Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat speaks to The Nation's Pongphon Sarnsamak about why he decided not to attend the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) meeting with top officials from each ministry.
Q : Why did you choose not to attend the meeting yesterday?
Actually, I was not happy with the letter CAPO sent to the Justice Ministry’s permanent secretary Kittipong Kittayarak attacking him for welcoming the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban and his supporters who visited the ministry on April 8.
I don’t think it was appropriate for CAPO to attack Kittipong, who is the top official of the ministry, because all high-level officials have their own reasons for what they should and should not do.
Plus, each top official has to maintain their dignity as the leader of the ministry.
I believe it is a good thing to listen to the PDRC’s recommendations on how to resolve the country’s crisis. We should listen to the opinions of all sides who have contributed to the Constitution.
Q : However, Kittipong later decided to join the meeting. What do you think about this?
I have no comment, because each top official has a reason for every decision.
Q : Do you think your stance will affect your administration and management at the ministry?
I think the so-called “Public Health Community” has supported my decision and we have been talking about this issue for a while.
Q : How about other health officials who might not agree with you?
The Public Health Community is a large group in the ministry, and I have explained my stance to other health officials as I have explained to you.
Q : When Suthep and his supporters visited the ministry on April 11, you embraced him – an act that was criticised by many people. Why did you hug him?
I welcomed him as I would welcome a guest, and waited for him at the stairs of the second floor of the permanent secretary’s building.
Q : By accepting a gold whistle from Suthep, would you be violating the Anti-Corruption Act?
I will report to the National Anti-Corruption Commission about every item I received from Suthep, but that day he clearly said the gold whistle was for all officials at the ministry.
Q : You gave Suthep a blueprint for reforms in the country’s public-health system. What are the plans under this blueprint?
In fact, we started writing the blueprint two years ago and are planning to build a mechanism to maintain checks and balances of power between officials and politicians who oversee the ministry, especially at the provincial level. We will also look for ways to prevent corruption.
Q : Many people have criticised you for your stance, saying you have ambitions for a ministerial position. What is your reaction?
The permanent secretary’s position is the highest in the ministry. It is an honour for me.