Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has used his power over the past week to take the vaccine program out of the hands of the Bangkok governor’s office and the public health minister to speed up the process, a source told Thai Enquirer on Thursday.
Prayut’s administration has been much criticized since the start of the new year over its lethargy in bringing in and administering the vaccine to the general public.
The administration had, until last month, only approved and relied on two vaccines for public inoculation. However, due to the severity of the third wave, the government has backtracked on its plans and have entered in negotiations with more producers about importing vaccines.
On Tuesday, the Prayut government announced that hospitals and other public health entities would be able to bring in their own vaccine with government cooperation.
In doing so, Prayut has effectively sidetracked Anutin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health.
“By saying that the hospitals can do what they want, Prayut is basically taking all that power away from Anutin,” said a senior source within the Cabinet. “It is clear that Anutin is being made the scapegoat for the government’s failures when it comes to vaccines.”
Anutin has made public statements saying that he has had little power for weeks and that most of the major decisions have come from Prayut.
“In reality, Anutin was in charge since last year about the vaccine programs. They made it difficult for the private hospitals to bring in their own doses,” the source went on to say. “But Prayut was negligent in this incompetence as well and now he is scapegoating Anutin in public.”
While Prayut’s public statements have denied that there was a rift inside the cabinet, with the latest statement on Monday indicating that he and Anutin had worked closely together to kick-start the vaccination campaign, analysts say that the prime minister is already thinking ahead.
“Prayut said himself that the government only has a one year shelf life,” said Thai political analyst Arun Saronchai. “That means he’s ready to scapegoat his ministers if it means more credit and more vote for the ruling party when the general elections are called.”
“Right now, both Bhumjai Thai and Palang Pracharath have incredibly low polling numbers. They are going to be throwing each other under the bus as house dissolution rumors build up,” he said.