In the bureaucratic system, transferring a state official is hardly unusual. But this seems not to be the case for government critic Dr Supat Hasuwannakit, director of Chana Hospital in Songkhla province.
Over the years, Dr Supat -- also head of the Rural Doctor Society -- has spoken out against government policies, such as those related to Covid, especially on vaccines and ATK procurement.
More recently, he's locked horns with the Public Health Ministry over the liberalisation of cannabis for medical purposes, something pushed by Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and his Bhumjaithai Party.
Outside the hospital ward, Dr Supat is also a staunch opponent of the controversial Chana industrial corridor project. At times, the doctor was seen with Chana protesters during demonstrations, denouncing state policy which allegedly promotes industrial development at the expense of local livelihoods.
The recent transfer order, which is to move him from Chana Hospital to Saba Yoi Hospital in the province, has upset both the doctor and the civil sector. Many believe the move is politically motivated.
Their doubts are understandable. There are other cases of hard-working officials or hard-headed and vocal civil servants being moved to far-and-away posts.
One recent example is Pol Col Kritsanat Thanasupanat, a high-profile police investigator with the Metropolitan Police Bureau, who was transferred to a faraway post in Chaiyaphum province.
Pol Col Kritsanat last year arrested Myanmar tycoon Tun Min Latt on charges of trafficking narcotics and money laundering. Tun Min Latt has close links with the Myanmar junta Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing. In Thailand, he is accused of having ties with a Thai senator.
In the case of Dr Supat, there are questions that need to be answered.
Dr Supat cited a ministerial protocol, saying the ministry, before making any transfer, is required to consult with the person who is to be rotated. In his case, there was no consultation.
Worse still, Dr Supat learned of his transfer via the media.
Dr Supat pointed out further irregularities in the transfer process. Instead of a permanent secretary moving personnel at his level, the ministry revised the transfer regulations, which enabled a newly appointed inspector-general to approve his rotation. Dr Supat also claimed that the transfer order was carried out hastily.
The doctor said he did not want to leave Chana Hospital, where he has overseen progressive development projects such as a solar energy system funded through donations which enabled the hospital to lower its operating costs. But regardless of his personal attachment, a transfer must boost morale, not demoralise.
Responding to the fuss, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the public health permanent secretary, has said senior officials are transferred every four years while serving in remote areas under a ministry regulation.
He said the Chana area is now developed, so the transfer is aimed at helping develop Saba Yoi district.
But such an answer is not enough to clear up all the doubts.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin has distanced himself from the transfer muddle, claiming that he had no hand in it.
The explanation is likewise unacceptable. As a minister, he should pay heed to the complaints regarding questionable processes and ensure that what is occurring is based on meritocracy and free of foul play.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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- Chana Hospital