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Medical workers split on political crisis

Several groups of medical workers are planning to gather outside the Public Health Ministry tomorrow before they join the People's Democratic Reform Committee's "Bangkok shutdown" rally at the Ha Yaek Lat Prao intersection, one of seven main protest sites designated by the PDRC.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Public Health Society, yesterday vowed to resist the Pheu Thai administration, saying it no longer had the mandate of the people to run the country.

The group said it would only follow orders issued by the Public Health Ministry's permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahamethaphat, who could face disciplinary action for his statement encouraging the society's members not to work for the government.

"We are an independent group that is not part of the PDRC," said Prachumporn Boonchareon, a member of the society. "We oppose the government administration, but it doesn't mean that we will follow the PDRC's orders," she added.

Dr Uthomphon Kamphu na Ayuthaya said society would not support the PDRC's plans to cut power and water supplies, and to block the Public Health Ministry, saying the group would instead continue to work and provide medical services to members of the public.

Despite its opposition to the government, the Public Health Society said its members would continue to work with the administration and follow its policy, which provided essential medical services to members of the public. "If the government orders us to support the election on February 2, of course, we won't do that, but if it instructs us to set up medical teams to provide people with emergency medical services, then we will follow its instructions," said Dr Buaret Sriprathak, another member of the society.

The society will visit the Public Health Ministry today and throw its support behind the ministry's permanent secretary Narong Sahamethaphat, who denounced the Yingluck administration's right to govern on Thursday, adding he had refused to work with the government.

Caretaker Public Health Minister Pradith Sinthawanarong said he would set up a committee to investigate the facts behind Narong's political stance, but said the permanent secretary would not be punished for his actions. Pradith said all officials also had the right to express their political opinions and were free to take leave and join the protest.

Meanwhile, another group of medical workers calling themselves "Friends of Democracy issued a statement on Friday supporting the February 2 election, saying that it was the best way for stakeholders to lawfully settle their differences.

They also asked all medical workers to take a neutral stance on issues of politics and to continue to provide medical services without discrimination.


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