Internal Trade Department chief transferred over mask shortages

Internal Trade Department chief transferred over mask shortages

Buyers queue up to buy cheap masks from the Internal Trade Department in Bangkok's Klong Toey area on March 6, 2020. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Buyers queue up to buy cheap masks from the Internal Trade Department in Bangkok's Klong Toey area on March 6, 2020. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday ordered the immediate transfer of the Internal Trade Department chief to the Prime Minister's Office over his handling of the mask issue.

The order said department director-general Vichai Pochanakit will now work under the PM's Office after public complaints about the supply of protective masks.

The government is under heavy criticism over the shortages of the masks, and their infllated prices. Buyers have been facing long queues across the country as they attempt to buy masks amid growing fears of the coronavirus.

Mr Vichai is the most senior bureaucrat to be moved to an inactive post following the pubic outcry on the issue.

He said he was not informed of the transfer in advance and will go to the department on Monday to gather his belongings and bid farewell to Commerce Ministry officials.

The official defended his work, claiming that the mask shortage is easing with supply from factories increasing from 1.2 million to 1.7 million. Manufacturers will soon be able to produce 2 million unit for the public and medical personnel, he added.

Mr Vichai has only six months left in office before retirement, but did not rule out retiring even sooner in the wake of the sudden transfer order.


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