The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry has filed lese majeste charges against Thanathorn over his statement linking Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans to a royally owned pharmaceutical company.
On January 18, Thanathorn went on Facebook Live to slam the government for its tardiness in providing Covid-19 vaccines and pointed out that Siam Bioscience – the Thai company tasked with manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine – is owned by His Majesty the King.
Thanathorn said the government claimed to have approved a vaccine plan from the first quarter of last year, but Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies. He then asked whether the AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal was politically motivated.
The lese majeste law (Section 112 of the Criminal Code) states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, will be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years”.
After the meeting with police, Thanathorn told reporters he was not worried about the case. “If you watch the video again you will see that there is not a single comment I made that violates Section 112,” he said. “What I said two months ago, which is still true today, is motivated by my concern for society. If we rely too much on one single company [for vaccines], the risk to society becomes greater.”
Thanathorn added that the government currently has over 1 million doses of vaccine in stock that have not yet been distributed.
“We have injected 150,000 doses since late February, or about 5,000 doses per day, which indicates inefficiency in vaccine distribution. At this rate it would take 200 days to use up all vaccine in stock,” he said. “Prime Minister Prayut keeps using the monarch to conceal his inability to distribute the vaccine to those who need it. It is no surprise that when I pointed out the issue I was immediately slapped with a lese majeste charge.”
Published : March 30, 2021
By : THE NATION