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Health secretary 'ready to fight probe into alleged offences'

Dr Narong Sahametapat, the permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, is preparing to fight an order that he undergo a probe for alleged grave disciplinary offences.

"He is going to petition the Merit System Protection Commission," Nakhon Si Thammarat public-health chief Utumporn Kambhu Na Ayudthaya said yesterday.

She was among Public Health Society (PHS) representatives who submitted the letter to caretaker Health Minister Pradit Sintava-narong via a senior official yesterday.

The order against Narong came from Pradit last week, in the wake of Narong's clear stance against the government.

Narong welcomed People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban when the latter showed up at the Public Health Ministry compound with demonstrators recently.

Narong is also a prominent member of PHS, which had pressured then-caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra to resign. Narong's supporters view Pradit's move as a form of intimidation. PHS members yesterday called on the minister to review his decision.

In an open letter, the PHS questioned whether the probe was launched to hurt Narong's reputation and clamp down on free expression by government officials.

"Do you see PHS members' opposition to a corrupt government as a grave disciplinary offence?" the society asked.

It said Pradit's latest move would only turn health officials against him. "We are ready to fight back," the letter read.

"We have come because we need to prevent political interference," she said.

She added that by ordering the probe, Pradit could face criminal action for defamation and abuse of authority. Her group also handed a petition to the Office of Civil Service Commission yesterday.

The Friends of Public Health for Democracy, meanwhile, released a statement calling for government officials, plus employees of state enterprises and the government to stay neutral. It also said it would not accept an unelected prime minister.

The group wants the government to engage the United Nations and the European Union as mediators.


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