The government that cried wolf

The government that cried wolf

Watching people putting food in their mouths isn't fun. But we see this kind of scene every time there is a question about food safety. And so here we go again.

Last Sunday, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wichet Kasemthongsri ate crabs for lunch in Ban Phe with the ministry's permanent secretary Chote Trachu, National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Manopat Huamuangkaew, Pollution Control Department chief Wichian Jungrungrueng, and Marine and Coastal Resources Department director-general Noppadon Srisuk to show that the seafood from Rayong was safe for consumption after the July 27 oil spill.

I do not think it helps build our confidence in eating seafood, especially if I know it is harvested from the site near the crude oil spill. However, the government still tries to reinforce their message with an announcement from Public Health Minister Dr Pradit Sinthawanarong, who said that the ministry found no heavy metals or mercury in excess of safe levels in the seafood collected from areas near Ban Phe. Then Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal was quoted as saying the oil sediment had not affected the ecosystem.

Oh boy! I really love the way the government deals with a national issue. Lie to me more _ my trust in the government has gradually faded away day by day. Let me give you examples.

Two years ago Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said "ao yu kha [we can handle it]" before billions of baht was lost after 4 million houses, including mine, several industrial zones and farmlands were inundated for about two months. Before the floods reached Bangkok, then science minister Plodprasop Suraswadi was acting as the chief of the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) and told us to listen to him and encouraged us to park our cars at the runway of Don Mueang airport where the FROC headquarters was located. But later, even the FROC had to evacuate to escape flooding. They even left a large number of donated items in the floods.

Then, to prevent another big flood, this year the government announced its 350 billion baht water-management scheme, which included cutting down and drowning trees to build a huge concrete structure _ a dam. According to the plan, the government wanted to build Mae Wong dam in the protected forest area of Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan and another two dams along the Yom River, which will submerge a large area of teak forest in Mae Yom National Park along with several villages in Phrae. As we all know, forestry has a direct impact on water quantity and surely can help reduce catastrophic floods and the impact of climate change. But according to the government's policy, the truth is otherwise.

And when the rice pledge scheme became more fishy by the day, with 220 billion baht in losses, the government, whose leader has declared a war on corruption many times in her two-year term of service, questioned whistle-blower Supa Piyajitti, a deputy permanent secretary for the Finance Ministry, who testified that the project was rife with corruption. Her claims were being investigated by the government, instead of being thanked for telling the truth.

Something that must also be mentioned is the reaction of the government against the announcement of the Foundation For Consumers and the BioThai Foundation, which found various levels of methyl bromide was used to fumigate rice in 34 of 46 packed rice brands sold in markets. The government immediately reacted by demanding the names of the testing labs. It might be because the independent result was in contrast to previous findings of the government's Food and Drug Administration, which declared no irregularities in 57 packed rice samples.

Prime Minister Yingluck again did not accept the truth. She said: "The problem may happen in some, but not all processes." And in a predictable PR stunt, she ate at a rice factory of Charoen Pokphand Group in Ayutthaya, as if this image would help boost our confidence in the food. Again, pictures of people eating are not that impressive.

And yes, I still remember last year's famous statement by Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong as he said: "The finance minister can lie about some things, such as export targets. But these are white lies. If I said from the start that we couldn't grow, what would be the impact on confidence?"

If I could count all the omitted truths of the government, I think I would need more fingers. I wish one day the government would open its eyes and ears and realise the public deserves the truth.


Karnjana Karnjanatawe is a travel writer for Life.

Karnjana Karnjanatawe

Travel writer

Karnjana Karnjanatawe is a travel writer for Life section.

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