A crisis is a test; not only of character, but abilities. When a crisis is managed by someone with zero self-awareness and 84,000 brain cells (allegedly), failure is no longer a possibility; it’s guaranteed.
Thailand will make it through the COVID-19 outbreak. Humanity endures and survives, that’s what we do. But the fact of the matter is, the government is failing miserably in crisis management.
This is what happens when a national leader is chosen because people hate Thaksin Shinawatra and fear Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit, rather than because of his character and abilities. When people put their emotions above rationality, the entire nation suffers. This failure is the result of more than eight million votes, plus 250 handpicked senators and a funny calculator.
This editorial, however, is not a condemnation of the people, but a lesson that must be learned. A vote comes with responsibility. A lesson learned is the mark of maturity. As such, let us lay down the facts, which demonstrate the failure of this government. So that the next time we vote, we can use rationality, rather than hatred and fear, to determine the fate of our country.
Things that make you say ‘WTF’
The government announced the cancellation of visa-on-arrivals for travellers from 18 countries; on the very same day, the announcement was cancelled.
Why? Because it violates bilateral agreements between countries. Did no one think of this before? Was our number-one lawyer Wisanu Krua-ngam not at the meeting?
Last week, the government issued a list of nine high-risk countries, and announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers from these nations. Within hours, the list vanished from sight.
The next day, the list reappeared, but half the countries had disappeared from the list, along with the mandatory quarantine rule. Did Germany and France eradicate their entire nations of COVID-19 a few hours after the original list was posted?
Yesterday, the director of Suvarnabhumi Airport resigned from his post. Why? The airport is the first line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 into Thailand. But according to the director, airport staff don’t have the proper protective equipment. Instead of giving proper equipment to those in the first line of defense, other government departments diverted protective gear for their own purposes. The director said he receives no support, no clear direction, or decision-making from the powers-that-be.
Meanwhile, undocumented workers returning from South Korea (a high-risk country) have been a top concern. The government set up an emergency quarantine center for them at Sattahip Naval Base. As it turns out, 70-80 returnees weren’t quarantined.
Why? Because the airport’s COVID-19 checkpoint was set up after their flights had already landed. They had already collected their baggage, passed through immigration, and hopped in taxis. They were already home. Seriously.
How does the government try to correct this oversight? Threaten the returning workers with imprisonment and a stiff fine, if they don’t turn themselves in to be quarantined.
Meanwhile, if you are a high-society celebrity, or a pop star returning from vacation in a country that is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, you don’t need to worry about being quarantined at Sattahip Naval Base.
The government trusts that celebrities and entertainers are responsible enough to isolate themselves for 14 days. Even if the public finds out that a pop idol has not quarantined themselves, it’s no big deal. After all, what’s the point of being a high-society or a celeb, if you can’t enjoy the privileges? Poor undocumented workers, on the other hand…
Equality is for people who hate the country (puag chang-chart). But if you are a good person (khon-dee), you don’t need to worry about fines and prison terms.
With so much controversy surrounding quarantines, the government announced yesterday there will be no more quarantine centers: Everyone can just go home and quarantine themselves.
Then there’s a certain minister whose close aide was photographed with a businessman who’s been accused of hoarding around 200 million face masks.
Meanwhile, the government has filed criminal charges against the online retailer Lazada, because three of its partner stores are allegedly selling face masks at inflated prices. Earlier however, a government MP was found to have bought defective face masks off the internet at inflated prices, to hand out to the public.
Then we have the boss at the Department of Internal Trade (DIT), who is holding face masks hostage until the Thai Pharmacies Association apologizes for saying that the DIT has not been distributing face masks to pharmaceutical stores.
What’s the reason for this hostage crisis? Saying that the DIT has not distributed the face masks is interpreted as a loss of face. So now the stores, and hence the people, are not going to get the masks until honor is restored.
What’s the government reaction? It’s a private matter, they say; the government will not get involved in this hostage crisis.
In February, the government insisted that we must continue to export face masks. It’s a matter of humanitarianism. Other countries need face masks too. By early March, we were negotiating to buy face masks from China.
Why? There’s now a shortage of face masks in Thailand. How short is the shortage? So short that hospitals have been running low on face masks, to the point where doctors and nurses are encouraged to bring their own masks to work.
How to not repeat these ‘WTF’ moments
We started the list with airport staff and ended the list with hospital staff. The two most important lines of defense against COVID-19 outbreak. Both are experiencing face-mask shortages. There you go, in a nutshell, a failure in crisis management.
The list can go on and on, but this article can’t. Otherwise, it would turn into a book: “A Thailand WTF Guide to COVID-19 Management”, to be sold at a Kinokuniya store near you.
Here’s the point: Every official in charge of this crisis has been put there by one man. All government staff handling this crisis are under the management of one man. The man who became our national leader because in 2014 we hated Thaksin so much, we applauded a military coup. In the year 2019, we feared Thanatorn so much that we overlooked 250 handpicked senators and a funny calculator.
This is the same man who was last seen dancing at a hospital, because that’s what a national leader does to instill confidence and inspire a nation.
Mistakes happen so that we can learn from them. It is part of being human. As such, the next time we vote, let’s please exercise our power with responsibility and rationality. The fate of a country, any country, cannot and should not be determined by fear and hatred.