PM summons livestock chief for emergency swine flu meeting
Thailand’s leading livestock official was summoned to an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday amid allegations of a swine fever cover-up.
Livestock Development Department chief Sorawit Thaneeto was summoned to report on the African Swine Fever situation after a sample collected from a Nakhon Pathom slaughterhouse tested positive for the disease on Tuesday.
Livestock Department officials entered Government House at 1.30pm via a backdoor, apparently to avoid reporters. They were seen carrying a presentation board.
Sorawit had repeatedly denied his department was covering up the spread of ASF, which is harmless to humans but deadly for pigs. On Tuesday, Sorawit insisted he knew of no other ASF cases in the country before the Nakhon Pathom sample tested positive.
However, the Thailand Veterinary Dean Consortium said on Thursday it had alerted the department in December to the existence of the virus, detected in pork samples examined at Kasetsart University’s Kamphaeng Saen campus.
Sorawit also denied rumours that the soaring price of pork was being caused by an outbreak of ASF. He dismissed claims that Thailand’s pig herd had dropped by half, saying checks on livestock in transit last year revealed just one million fewer pigs than normal in the system.
Speaking to reporters at 2:30pm after a 30-minute meeting with Prayut, Sorawit said the prime minister told him to take urgent action to control the spread of ASF.
The PM also instructed him to rehabilitate affected pig farmers and speed up development of a vaccine against the virus.
Sorawit said he was also instructed to find out exactly how many pigs had disappeared from the Thai market, because official figures contradicted those of pig farmers. The prime minister wanted the Livestock Development to work with the Interior Ministry on the study.
He said the prime minister did not give a deadline on the four issues but asked him to share information with neighbouring countries.
He also told Prayut that a study on pork prices across the production system would take eight to 12 months.
Sorawit said he had handled several outbreaks of disease in livestock before and was not discouraged by the latest situation.