Banned politician says government silencing him by invoking Lese Majeste law

A banned politician, who criticised the government’s Covid-19 vaccine plan, is claiming the government is silencing him (again) by invoking the Lese Majeste law against him. The alleged defamation case concerns his questioning of using one of the king’s companies as part of the Covid-19 vaccine strategy that he says will slow down the process of inoculations.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit accused the government of PM Prayut of relying too much on Siam Bioscience to help in the vaccine plan, and pointed out that it is owned by the Crown Property Bureau, the organisation that manages billions of dollars in investment under the king’s personal control.

Siam Bioscience agreed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and supply it domestically and across Southeast Asia. but Thanathorn says the deal “lacked transparency” and it was given an unfair advantage over other companies after the government ordered 61 million doses of the vaccine.

He says the government is slowing down the process by relying on just 1 company and points to other countries as they are already starting to inoculate residents. Both AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience have not commented on his allegations, while the government has filed a complaint against Thanathorn citing the royal insult law under article 112 of the criminal code that can send law-breakers to prison for up to 15 years.

“The deals were not negotiated independently of each other. There was no selection process or comparison so questions must be raised.”

But a government spokeswoman, Ratchada Dhanadirek, maintains the filing of the criminal complaint was not politically motivated. Last year, Thanathorn was banned from politics for 10 years after a court dissolved his Future Forward Party for illegal loans, charges which were upheld by the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, others are criticising the government’s announcement to allow local municipalities to pay for vaccines as they say it coincides with upcoming elections. They point out that the government should pay for the vaccinations, especially in Bangkok, as they say the government has the funds to do so.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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