Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has offered his support to Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is facing mounting pressure from an online campaign pushing for him to resign over his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
As of yesterday, the number of people supporting a petition on Change.org’s website calling on Mr Charnvirakul to quit had already reached more than 208,000.
A source said the prime minister extended his moral support to the minister and Mr Charnvirakul’s deputy, Sathit Pitutecha, when the PM met both of them during a cabinet meeting yesterday.
Pholphi Suwanchawi, a deputy secretary-general of the prime minister, who has been working closely with Mr Charnvirakul, urged those appearing to hold a grudge towards Mr Charnvirakul to instead be more constructive in their criticism and say what Mr Charnvirakul could have done better.
He said he believes that Mr Charnvirakul would be more than willing to listen to what they have to say.
Mr Charnvirakul has great determination in whatever he does, Mr Suwanchawi said of the public health minister.
When it was agreed Thailand needed vaccines to be shipped here faster than initially planned when the country was suddenly hit hard by a COVID-19 resurgence in Samut Sakhon, Mr Charnvirakul was the one who pushed to bypass the lengthy process of procuring the vaccine from China.
He put to good use his connections when seeking direct talks with Chinese diplomats and eventually secured the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac Biotech in time for use during the last outbreak, said Mr Suwanchawi.
Mr Charnvirakul even offered to find special flights to bring the vaccine to Thailand and pay for it using his own money in the event any vaccine batches encountered problems that might delay shipment here, he said.
And when Myanmar’s political violence prompted a flow of migrants fleeing into Mae Hong Son, Mr Charnvirakul rushed to the border and made a quick decision to adjust the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan so that vaccine shots could be diverted and administered to frontline healthcare workers handling illegal migrants at the border, said Mr Suwanchawi.