PM offered an apology on Tuesday after he came out fighting on Monday evening following a day of crisis when the vaccine supply debacle over the weekend was exposed and confronted. General Prayut has begun to make a name for himself after 7 years in power for resilience and tenacity. He ordered a press conference at Government House fronted by key officials while he used the Senate floor to send a signal to his political opponents in which he also took a swipe at unrestricted freedom of speech.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, on Tuesday, offered an apology for the government and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which he heads over the vaccine supply debacle which emerged last weekend and was on public display this Monday as leading agencies and officials bickered with each other over who was to blame.
‘As the prime minister and director of CCSA, I am the top executive in this war against Covid. I must apologise for the problems that happened and I take all the responsibility,’ he declared.
On Monday, Prayut vowed to stay in office until his term in government expires in 2023 following controversy this week over the failure of officials to supply enough vaccine doses to the vaccination campaign and mounting criticism of his leadership.
The now veteran leader, who has occupied the government’s seat of power for seven years since the 2014 coup, told Thailand’s Senate that his detractors had only made him more determined to serve.
PM told the Senate on Monday he would complete a full term in office meaning an election will be held in 2023 under the terms of the 2017 Constitution
On Monday evening, in the wake of the controversy over the disruption to vaccine supplies and a public spat between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the local authority for Bangkok, the Ministry of Public Health and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the government oversight body for tackling the Covid-19 crisis, which he chairs, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha told the Senate that he was determined to see out his full four-year term as government leader which expires in 2023.
General Prayut told the unelected upper house, which was effectively handpicked by the establishment and includes some senior currently serving officials, that rising criticism of his leadership of the country had only served to strengthen his resolve to stay on.
General Election highly likely before 2024 or in 2023 which the current PM should win as things stand
Under Section 272 of the 2017 Constitution, this upper house would have a say in the election of a Prime Minister once the poll is held before 2024.
Reports that the ruling Palang Pracharat Party needs more time to organise to fight an election nationwide
It comes after senior officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the canny leader of the Palang Pracharat Party, had recently moved to dampen election speculation amid some reports suggesting that the ruling party at the centre of coalition government may not be ready to fight the election on the best possible terms including a need for a nationwide organisation structure and the selection of more candidates on the ground.
There is also growing acceptance that, economically, the country will not return to anything like normality until the early part of 2023.
This is a view currently shared by many economists including Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, a former adviser to the PM.
Dissolution of parliament is the prerogative of the Prime Minister warned Bhumjaithai Party leader
In the midst of mounting speculation of an election, in the last two weeks, following reported hostilities between coalition partners, the Bhumjaithai Party and the Palang Pracharat Party, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the leader of Bhumjaithai warned that the prerogative to dissolve the House of Representatives was something in the hands of the Prime Minister alone.
PM, on Monday evening, appeared to criticise unrestricted free speech while burnishing his anti-corruption credentials in parliament
The PM emphasised, on Monday, that his tenure was one without corruption and also appeared to suggest democracy should have limits particularly concerning free speech.
‘Throughout the seven years I’ve served, there is no corruption. Not a single baht reaches me. I’ve worked in a democratic system with an elected government. How much more democracy do you need? Should anyone be able to insult anyone? Should one disrespect his parents? Should one abuse his teachers freely?’
Senate passed the first reading of the ฿500 billion borrowing bill with 205 votes for and no votes against
The prime minister was speaking during the reading of the bill to pass the executive decree authorising ฿500 billion in extra government borrowing which was swiftly approved by the body in a vote with 205 voting in favour and two abstentions.
PM promised to maintain financial discipline under the law but rejected criticism of his government’s rising public debt level saying it was necessary
He gave the senators an assurance the State Fiscal and Financial Disciplines Act of 2018 would be adhered to even as the government is expected to face a tightening budgetary position with significantly higher levels of public debt and less leeway in its day to day financial position with lower tax revenues.
He took on those who have been critical of his government’s loosening of the public purse strings and the rising public debt figure.
‘We have to ask ourselves whether it is necessary, what the level was before I came. Did I single-handedly create these debts?’
Concern this year over the country’s short term economic performance with growth for 2021 critical
The 2018 law limits the level of government or public debt to 60% of GDP.
At the end of March, the public debt level was 54.3% of GDP and the Finance Ministry projects that figure to rise to 58.6% this year.
Some economists are concerned that with a 2.6% contraction in the first quarter of 2021 followed by a projected 1% GDP gain in the second quarter that the kingdom may be challenged to achieve any GDP growth for 2021.
Exports are up and a 1.8% GDP growth rate is predicted at the moment by economic forecasters
The current range of projections suggests a 1.8% rise in annual GDP driven by a hoped-for rebound in foreign tourism at the end of the year and a continued buoyancy in export sales which are projected to rise by up to 9%.
However, headwinds in domestic spending, fears that the virus outbreak may spread within the manufacturing sector, as well as continued impediments to the vaccination drive, are all matters of concern right now to Thai economic planners.
Prayut moves to halt squabbling over vaccine supplies which emerged in the public sphere on Monday
The PM revealed he had ordered the CCSA and the BMA to iron out any misunderstanding between them following public disagreements within the key government agencies which were clear to see on Monday.
This followed a war of words between the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in which it appeared that the Bangkok authorities have been quickly forwarding delivered vaccine doses to cater for a large volume of appointments made under the Mor Prom online registration system in the city while it appears that the authority was expected to manage things so that supplies did not run out.
A press statement from the authority on Monday disputed the amount of doses that had been promised by the Ministry of Public Health.
It gave a figure of 2.5 million doses while Mr Anutin on Channel 3 TV suggested that only 500,000 doses were allocated and later indicated that this was confirmed by the CCSA.
Prime Minister blames ‘too many channels of communication and calls for ‘fine tuning’ of the vaccine distribution system by officials
On Monday evening, the prime minister while addressing reporters, blamed too many different channels of information for the contretemps which had amplified the story.
‘I’m not blaming anyone. Others may not have the same understanding of the issue because the information is being passed through too many channels,’ he declared
He suggested that right now there may be enough doses for 100,000 shots to be administered per day.
Analysts insisted last week that the government must vaccinate 400,000 a day to achieve the country’s target by the end of the year of having 70% of the population inoculated with two vaccine doses.
Appointments to be linked to vaccines delivered
‘We may have the capacity to administer 100,000 doses in a single day. But where are the vaccines for appointments on other days?’ he asked and added. ‘If any such problems still exist, do some fine-tuning.’
He indicated that appointments in the future must be linked to the availability of vaccine shots. ‘From now on, the appointments will be organised based on the vaccines that arrive in each batch,’ he explained.
There was considerable frustration and anger stoked among the public and health practitioners over the weekend at the breakdown in the vaccination process with appointments hurriedly cancelled.
Press conference at Government House ordered by the Prime Minister to address the crisis on Monday
The debacle caused over the weekend by the breakdown of the vaccination programme with a shortage of supplies was addressed by the Prime Minister who ordered the press conference on Monday fronted by National Security Council Secretary-general General Natthapon Nakpanich, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong of the Department of Disease Control and Aswin Kwanmuang, the Governor of Bangkok.
Officials at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) made it clear that more deliveries of vaccines are still due and will be processed out into the system in the coming weeks.
6.5% of the population have already received a first dose while in Bangkok it is over 17% of the population
Both Dr Opas of the Department of Disease Control and Governor Aswin on behalf of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) also agreed the government must make sure there are enough vaccines to inoculate 70% of the population by the end of 2021.
Dr Opas revealed over 17% of Bangkokonians have already received a first vaccine dose while, nationwide, this figure is at 6.5% with 2.4% of the population having received two doses.
It is clear however that some progress has been made but there is a long road ahead to achieve herd immunity.