When Thailand 4.0 is managed by a feudal warlord, chaos ensues

“He breathes in and breathes out work. Sometimes I worry for him, and I tell him, Mr. Prime Minister, sir, take some rest. At 9pm or 10pm, he still issues orders. I worry for him. But he works hard. This is why we must do our best for him [ทํางานถวายหัว, give our heads]. It is because he works for the people, not for himself,” said Anutin Charnvirakul, Health Minister.

General Prayut Chan-o-cha has something to be happy about. First, there’s the display of devotion from the Health Minister. Then, there’s Super Poll, which had him a clear number one choice for national leadership, with the sampling group scoring his decisiveness as the main factor.

But words and a poll can’t hide reality. If the general works hard, it is without results. If he’s decisive, it is with wrong decisions.

Over the weekend, social media was abuzz with bad news. Hospitals delay vaccination for the week of 14 to 20 June. From the temporarily canceled Mhor Prom (Doctor Ready) app to the Thai Rum Jai (Thai Hearts Together) website and dozens of other apps and websites in between, everything is a mess.

Doctors may be ready to inject vaccines, but vaccines aren’t ready. Thai hearts are definitely not together, but even if they are, the government can’t get enough vaccines together.

Who to blame? Namarak Hospital posted an apology for the delay and deliciously added sarcasm by asking the people to contact the Health Minister directly for more information. But the hospital took down the post after a “phone call.”

The Health Ministry insisted it has allocated the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) with the required vaccines. BMA insisted it’s the Health Ministry that is responsible for vaccine allocation, not the BMA. The reality is there’s not enough vaccine.

Meanwhile, some vaccination centers close down for renovation. Yeah, sure.

There are many factors for the colossal mess that is Thailand’s COVID-19 vaccine management. Here are two:

First, there is no shared information system, so every department is confused and has conflicting information. This is to no surprise. After all, Thailand 4.0 is managed by a feudal warlord.

Second, last year someone told the feudal warlord not to let the private sector directly import the vaccines because they will get the credits and not the government. Furthermore, they might do a better job than the government, therefore causing the feudal warlord to lose face.

Guess who that someone is.

Fear of losing face is how we got here. So now we lose lives, lose time, lose jobs, and much else.

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