Thanathorn Ordered To Remove Vaccine Supply Criticism From Social Media

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

The government said on Sunday that the Criminal Court has ordered leading government foe Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to remove allegations on social media that the state’s COVID-19 vaccine policy is opaque and unfairly favours a company owned by His Majesty the King.

However, Mr Juangroongruangkit’s Progressive Movement denied the videos were illegal and urged YouTube and Facebook to preserve freedom of expression.

The clips could still be viewed late last night.

The Digital Ministry said the Criminal Court ruled that Mr Juangroongruangkit’s posts on social media and his movement’s website could breach national security.

The videos accuse Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government of lack of transparency in allowing Siam Bioscience, which is owned by His Majesty, to supply most doses despite a lack of vaccine experience.

Siam Bioscience received a 600 million baht subsidy to develop the capacity to manufacture AstraZeneca vaccines domestically and across Southeast Asia.

Mr Juangroongruangkit’s movement said it had not received the ruling. “We continue to stress that the content is not false or a threat to national security,” tweeted Pannika Wanich, a prominent Progressive Movement member.

“We hope YouTube and Facebook will stand by the rights and freedom of expression.”

Mr Juangroongruangkit was banned from politics for 10 years after a court dissolved his previous Future Forward Party last year over loans deemed illegal. He denied the charges.

Now the government has lodged a case against him over the video, accusing him of insulting royalty, a charge punishable by up to 15 years’ prison.

The government says Siam Bioscience manufacturing is on track to deliver the first batch of 61 million doses to the public by June.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Juangroongruangkit or Siam Bioscience on the court ruling. The palace traditionally does not comment on political disputes.

Thailand on Sunday reported 829 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 18,782 cases and 77 fatalities since the outbreak started last January.