Both Thai Airways as well as AOT (Airports Of Thailand) have lost their Executives last night as disagreements and lack of support from the government became a core issue this week.
Thailands national airline as well as the airport have repeatedly sought support for control and safety measures for their operations and employees, yet the government agencies apparently didn’t step up.
I’m currently in Bangkok and there have been complaints brewing in local media and among employees for weeks that the government response to the current state of health emergency isn’t sufficient but not the animosity is reaching the levels of top executives in the country.
Local news site Khaosod English reported that the executives of Thai Airways & the airport operator AOT (Airports Of Thailand) resigned abruptly on Thursday.
Frustration over the government’s botched responses to the coronavirus epidemic reportedly caused two aviation czars to resign from their post on Thursday.
Sumeth Damrongchaitham quit the post of director of Thai Airways on Thursday afternoon, closely followed by the resignation of Sutheerawat Suwannawat, director of Suvarnabhumi Airport. The two organizations were among the hardest hit by the outbreak, which critics fear to be spiraling out of control.
Sumeth did not say why he left the position, but media reports quote Thai Airways sources as saying that he was disappointed by a lack of assistance from the Ministry of Transport in containing the virus.
Sumeth’s resignation was later confirmed in a letter submitted by the national flag carrier to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
Airports of Thailand chief Nitinai Sirismatthakarn also confirmed Sutheerawat’s resignation in an interview with the media.
Nitinai said Sutheerawat made the decision to take personal responsibility over the escape of 80 workers from South Korea from a health checkpoint at the airport last week. Nearly all of the workers have since turned themselves in.
But a source at the Airports of Thailand told Khaosod that Sutheerawat was disheartened by refusal from other agencies – from the military and immigration to Ministry of Health, to cooperate with the airport in screening passengers for the virus.
“There was no coordination as agreed in meetings,” the source said.
According to the source, there’s also shortage of face masks for staff at Suvarnabhumi Airport tasked with screening passengers who might have the coronavirus. Supplies of masks were often taken away and distributed to other agencies without the airport’s knowledge, the source said.
The Thai governments response to these matters is – as usual – an absolute clown show and can’t be topped in incompetence.
As it goes so often in Thailand the real interesting news are first circulating outside the big mainstream newspapers and in the last couple of days there were several topics especially related to aforementioned face masks.
One group of local Thais collected thousands of used masks, cleaned and repackaged them to be sold as new.
Then there was an image circulating of a bunch of Thai manufactured “KK Masks” facemasks being on sale in a Chinese supermarket, fueling rumors that they had been exported to China instead of making them available to the local market.(it’s impossible to find face masks anywhere in Thailand right now). There was also a group of local politicians charged with hoarding masks from retail markets to sell them privately at a profit.
Another permanent staple of the Thai-comedy show is Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who – after he was apparently forced by the PM to close his Facebook account – now resorted to Twitter, claiming that “Western Tourists are dirty and likely to spread Coronavirus”. The deletion of his Facebook account came after he uploaded and posted a document signed by himself, ordering all arrivals from various countries to go into isolation.
Let’s see how long he is allowed to keep his Twitter account before it’s being taken away from him through a phone call by the General who is the current Prime Minister of Thailand.
The protection of their own workers and public health policy has apparently very little priority for the government.
The fact that senior figures from high caliber posts are beginning to resign isn’t a good sign for the level of control in the country which at least so far has been able to dodge the corona-bullet.
It seems the situation is spiraling out of control for the Thai authorities and the origin of these problems is their lack of coordination. Thailand has never stopped accepting Chinese tourists even during the early stages of the outbreak around Chinese New Year with thousands of arrivals from the mainland and Wuhan in particular. It was always a “money talks” policy and these chickens might now come home to roost.