AstraZeneca has cold feet on vaccine plan due to prosecution of critic Thanathorn: report

Thailand’s prosecution of a popular opposition figure may be sabotaging plans to bring a European-developed vaccine to its people.

A planned news conference on the authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine was canceled today, Matichon reported Friday evening, among rumors it is reconsidering arrangements for the vaccine to be produced by a royally owned company after Thai officials said Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit would be tried for insulting the king.

Sec-Gen Distat Hotrakitya of the Prime Minister’s Office reportedly called the head of the National Vaccine Institute today to ask why its news conference with AstraZeneca representatives had been called off. 

Matichon reported that the director, Nakorn Phemsri, told associates it was over AstraZeneca’s concerns that it was being dragged into Thai politics after the announcement Thanathorn, former head of the former Future Forward Party, would be charged with the serious crime of lese majeste for questioning the deal.

AstraZeneca was said to be reconsidering its terms with Thailand. Although no further information was given about what that might entail, it would further throw into disarray Thailand’s slow rollout of a vaccine to the public to which it has committed at least THB6 billion in taxpayer money.

Attempts to reach the firm’s representatives were not immediately successful, with a call to its Bangkok offices going unanswered.

IT Minister Puttipong Punnakanta said Wednesday he would personally press charges against Thanathorn after the former politician, loathed by the status quo, called for more transparency about the decision to grant sole authorization to a single new firm controlled by the palace. 

For posing those questions, he was accused of insulting the king and set to become the latest in a surge of such cases since the draconian law was all but set aside following the ascension of King Vajiralongkorn.

Although the presser was canceled, the FDA did grant emergency authorization for AstraZeneca today as 50,000 doses are soon expected to arrive from Italy prior to the domestic production by the Crown Property Bureau’s Siam Bioscience.


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