Opinion: Why is Buriram getting more vaccines than other provinces?

First, it was Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a former election commissioner who posted on his social media in May to ask why Buriram is getting more Covid vaccines than many other provinces that should have gotten it first.

This week, it was Sirikanya Tansakun, a party-list MP from the Move Forward, who asked the same question to Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the director of the Department of Disease Control which is in charge of allocation.

Both answers were pretty much as expected, gibberish.

Sirikanya said that the allocation of vaccines right now should prioritize medical workers, the elderly, and people living with underlying diseases.

The vaccines should first go to hard-hit provinces such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Region and four provinces in the South and provinces that are reopening to promote tourism such as Phuket.

That was the reason, she said, why she had to ask Dr Opas which category does Buriram fit in? 

Dr Opas opted to sidestep the question by saying that the DDC is allocating vaccines based on criteria. They do not look at how many each province gets and they do not rank them on how many they have received.

He said the province that received the most vaccines is Bangkok and Phuket.

However, according to the government’s allocation plan in May, Buriram is one of the top ten provinces to receive the locally made AstraZeneca vaccines, ranking at number nine and above Pathum Thani which is the site of several outbreaks.

According to the ministry’s data, Pathum Thani reported 13,611 confirmed cases between April 1 and July 15 compared to 1,101 cases in Buriram.

According to the ministry’s data, the top ten provinces with the highest number of people who have received one dose Covid vaccine when compared to its population size as of June 9 were Phuket (57.7 per cent), Samut Sakhon (14.51 per cent), Bangkok (14.2 per cent), Ranong (10.66 per cent), Tak (9.09 per cent), Nonthaburi (9 per cent), Surat Thani (7.7 per cent), Phang Nga (7.38 per cent), Buriram (6.5 per cent) and Chonburi (6.29 per cent).

In short, Buriram is getting more vaccines per capita than many of the hardest hit provinces.

The ministry can sidestep questions all they want but everyone in the country knows that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, is largely dependent on the godfather of Buriram and the real leader of Bhumjaithai Party, Newin Chidchob.

But even if the truth is known, the question still needs to be asked.

Emerging from this crisis, Thailand must move away from this patronage system that has helped sink us as a country. We must emerge from this and ensure that things like this never happen again.

So questions must be asked.

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