OPINION: With the coronavirus kerfuffle, is Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul in over his head?

Anutin Charnvirakul came to power by campaigning and promising to legalize marijuana in Thailand. His Bhumjaithai party gained enough seats that he was able to lobby his way into his current position as the Minister of Public Health.

To his credit Anutin has largely delivered on his campaign promise of speeding the legalization and research of marijuana in Thailand.

But with a coronavirus outbreak gripping much of China and spilling over into Thailand, Anutin has become an irritable figure, perhaps one unaccustomed to the mounting criticisms that have been aimed at the ministry.

Over the weekend the billionaire businessman came under fire for a Facebook post he made questioning the critical responses to the removal of temperature scanners at both major Bangkok airports.

“Today, they already canceled all flights from Wuhan. For heaven’s sake, why would the airport keep monitors at the GATE, please think a little bit before you criticize. Right now we are controlling the situation.” 

The post generated intense negative reactions and added fuel to the barrage of criticisms that were being leveled at the coalition government under the hashtag #crappygovernment (#รัฐบาลเฮงซวย)

On Sunday, Anutin continued his run of poor optics by calling the coronavirus outbreak “just a flu.”

“It’s just another kind of flu, that’s what I see….and what do we do when we see someone with a sickness, we should do the same [here].”

The Minister of Public Health also said that he “was not a doctor” but that he had “looked after [himself] just fine for over fifty years.”

While Anutin may not be used to attracting widespread criticism, his public statements have done little to calm a public already scared by the growing number of cases in Thailand and the influx of Chinese tourists over the Lunar New Year break.

Seven out of the eight cases of coronavirus found in Thailand were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

The Ministry of Public Health said on Monday that public should not worry as they had the situation under control.

Perhaps the Minister of Public Health should let his doctors and civil servants do the talking so that it can stay that way.

COVID-19

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