PM denies intending to silence critics

PM denies intending to silence critics

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday said he never intended to enforce Section 112 of the Criminal Code -- also known as the lese majeste law -- to silence anyone.

The remark was made in reference to the lese majeste case brought by the government against the leader of the Progressive Movement, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, over his comments about the government's Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The lese majeste complaint came after Mr Thanathorn spoke in a Facebook Live session on Monday, titled "Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn't?", in which he criticised the government for being too reliant on Siam Bioscience to supply Covid-19 vaccines for domestic use.

Founded by King Rama IX some 12 years ago, the pharmaceutical company last year received a licence from AstraZeneca to produce its Covid-19 vaccines in Thailand.

During the live session, Mr Thanathorn urged both the government and Siam Bioscience to publicly reveal the vaccine-production agreements to prove that the procurement was being done in a transparent manner.

In its complaint, the government said there were 11 instances in Mr Thanathorn's 30-minute speech which could be considered a violation of the lese majeste clause, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.

After the complaint was filed, Mr Thanathorn offered to apologise if his allegations proved to be incorrect. He added that the details of the contract will be unveiled later in parliament, and the government has already appointed representatives to speak about the matter.

However, Gen Prayut yesterday rebuffed Mr Thanathorn's offer to apologise.

"I've never wanted to use Section 112 to silence or hurt anyone. If [Mr Thanathorn] thinks he did nothing illegal, then he must fight for justice," he said.

"We don't want to see the Covid-19 vaccine politicised because the vaccine is a matter of life and death," he said after a meeting at the Defence Ministry.

Gen Prayut also defended the decision to award the contract to Siam Bioscience, saying there were other manufacturers which had offered to produce the jabs, but Siam Bioscience was selected because it met all of the government's criteria.

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