature of the country’s vaccination programme, at this time, as well as ongoing concern about drawing the monarchy into the political sphere.

It was being reported in Bangkok on Sunday from sources in government that the Criminal Court had ordered Progressive Movement leader, Thanathorn, to remove forthwith comments and a broadcast video which he uploaded to social media in recent weeks criticising the government’s vaccination policy and its relationship with Crown Property Bureau company Siam Bioscience which is at the centre of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha’s plans for the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

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Reports in Bangkok suggest that the Criminal Court has ordered Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to remove all online content connected with his criticism of the kingdom’s vaccination programme and of the partnership between the UK Swedish firm AstraZeneca and the Thai firm Siam Bioscience on the basis that it represents a danger to national security.

Government sources, on Sunday, let it be known that the Criminal Court has ordered Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn to remove his recent social media posts and broadcasts critical of authorities and their handling of the country’s vaccination programme.

The move follows legal action by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry in recent weeks at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office to have Mr Thanathorn charged with Lèse-majesté offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

Fiery young politician this week accused those in power of trying to destroy him and his family

Since then, the fiery political activist whose political party, Future Forward, which came in third in the 2019 General Election bagging 81 seats and which was dissolved last February by the Constitutional Court over illegal loans made by the billionaire industrialist to it, has trenchantly defended his comments and accused those in power of persecuting both him and his family.

Mr Thanathorn’s mother and brother have become embroiled in a separate police corruption probe related to the alleged bribery of officials of the Crown Property Bureau, the holding company linked with the Thai monarchy.

The latest move against Thanathorn highlights the sensitivity of the government and indeed the public about drawing the monarchy into the public sphere and also the kingdom’s vaccination programme and partnership with AstraZeneca on which so much depends.

Criminal Court reportedly ordered the removal of the online content as damaging to national security

On Sunday, it was revealed that both the Digital Economy and Society Ministry and the Criminal Court have deemed the comments made by Mr Thanathorn, criticising the government’s agreement with Thai firm Siam Bioscience which is owned by the Crown Property Bureau and which has been designated as a partner by AstraZeneca to produce its vaccine for Southeast Asia, as a threat to the national security of the kingdom.

The firm is understood to have received ฿600 million in subsidies to ready its plant in Pathum Thani which will be reportedly capable of generating up to 200 million doses a year for use in Thailand and exports markets.

Siam Bioscience AstraZeneca partnership a brilliant move says Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has hailed the partnership as a masterstroke for Thailand giving it control over vaccine production here and turning the kingdom into an advanced medical hub.

In recent weeks, before Mr Thanathorn’s controversial online broadcast, the Prime Minister highlighted the move as demonstrating the government’s ability to turn a problem into an opportunity for the country. He reacted furiously to the wealthy activist’s later comments.

As Thailand confirmed its vaccination programme today, it is becoming increasingly clear because of supply disruptions worldwide, that the internal ability of the country to manufacture the AstraZeneca jab here in Thailand could be extremely advantageous.

Thanathorn took issue with what he termed the lack of transparency in selecting the Thai firm

Mr Thanathorn, meanwhile, has continued to take issue with the selection of the Thai firm as a key government partner and also questioned the kingdom’s reliance on the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in association with Oxford University which the Thai government supported from its development stages.

On Sunday, it was not clear what Mr Thanathorn’s reaction is to the latest move against him which is also expected to be accompanied by orders to social media firms in Thailand to comply and remove the offending content.

‘We continue to stress that the content is not false or a threat to national security,’ said a defiant Pannika Wanich, a former Future Forward Party MP and co-leader of the Progressive Movement with Mr Thanathorn. ‘We hope YouTube and Facebook will stand by the rights and freedom of expression.’

Under fire politician facing growing legal peril

Mr Thanathorn is banned by the Constitutional Court from being involved in politics for 10 years although his Progressive Movement is being investigated by the Election Commission for its activities in last year’s local polls which could result in even more legal hot water.

He is already facing prosecution in Thailand concerning the illegal loans to his former party as well as the proceedings under Article 112 of the Criminal Code for Lèse-majesté which could see him jailed for up to 15 years.

There was also no comment from Siam Bioscience although the firm, in recent weeks, did issue a robust and positive statement on its background explaining why it was chosen as a partner for AstraZeneca, a large UK Swedish pharmaceutical concern, in Asia.

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Further reading:

Covid-19 vaccination plan to go head in February although timescales are not confirmed as of yet

Thailand’s vaccination programme will not be complete until the end of 2022 says Health Minister Anutin

Thanathorn facing serious Lèse-majesté charges after Facebook broadcast on vaccination strategy

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Top virologist Dr Yong defends the use of the Sinovac vaccine to protect frontline medical staff at high risk

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