The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, accusing him of defaming the monarchy over his comments on the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan.
Deputy DES Minister Newin Chorchaithip, plus Thosapol Pengsom, a vice minister attached to the PM’s Office and Suporn Atthawong, vice minister to the PM’s Office, lodged a complaint with the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), asking it to take legal action against Mr Thanathorn under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, and the Computer Crime Act.
The move came after Mr Thanathorn took to Facebook Live on Monday to pose the question “Royal vaccine: Who benefits and who doesn’t?” in which he criticised the government’s strategy for being too reliant on one company.
Mr Thosapol said Mr Thanathorn’s 30-minute video contained 11 instances that could be in violation of the lese majeste and computer crime laws.
“We filed a lawsuit against him under Section 112 and the computer crime law as this was a distortion that caused public misunderstanding,” Mr Thosapol said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday vowed to prosecute anyone who spread “distorted” information about the government’s vaccine strategy.
Mr Suporn said the PM had stressed the need for strict law enforcement to prevent defamation of the monarchy, while Mr Newin said the DES would also take action against anyone who posted and shared information that defamed the monarchy.
Mr Thanathorn on Wednesday took to Facebook again, this time to call on the government to disclose details of the contract between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, as well as details of the National Vaccine Institute’s budget allocation to the company.
He also said the government should disclose the minutes of a key National Vaccine Committee meeting and details of the criteria being exercised for companies to receive state funding for vaccine production.
Mr Thanathorn is expected to respond to the government’s lawsuit threat today.
On Facebook Live on Monday, he had said the government had been too slow in procuring sufficient shots for inoculating the population and had pinned all its hopes on AstraZeneca, which had allowed one local pharmaceutical manufacturer, Siam Bioscience, to produce its vaccine.
In response, Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, said the government and its partners had planned ahead for ways to get Thais inoculated.
He said Siam Bioscience had invited the British-Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to visit its plant to see whether it met the criteria required to produce at least 200 million vaccine doses per year. The government had also agreed to spend 600 million baht to improve the plant’s facilities to produce the Covid-19 vaccine according to the company’s requirements.
AstraZeneca chose Siam Bioscience as its vaccine partner because it trusted the company, he said, adding the contract had been signed under not-for-profit principles.
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Wednesday Thailand’s first batch of Covid-19 vaccines would come from AstraZeneca, not from Chinese firm Sinovac, which was still awaiting approval even in its own country.
Originally, Sinovac Biotech was due to deliver the first 200,000 shots by the end of February, followed by another 800,000 in March and one million in April.
Mr Anutin said AstraZeneca would ship 150,000 vaccine doses to Thailand, the first batch of 50,000 doses arriving next month and the rest in March and April. The 150,000 doses are on top of the 26 million doses the government pre-ordered and the 35 million that it requested recently.
(front cover )Suporn Atthawong, vice minister to the PM’s Office, left, speaks to reporters while filing the complaint at the Technology Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)