Opinion: Prayut’s “Livestock Sandbox” nothing but lame attempt to garner local popularity

This week Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha introduced a “Livestock Sandbox” scheme for Thai farmers to curb the spread of animal diseases among livestock such as cattle, buffaloes, and pigs.

The scheme was deliberately named after the Phuket Sandbox, the country’s pilot plan to reopen for vaccinated foreign tourists, with the same goal of preventing the outbreak from damaging livelihoods and the economy.

What it means is not flying all the cows in Thailand to the Sandbox area but making sure healthy animals are grouped together by province in a limited area and screened regularly to stop the spread of livestock disease.

It is worth noting that there have long been reports of livestock epidemics, Lumpy skin disease (LSD) in cattle and African swine fever (ASF) in pigs, across Thailand. Numerous farmers have called for the government to take action multiple times, but no substantial help was provided.  

As of September, over 268,000 farmers saw their cattle infected with LSD which killed more than 50,000 livestock. The agriculture ministry has offered some compensation and allocated an amount of vaccines to tackle the spread of LSD.

While Thailand prepares for its next election in 2023, the current ruling party’s mishandling of Covid-19 could not be more visible, as evidenced by economic downturns that will take the nation years to recover.

To make the matter worse, active floods currently inundating various agricultural areas in upper and central parts of Thailand are aggravating the situation, allowing more economic difficulties to come.

Those will not bode well for Prayut’s Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) in the upcoming election.

However, the only act seen as a success during Prayut’s administration may be the establishment of the Phuket Sandbox, though the income has been negligible. Repeating the term “Sandbox” is perhaps the way to help PPRP win over local hearts by reminding how the prototype scheme has succeeded. 

This might be too late. If the government truly wanted to mitigate people’s suffering, it would have done so sooner. And there is no need to use such mindless wordplay.

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