Boxing clever not an option
The management of the army-owned Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, which was the epicentre of many coronavirus infections in early March, were removed this week as recommended by an investigation panel.
Falling victim to the purge was Maj Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, head of the Army Welfare Department who was the stadium manager. Before the axe fell he had been transferred to an inactive post after the infection scandal broke following a boxing event at the stadium on March 6.
Maj Gen Rachit was among those who were infected at the stadium in the Ram Intra area while attending "super matches" on that date. In less than two weeks, infection cases which numbered 48 on March 6 shot up to 272 by March 19.
By April, infections surpassed 1,000, and a number of deaths were reported, with health authorities linking the spike to the cluster of infections at the boxing stadium. Another cluster at the same time was linked to a pub in Thong Lor. But at this time there was no clear guidelines for businesses with regard to virus control.
However, the probe panel set up in late March by Army Chief, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, found the stadium management guilty of negligence.
It said the management breached a cabinet order issued on March 3, that all sports venues, including boxing stadiums, where large crowds gather be temporarily closed and sports events postponed as a preventive measure.
Such venues have remained closed under lockdown measures since then.
There is no indication whether Maj Gen Rachit and the others involved will also face disciplinary action as the army has been tight-lipped on the matter.
One can only hope they will face action because simply relieving them of their duties is too light a penalty, given the damage it has caused the country.
It's true the country has so far successfully curbed the pandemic, still ravaging countries around the world, due to stringent lockdown measures that the public have complied with.
But this has come at a very high cost. Millions have lost their jobs as a result of a number of businesses closing and the economy has plunged into recession.
The government has had to issue executive decrees seeking a huge loan totalling 1 trillion baht for relief packages, while the tourism industry -- a major driving force of the economy -- has collapsed.
It would be wrong to think that Lumpinee is just an ordinary sports venue. In fact, its link to the army must not be overlooked.
Did this link make the Lumpinee stadium's management wrongfully believe that it was alright to defy a government order? Does all this have anything to do with military privilege?
This is not just an Army Welfare Department matter, it is one for the army as a whole because it owns the stadium.
Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has never offered any apologies to the public over this sorry affair. How can he distance himself from the controversy and take no responsibility?
This is not acceptable, since it was his subordinates who placed the whole country at risk from the pandemic, and were responsible for remedial costs.
Under no circumstance should this case now be closed. On the contrary, it's absolutely necessary that the army and the Defence Ministry mete out punishments proportionate to the offence committed and make the guilty parties' lesson a very costly one.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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