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Health Activists Protest Junta’s Proposed Amendments to Thai Health in Chiang Rai

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CHIANG RAI – Health activists have threatened to mobilize if their call for the government to stop amending the Health Promotion Foundation Act is not met by Nov 18.

The calls were made by about 100 activists who converged on the Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry at a mobile cabinet meeting in Chiang Rai Monday.

Jaekapan Prommongkol, coordinator of the Health Promotion Movement’s southern chapter, submitted a petition to Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, calling for the termination of the amendment.

The petition was sent via a representative of a working team aligned with the minister, who was said to have joined the mobile cabinet meeting in Chiang Rai.

The group believed the amendment to the act, which governs the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), would weaken civil health activism.

Mr Jaekapan said the amendment will cap ThaiHealth’s annual budget at four billion baht, which is not enough to cover campaign costs to promote public health amid recent health threats.

The cap is tantamount to crippling those who are working to promote health, he said.

The amendment would see ThaiHealth’s funds regulated by the Finance Ministry’s Management of Capital Circulation Act, which could slow the disbursement of funds needed for health promotion campaigns, added Mr Jaekapan.

ThaiHealth has its own law to follow and should not come under any other laws, he said.

Mr Jaekapan said the ThaiHealth’s work performance and spending is already under the scrutiny of the Monitoring and Auditing Committee on Fiscal Expenditure and Office of the Auditor-General.

Mr Jaekapan said his group demands that the Justice, Finance and Public Health ministries to stop pushing for the amendment.

He said his group already visited the Finance Ministry to petition against the move, but no response has been received to date.

According to Mr Jaekapan, his organization’s affiliates in Chiang Rai provinces would also lodge petitions with their respective provincial governors against the proposed amendment.

“We will give the government time until Nov 18. If there are no indications that the government will halt the amendment, our network will assemble in a big protest to show that the civil sector is really serious about the issue.

“We plan to organize our solidarity protest at Government House late in November,” said Mr Jaekapan.

The activist said people and patients would be at a disadvantage if the government goes ahead with the amendment.

Meanwhile, Dr Seree Tuchinda, adviser to the Public Health Minister, said the draft of the amendment has been completed.

The proposed amendment is currently being examined for its legal impact, and a public hearing on the draft bill will be scheduled to get the public’s input on the bill, he said.

“There are still several steps that have to be taken before the amended bill comes into effect,” said Dr Seree.

By Tawatchai Kemgumnerd