More than a week after the Covid-19 cluster in Bangkok's Thong Lor area was detected, resulting in a new wave of infections that dampened the Songkran mood, not to mention the great damage it dealt the economy, there are growing concerns over possible foul play in the investigation process concerning the clubs where the bug spread.
The cluster emerged following blatant breaches of the law by the management of two exclusive clubs, namely Krystal and Emerald, as well as its staff and patrons.
Instead of ordering a probe into a Covid-infected minister who was said to have visited one of the clubs -- with all of their reckless violations of disease prevention measures -- and who may potentially be a super-spreader, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha chose to protect his minister. He made a tongue-in-cheek comment, saying cabinet ministers shouldn't be naughty.
The new outbreak has triggered a public outcry, prompting police to charge the clubs' managers.
Instead of taking a harsh line, the police seemed to adopt a low-key approach, which is unusual given the high-profile nature of the case.
The managers received a two-month jail term without suspension for violating the emergency decree and Entertainment Venues Act. But it should be noted that the two are just employees, which caused suspicion to arise that the quick action was intended to avert public attention from the real culprits.
The owners are said to have strong connections with the powers-that-be, particularly a high-ranking police officer, Pol Maj Gen Pantana Nuchanart, who is known to be a shareholder in one of the clubs. The officer, attached to the Central Investigation Bureau, told Isra News Agency he was only a partner in a restaurant of one of the clubs.
Who knows? However, the initial investigation detected some irregularities at the two places.
Thong Lor is a prime entertainment district, and one needs strong connections to operate a business there, especially an illegal one. The Royal Thai Police has set up an investigative panel, which was told to wrap up the case in 30 days. Will police dare to get to the bottom of the case and unmask those behind the illicit operations?
It's widely speculated that the panel's formation might be just another tactic to buy time and ease public pressure.
The transfer of two Thong Lor policemen doesn't mean anything. Once public attention fades, nothing will happen. The shenanigans surrounding the infamous hit-and-run case involving the Red Bull scion in the Thong Lor area come to mind, as the culprit remains free.
The police panel must tackle the cases in a straightforward manner, without favouring any parties as the public is watching anxiously.
That said, even that is probably too much to ask. The past two rounds of outbreaks clearly show there is something rotten in the police force, whose officers are making ill-gotten gains from gambling dens in the East and migrant smuggling networks. Only a few police were ever penalised.
The Thong Lor case is just the tip of the police corruption iceberg. It's known that corruption is a structural issue for this agency.
As the number of cases skyrockets, lockdown measures, albeit partial, are inevitable, which will have a huge impact on the economy. Who will be held responsible?
Prime Minister Prayut must not allow foul play by those concerned and see to it that those in the wrong are duly punished.