A group of prominent US citizens in Thailand have submitted an open letter to visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman asking their government to arrange COVID-19 vaccinations for its expatriate citizens.
“The US continues to have a growing vaccine surplus, yet many Americans abroad are still without access to vaccines and their lives are at risk,” said the letter, written by Democrats Abroad Thailand chairman Paul Risley, Republicans Overseas Asia VP Tony Rodriguez, Veterans of Foreign Wars commander Carl Manchester and American Women’s Club of Thailand president Ambreen Miraly.
While more than half the US population has now received at least one dose of the vaccine, only 3.58% of Thais had received one dose by the end of May, according to Oxford University-affiliated ourworldindata.org.
The letter noted that during her talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other senior officials, the senior diplomat was likely to discuss donating surplus coronavirus vaccines in the US to Thailand.
“We urge that any agreement include enough donated vaccines to cover all American citizens residing in the kingdom,” the letter said. “The Chinese government has agreed to a similar arrangement with Thailand for its citizens as part of its vaccine donation programme.”
The letter pointed out that, unlike almost all other countries, the US required its citizens to pay taxes regardless of where they live. “Overseas Americans should be afforded the same taxpayer-funded vaccines that Americans in the US are receiving now, to fulfil President Biden’s commitment that every American is eligible for a vaccination provided by the US government.”
The US has pledged to help Thailand and other nations, struggling to find supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, to gain better access to the vaccines, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said yesterday.
The promise was made by Ms Sherman during her meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House yesterday.
She told Gen Chan-o-cha the US understood how difficult it was for many countries around the world, including Thailand, to find sufficient COVID-19 vaccine supplies and the US has a policy to help them find more vaccines.
Gen Chan-o-cha thanked Ms Sherman for the offer, said Mr Burapachaisri.
Among the other topics discussed at the meeting was the political situation in neighbouring Myanmar, he said.
Ms Sherman said she had been monitoring the situation in Myanmar and believed both Thailand and ASEAN were implementing creative approaches to resolving its issues and restoring peace there.
She also expressed concern over the impact of a surge of Myanmar migrants fleeing the violence in their country into Thailand.