Ultraroyalist doctor scraps plan to run for king

Ultraroyalist doctor scraps plan to run for king

Mongkutwattana Hospital owner demanding to see social media accounts of prospective employees and suppliers

Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna, the owner of Mongkutwattana General Hospital, hits a large mock-up of an orange — the colour of the Future Forward Party — during a run held to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Lumpini Park on Jan 12. (Photo by Pornprom Sattrabhaya)
Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna, the owner of Mongkutwattana General Hospital, hits a large mock-up of an orange — the colour of the Future Forward Party — during a run held to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Lumpini Park on Jan 12. (Photo by Pornprom Sattrabhaya)

The ultraroyalist owner of a private hospital has backtracked on a plan to stage a run to “save the king” but is continuing his campaign to purge his hospital of anyone who does not share his beliefs, including patients.

Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna, a major shareholder of Mongkutwattana General Hospital in Lak Si district in northern Bangkok, has been accused of employment discrimination after declaring he would demand that new recruits give him access to their social media accounts.

He hit back at critics on Friday by suggesting on his Facebook page that he would organise a “Walking & Running for Saving the King” event to rally support for his views.

He backed off on Saturday, writing that the event would not be held anytime soon in order to “lessen the burden on security officials and avoid creating a condition to topple the government”.

In any case, he said, he pledged to stand ready to help stop any threat against the high institution.

The retired doctor and military man drew heavy criticism on Tuesday after he announced online that his hospital’s suppliers and partners must also provide access to their social media accounts because “I won’t support purchases and hiring of companies whose salespeople oppose me”.

He also demanded that applicants for jobs at his hospital do the same.

A day later, he wrote asking the “rotten oranges and red buffaloes” who are eligible for medical care at Mongkutwattana to change their service hospital immediately. The names are veiled references to supporters of the Future Forward Party, whose logo is orange, and the red shirts.

Social Security Fund members, which are primarily salaried workers, must designate a hospital where they will not have to pay for medical treatment in advance. They can change their chosen hospital once a year. Universal healthcare members, who are the rest of the population, except government officials, cannot choose hospitals but are assigned ones nearest to where they live. In any case, everyone is entitled to treatment at the nearest hospital in case of an accident under the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients. 

Maj Gen Rienthong also warned those who do not share his views against trying to sell products and services to his hospital “because we won’t buy from them”.

Any of his adversaries who donate blood should instruct the Red Cross Society that they do not want to donate it to Mongkutwattana because “we have a lot of people who are willing to do so”, he added.

Even though he and his hospital have been facing criticism since 2013, he wrote, the business has since flourished, tripling to 300 beds in one year, and managing to clear debts and post profits.

Earlier in the week, the doctor wrote that if the budget funds from the universal healthcare programme and the Social Security Fund come from “rotten oranges and red buffaloes”, he would pull the hospital out of the two systems.

He explained his hospital did not join the two systems at first and was criticised for doing so. “We later joined them to help solve problems after several hospitals pulled out. Now that we’ve become a major hospital [of the two systems], we are accused of enriching ourselves from them,” he wrote.

“I urge the rotten oranges and red buffaloes to raise funds to build their own facility so they can join and enrich themselves from the systems. If they can’t manage it, I’d be happy to give advice. I’ll help but will not co-invest because I’m so disgusted with them.”

Maj Gen Rienthong has kept a relatively low profile in recent months, but he was back in the news last Sunday when he attended a run held to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, which was held a few hours after the Run against Dictatorship.

Video posted online showed him smashing mock-up foam oranges, strawberries and watermelons with a baton. The clips drew criticism from the progressive camp which accused him of habouring violence. Some compared the action to the desecration of a hanged corpse during the Oct 6, 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. Several vowed to sanction him and his hospital. 

He explained online that the activity at Lumpini Park was held for rewards and that he did not support the use of violence. 

At the height of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee protests that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, Maj Gen Rienthong made headlines when he refused to treat “red buffaloes”.

That same year, he announced the creation of a “Rubbish Collection Organisation” whose members would “embed themselves in every atom of society” to investigate, inform on and arrest those who insult the monarchy. Critics called the organisation a platform for hate speech.

Two years later, he used his Facebook page to encourage Thai people in Paris to hunt down a Thai woman accused of sheltering a lese majeste suspect who had fled there. 


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