The Democrat and Chat Thai parties yesterday have accused Thai Rak Thai party of using more than 100,000 health volunteers and some provincial health officials across the country to campaign ahead of the general election.
Democrat list MP candidate Dr Vallop Thaineua, a former permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said health volunteers were ordered to campaign for Thai Rak Thai ahead of February’s election. He said some health officials told him they were forced to order health volunteers in their provinces to work for the party by gauging Thai Rak Thai’s popularity ahead of the election and reporting back to the ministry.
The results of their research were reported on December 29 and the second report was due on Friday, said Vallop, who had a falling out with Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan before his removal and move to the Democrat Party.
“Political parties in power know very well the advantages of using volunteers as party canvassers, yet none has ever dared to do such a thing as blatantly as this,” Vallop said.
After the first research poll, he said, health volunteers in areas where Thai Rak Thai polled badly were ordered to boost campaigns under the guise of health promotion activities.
The Public Health Ministry had never used health volunteers to support a particular party, Vallop said, adding that last year was the first time the ministry carried out small-scale campaigns to encourage voters to go to the polls.
“I have never seen such a violation of human dignity in the history of public health,” said Dr Vinai Viriyakijja, a Chat Thai party list MP candidate who is also a former Public Health permanent secretary.
While conceding that using health volunteers for party campaigns was unfair to other parties, he said he respected the judgement of the voters.
In her last meeting with health officials, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said the ministry should play a role in campaigning for the general election, an informed source said.
Officials were told that it was crucial for the ministry to support the country’s democratic system as it had always done, the same source said. As part of that campaign, he said, the ministry set up an operation centre to support the election.
The centre had already conducted a number of training sessions for health volunteers who will carry out election campaigns until February 6, said the source.
Health volunteers were also expected to turn up at the polls on election day, he said.
All agencies under the ministry’s jurisdiction were also being ordered to fully support Thai Rak Thai’s election campaign, it was claimed. All the ministry’s activities were expected to help encourage a higher number of voters to go to the polls.
Published on January 12, 2005