Ministry orders rabies vaccine probe
Under-fire DLD chief denies transfer request
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach denied on Sunday reports of a transfer request by the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) chief following his order on Friday to probe irregularities in the department's rabies vaccine procurement.
"No transfers will be considered until the findings are completed," he said, adding that he has ordered the probe to be finalised in 30 days.
Earlier in the day, local media reported that Mr Grisada had approved a request from Apai Suttisunk, the department's director-general, to be transferred from the department following the announcement of the investigation.
According to the report, Sorawit Thaneeto, the ministry's inspector-general, would serve as acting director-general.
Mr Apai on Sunday also denied the report that he asked to be transferred.
The probe will focus on four issues: that family members of officials sold fake rabies vaccine to the department for decades; whether officials administered substandard vaccines to animals; the performance of department officials, the Public Health Ministry and the Department of Local Administration in tackling rabies; and those who exploited the vaccine procurement for personal benefit.
The scandal is another setback for the department, which has come under fire for its handling of rabies vaccinations for stray dogs and cats after the spread of the virus in 24 provinces.
It is claimed that the department bought vaccines from a single company for 25 years and the company in question is connected to the wife of a former deputy director-general.
Mr Apai previously admitted the department had bought the vaccines from the company in question, namely Numtisthai Co. However, the company had not done business with the department since 2014 after the deputy director-general concerned was promoted to the position.
The deputy director-general was also transferred to another department last year.
In another development, a Phayao administrative agency has urged the government to help regulate the price of rabies vaccines in case vendors seek exploit the shortage to mark up prices.
Prasong Sasomwattanakul, chairman of the Tambon Phu Sang Administrative Organisation (TAO) in Phu Sang district, called on the government to control the vaccine price.
"Over the past years, the price was around 30 baht per dose," he said.
The TAO chairman voiced his concerns after the agency admitted to not having enough rabies vaccines.
In Chiang Kham district, one local resident complained he had to pay 70 baht for one dose of rabies vaccine for his dog as he was unable to wait for the vaccination provided by local agencies.
Mr Prasong said Phu Sang district was among three areas, declared as rabies yellow zones, in Phayao after a resident was bitten by a rabid dog last year.
In Samut Prakan, another dog with confirmed rabies was found dead in a community canal 5km from where three children were earlier bitten by a rabid dog in tambon Chirakhe Noi of Bang Sao Thong district.