Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob was infected with the coronavirus by staff members who hung out at two nightspots in the Thong Lor area, the Buri Ram public health chief said on Friday.
Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.
“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether,” Dr Pichet told a press briefing.
Krystal Club and Emerald Club are high-end nightspots in the upscale Thong Lor neighbourhood of the capital. They attract a VIP clientele of business, political and entertainment movers and shakers, with tabs in the tens of thousands of baht not uncommon.
The two clubs are among a handful of establishments that have become ground zero for a new wave of Covid infections that have led to widespread curbs as authorities try to get the virus back under control.
Mr Saksayam, who received his first coronavirus vaccination on March 16, tested positive for the virus at Buri Ram Hospital on Wednesday and is still in the hospital in his home province.
He was pressured to immediately release his timeline to end suspicion that he might have been one of those who had been partying in Thong Lor.
The provincial health office in Buri Ram finally released the minister’s timeline on Thursday, one day after he was confirmed as having Covid-19.
The timeline from March 23 to Wednesday this week showed he had never been to Thong Lor but spent most of his time working at the Transport Ministry or other places, in addition to attending social functions, during the 16-day period.
The minister returned to his home in the Rama IX area between 5pm and 8.30pm on the days he was in Bangkok during the period, according to the timeline. His latest return home was at 10.45pm on April 1, after he dined with his brother, Pol Lt Gen Permpoon.
The timeline posted on the provincial public health office’s Facebook page stirred a debate, with some netizens commenting that it lacked details of his daytime activities.
These details, they said, could be important to people who had been in contact with Mr Saksayam and they needed to be alert to their risk. Others raised their eyebrows at the minister’s apparent workaholic behavior.
Chuvit Kamolvisit, a former massage parlour tycoon turned media gadfly, has also challenged any politicians and any other VIPs who visited Thong Lor nightspots to reveal their timelines.
But Mr Saksayam’s supporters on social media have called for an end to suspicion.
“He has disclosed his timeline. Now it’s time you stop your drama,” one wrote.
“You demanded that he showed the timeline. But when he did that, you still accused him of telling a lie,” another said.
Mr Saksayam’s lawyer, Thiwa Karnkrasung, on Friday warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.
He took his first action on Friday by registering a complaint with the Muang district police station in Buri Ram against a Twitter account named @Charisa_Ph for violating the Computer Crimes Act and causing damage to his client. The account was later inaccessible.
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