Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Health activists demand govt halt all changes to ThaiHealth bill by Nov 18

Oct 29. 2018
File photo: Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn
File photo: Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn
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By The Nation

HEALTH ACTIVISTS are threatening to rally outside Government House if a new bill – seen as a risk to the heart of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) operations – is pushed through.

They have also given an ultimatum, saying Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn or Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha have until November 18 to stop moves to change the current ThaiHealth law. 

“If our demands fall on deaf ears, we will take the issue directly to Government House,” Health Promotion Movement’s coordinator Jekaphan Prommongkhon said yesterday, after his group submitted a petition at the Public Health Ministry. 

The petition was addressed to Piyasakol, but was accepted by an official on his behalf. 

Prepared by Public Health, Justice and Finance ministries, the Thai Health Promotion (ThaiHealth) Bill is now ready for public hearings. 

In essence, the new bill seeks to limit the foundation’s annual budget to no more than Bt4 billion, and states that the ThaiHealth Board’s decisions will not be considered as final and will be reviewed by the Finance Ministry. 

“Apparently, this draft law seeks to put ThaiHealth, a public organisation, under the bureaucratic system,” Chuwit Jantaros, secretary to Alcohol Watch Network, said. 

He also pointed out that ThaiHealth, which promotes healthy habits among Thais, currently operates under an annual budget of Bt4.6 billion. 

“We need to protect ThaiHealth and its objectives,” he said, explaining that ThaiHealth spends its funds to encourage local people to take good care of their health. When people are healthy, the government’s medical expenses will reduce, he said. 

“ThaiHealth was established as a special organisation, so it is not restricted by bureaucratic red tape and can engage civic organisations,” Chuwit added.

Jekaphan also accused the authorities of trying to rush the bill through. 

“There is no need to rush the bill,” he said. “Let’s wait until we get elected representatives of the people in Parliament. Then they can see if any legal changes related to ThaiHealth are necessary.”

Health activists who are against the bill will express their opposition via letters submitted to provincial governors or the government’s complaint-receiving centres in their region until November 18. 

Dr Seree Tuchinda, chief adviser to Piyasakol and chair of the bill-drafting committee, said opinions on the draft law were welcome. 

“We are in the process of gathering opinions and analysing possible impacts,” he said. 

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