Hearing on health bill to go ahead amid uproar

national June 18, 2017 01:00


A PUBLIC hearing on the National Health Security Bill will still be held today in Bangkok, despite three earlier hearings ending in failure.

Authorities have urged groups that oppose the bill to read the draft before deciding to protest against it.

Yesterday, a regional public hearing on the bill in Khon Kaen was forced to end before any conclusion could be reached. Two previous public hearings in Chiang Mai and Songkhla saw walkouts by several particpants who opposed the draft law. 

The fourth and final public hearing on the bill will go ahead in Bangkok despite the threat of a mass protest by opposition groups.

A spokesperson for the National Health Security Bill drafting committee Dr Marut Jirasetsiri said although a protest over the public hearing on the bill was considered a way to share opinions, it prevented others from raising their opinion on the bill, and thus violated other people’s rights.

“We assure that no matter what the next public hearing in Bangkok will still be open for everyone at Centara Grand Government Complex from 9am and around 700 participants are already registered for the event,” Marut said.

“We respect all opinions of the people no matter how they express their voices, but I also want everyone to study our bill before making a comment, and everyone should be cautious about their actions.”

He said if people want to comment they can do so by writing an opinion at www.lawamendment.go.th.

Government spokesperson Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd also asked people to clearly study the |bill first on how different or how good or bad the new bill is from the previous law. He also condemned protests at public hearings, saying that was an act of disrespect to other people.

The forum at Khon Kaen had to stop because a group of around 200 protesters seized the venue to say the hearing was unfair and unjust. 

The protesters gathered on the stage and waved banners calling for an end to the hearing and changes to the National Health Security Act.

The protest was led by a group called “The Northeastern Region People’s Network for Monitoring Universal Health Coverage”, which took over the forum after an opening ceremony by Dr Poldej Pinprateeb, head of a subcommittee on the public hearing about the bill.

Preeyanutch Pongbhai, from the People’s Health Systems Movement, said public participation via hearings like this was unfair because |people had very little time to study the bill and participants had to register online, which kept poor people away.

“We need to stop these public hearing to stop and begin amendment of the law all over again to let people get involved in the process from the start. And if the authorities insist on carrying on a poor public hearing, we will protest and sue relevant agencies in the justice court,” Preeyanutch said.

Patiwat Chalermchart, coordinator for the Northeastern Region Consumer Network said activist groups wanted related agencies to stop amending the National Health Security Act, as it did not comply with Article 77 of the new Constitution.

“This public hearing does not allow enough public involvement, which results in unfair and unjust public participation. Moreover, the content of the new National Health Security Bill also violates the original purpose of the law and harms the principles of national health security,” Patiwat said.

The new structure of the national health security committee was also unfair, as there will be more nominees from health providers and the Public Health Ministry, with just two members from civil society.


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