January 22, 2014 00:00 By Pongphon Sarnsamak,
Agencies ready for emergencies; red cross urges Protesters not to use its emblem
THE PUBLIC Health Ministry has instructed its officials to be on the alert for violent incidents ahead of the February 2 election. Dr Narong Sahametapat, the ministry’s permanent secretary, yesterday ordered the heads of provincial public health offices in 18 provinces to be on the look out for clashes and be ready to provide emergency medical attention to the injured. Separately, the Thai Red Cross Society yesterday warned medical workers against using the Red Cross symbol when joining PDRC rallies, saying that the misuse of the emblem would violate the society’s universal principle of impartiality and humanitarianism.
The Red Cross issued its warning on Faceook, saying that people from all walks of life have the right to express their political opinion, but they should not use the Red Cross emblem as it would create a misunderstanding about the Thai Red Cross Society’s principle of impartiality. Members of the public are also encouraged to call the 1664 hotline in case they find the Red Cross flag being misused.
The Red Cross move came after a group of medical workers joined a PDRC march from Siam Discovery Centre to the Asoke intersection, with some of them holding Red Cross flags.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry’s deputy permanent secretary, Dr Wachira Pengjuntr, said yesterday he had been monitoring the rallies led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in 18 provinces and so far, no casualties had been reported, although in Phatthalung, public health officials have had to move to another office.
“Some provincial public health offices have been shut, while some officials have moved to work in other places. The protesters are just making symbolic moves,” he said.
Dr Narong Apikulwanich, chief of the ministry’s emergency medical services operation, said his agency has not received any reports of violence during the PDRC rally to shut down several government offices in Bangkok, such as the Government Savings Bank and Export-Import Bank.
As many as 272 people have been injured and four killed in violent clashes since December 26. Up to 25 of the injured are still being treated in hospital. Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn, deputy director of the Mental Health Department, said the ongoing political turmoil has been stressful for many people, especially those living near the protest sites and those closely following the news reports.
Echoing the Red Cross warning, Medical Council of Thailand president Dr Somsak Lohlekha has issued a warning for medical workers to properly express their political opinions after a group of medical workers who joined a PDRC protest held up a banner reading “I left patients to overthrow Yingluck”.
“Medical workers should not do anything that would violate the code of conduct and destroy the image of doctors,” he said.