The Nation



Health Ministry to sue over raid; CAPO summons Narong

Senators question security agency's right to question senior official

PUBLIC HEALTH Ministry deputy permanent secretary Chanvit Tharathep is seeking legal action against members of the Public Health Society (PHS) for their raid of a government office and alleged intimidation.

About 100 PHS members, all public health officials, allegedly entered the ministry's Office of the Permanent Secretary on Monday and removed Chanvit's name from the board showing the list of the ministry's executives.

The PHS is dissatisfied with Chanvit over his remarks about its latest statement, in which the PHS called for the resignation of caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra and called for political reform before a poll is held.

Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Narong Sahametapat has endorsed the PHS statement. But he was not among the crowd raiding the government office on Monday.

"I've already lodged a complaint [against the PHS members involved] with the Muang Nonthaburi Police Station," Chanvit said yesterday.

He claimed the PHS members attacked his secretary and driver.

"I don't hold any personal grudges. But they should not have attacked my subordinates. If they are unhappy with me, they can come directly to me."

Narong is now facing a probe for his role in the PHS statement. The Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) has also summoned him for questioning.

Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn believed the CAPO did not have the right to summon Narong.

"I believe Narong should raise the issue with the Election Commission to see if the CAPO summons is legitimate," he said.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn said CAPO's scope of work was limited to security-related issues.

"Narong has not committed any security-related offence," he said.

Narong thanked his supporters and said he was considering whether he should appeal to the EC. He said he did not regret his role in the statement and that a number of doctors, medical workers, and his family stood by him.

The PHS statement has boosted the the pressure People's Democratic Reform Committee has been heaping on the government. PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban also offered praise for Narong on stage.

Meanwhile, Hat Yai Hospital's director Dr Kuldej Techanaparukse is shrugging off the legal threat initiated by Chanvit.

Kuldej was among the PHS members who allegedly intimidated and scolded Chanvit in front of his office on Monday.

Chanvit has identified Kuldej as the alleged offenders.

"I am not worried," Kuldej said, "I didn't try to harm him or anything. I was there to ensure that things wouldn't spill out of control. And I thought it would be good if I could persuade Chanvit to correct the wrong thing".

Kuldej said he did not agree with an order issued by Chanvit, which instructed all officials under the Public Health Ministry to refrain from showing their political stance or from taking leave except sick leave. Apparently, the order aims to prevent the officials from taking part in political demonstration during a leave.

"A government official is also a Thai. So, all officials have the freedom of expression too," Kuldej said.

Asked about the Monday's incident, Kuldej said he did not lead the PHS to confront Chanvit.

"He's like a younger bro. I was there just to talk to him. But perhaps with whistle blowing and shouts from other people too, he might have not understood what I was saying," Kuldej said.

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