A corruption watchdog has called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with COVID-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.
Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), wrote on Facebook yesterday that corruption and law-breaking were associated with the latest wave of COVID-19 linked to pubs in Thong Lor in Bangkok.
“This was also the case with the previous round of infections linked with illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants,” he said.
In particular, the public were angry about the new infection cluster linked with Thong Lor night entertainment venues because some cabinet ministers were accused of visiting those pricey bars where they contracted the disease as they failed to follow disease control protocol, Mr Nimitmongkol posted.
“In this latest outbreak, those ministers behaved improperly, and this reflected a chronic problem regarding politicians’ ethical behaviour,” Mr Nimitmongkol said.
He urged the government to take legal action against pub owners, as well as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), police and public health officials for negligence in enforcing the law.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Ombudsman, and the committee on ethical standards also should look into whether the behaviour of those politicians and state officials violated the code of ethics.
The government should impose tough restrictions on nightspots nationwide and follow through with the enforcement, Mr Nimitmongkol suggested, adding it should also set up a hotline for the public to give information about those who defy the measures.
“The government must ensure the measures are applied to all groups of people with no exception, such as the need to reveal timelines of their activities,” he said.
Supat Hasuwannakit, president of the Rural Doctors Society, told the Bangkok Post yesterday that politicians who hold public office should serve as role models when it comes to following the law.
In the face of the outbreak, it is important for politicians who were accused of visiting night entertainment venues to reveal their timelines to dispel public doubt, Dr Hasuwannakit said, adding the public can play a role in ratcheting up social pressure and prodding the government into action.
“Cases involving VIPs must be investigated and questioned. This is part of our civic duty,” Dr Hasuwannakit said.
However, he felt that it would be of little use to petition any state agencies to launch an ethical probe against politicians because the process takes a long time.
Meanwhile, Phichet Phuedkhuntod, a public health doctor in Buri Ram, yesterday gave details regarding the case of Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.
An initial investigation found it was likely that Mr Chidchob may have contracted the virus from a team of personal aides, comprising of five bodyguards and a driver. They got the virus from another aide of Mr Chidchob, named Rawit, 35.
Rawit had visited nightspots in Thong Lor several times. All have now received treatment in hospitals, said Dr Phuedkhuntod.
Chuvit Kamolvisit, a former massage parlour tycoon, posted on Facebook yesterday, urging authorities to investigate who owns the Thong Lor club in question and what connections they have. “Has anyone ever wondered who the owner of Krystal Club is? What are the connections? Do they have an operating licence?” Mr Kamolvisit posted.
Mr Kamolvisit said people are now experiencing hardships because of restrictions imposed by the government. The current outbreak stems from a club for the rich, but no action has been taken against it, Mr Kamolvisit wrote.
Mr Kamolvisit previously aimed his anger at politicians who have been accused of visiting pricey bars – the Krystal Club and Emerald Club in Thong Lor. Both places, known as hangouts for politicians and billionaires, were closed after scores of staff were found infected with COVID-19.
Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau said previously police are preparing to take legal action against both outlets in relation to the outbreak.