Support pours in for Samut Sakhon governor

Support pours in for Samut Sakhon governor

Samut Sakhon governor Verasak Vichitsangsri at work in his office at the provincial hall on Aug 1. (Photo: Verasak Vichitsangsri Facebook account)
Samut Sakhon governor Verasak Vichitsangsri at work in his office at the provincial hall on Aug 1. (Photo: Verasak Vichitsangsri Facebook account)

Messages of support have been pouring in for Samut Sakhon governor Verasak Vichitsangsri after he announced on Sunday he was considering early retirement.

The governor is popular for his dedication to fighting the Covid-19 epidemic in his province.

Posters on social media have pleaded with him to stay on, commending him for the moral  support he has provided for people in the province, which remains a centre of infection. 

Mr Veerasak said on one of his Facebook accounts, Sakravee Srisangdharma, that he was thinking of bowing out early despite having a year left at the Interior Ministry before  compulsory retirement at age 60.

He cited health reasons for his possible early retirement, after the deadly virus almost took his life last year.

"The reason is my health is not strong and that is posing a problem for me in going out to work on the ground," he wrote.

Mr Veerasak caught national attention and support last year when he was infected with the virus when Samut Sakhon became the source of the second outbreak.

He was hospitalised at Siriraj for almost three months. About half of that time he was unconscious and on respiratory support.

The governor said after leaving the hospital in March this year that he had been saved after being on the brink of death.

"Covid has left its impact on me, with exhaustion, coughing, sneezing, a runny nose and gasping for breath," he wrote on Sunday.

The province needed a stronger governor with no health problems, he said.

Although he cited his deteriorating health conditions as the only area driving his decision, he also posted on another Facebook account under his real name, airing frustration over the bureaucratic red tape hindering efforts to control the latest surge of the disease. 

"One doctor cited the bureaucratic process and red tape regulations and another cited the quality and efficiency (of the products)," he posted. He added that he hoped they would "pull in their egos" and talk to each other because "Covid waits for no one".

His message was written while Samut Sakhon was waiting for delivery of much needed antigen test kits and coronavirus vaccines.

Messages continued to be posted on social media on Monday asking him to reconsider and stay on to manage the Covid situation in the province.

"Your subordinates would lose morale. If you continue to fight, we will be by your side," one poster wrote.

Deputy provincial governor Theerapat Katchamat said the governor worked hard and had the support of officials in the province.

"I was a bit surprised. He never mentioned [he was considering retiring]," he said on Monday.

The governor said on his Sakravee Srisangdharma account he had mentioned to his superiors in the Interior Ministry his desire to leave hard-hit Samut Sakhon for a less stressful province because of his failing health.

He had indicated Suphan Buri would be his preferred option before he retires next year, as it is close to his home province of Ang Thong.

But he was told that he was not the choice of politicians.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa on Monday denied his party's involvement in deciding the governor for Suphan Buri. The decision on appointments of governors was the sole responsibility of the Interior Ministry, he said.

Suphan Buri is the political base of Mr Varawut's party, Chartthaipattana.

The Interior Minister is former army commander-in-chief Gen Anupong Paochinda. 

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