Allegation to ThaiHealth Misbudgeting Groundless: Dr Wichai
Speaking about the public scrutiny where a number of projects have been found to have violated the rules of sponsoring by misinterpreting the objectives of some projects in order to justify such sponsoring as health promotion projects, Deputy Chief of ThaiHealth, Dr Wichai Chokwiwatana, said on October 23, 2015, insisting that all ThaiHealth projects have been officially proven to be under the regulations set by the Health Promotion Act.
According to the meaning of the term “Health” as interpreted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it signifies the complete well-beingness of of health, mind, and society, not just being without diseases and disabilities. Furthermore, according to 1986 Ottawa Charter in the chapter of health promotion, the charter promotes the health promotion projects in five aspects: 1) creating public policies for health, 2) creating health-friendly environment, 3) strengthening communities, 4) developing personal skills, 5) improving the healthcare system with goals of preventing illnesses and promoting good health. The whole world have since been adhered to these guidelines. Thailand’s standpoint in adhering to such international principles is the normal practice.
Dr Wichai also added that, the approval of ThaiHealth projects are fully under the organisation’s regulations which require multi-committee approvals for projects worth more than 50 million baht. In the past, Prime Ministers or high-ranking officials have chaired some of the meetings to approve a number of large projects. Under Abhisit administration, if the Prime Minister himself was not available, he assigned Deputy Prime Minister of Public Health Minister to chair the meetings on behalf of him. Therefore, this is not the deliberate decision of the ThaiHealth chief. So, the allegation of the misuse of budget is not true and is considered groundless.
Asked whether ThaiHealth was overinterpreting the term “Health Promotion” into an overly broadened scope, Dr Wichai said this is beyond his thought and is rather a personal opinion which is impossible to make it straight for everybody. He suggested that everybody look up the relevant laws. In the health promotion act, most articles are more or less identical to the five articles in the Ottawa Charter, the only difference is that the Thai act has one more article as a plus. The Health Promotion Act was loosely written up so as to encourage well-rounded results, because the work of health promotion requires the work to be done from many aspects. The consideration of the Board Members and the Prime Minister have been so for a long time without anybody saying the approvals are unorthodox. Until now, Dr Wichai said every project approval was lawful according to the objectives.
“About the New Year Praying Event that the Office of the Auditor General of Thailand commented that it was against the objectives, I insist that this is not the job for the Office of the Auditor General for this kind of organisation to investigate and then report to the general public. I insist again that ThaiHealth has not interfered the work or events of other organisations, but it was a collaboration between temples, the Ministry of Culture, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and many more organisations. It is all according to the objectives,” said Dr Wichai.
He continued, saying that ThaiHealth has not ordered a suspension or a halt to any project as there has not been any objection from the Committee on Public Budget Expenditures. The approval of projects with a budget of less than 5 million baht can be approved single-handedly by the ThaiHealth, while approval of projects with a budget of more than that, ThaiHealth is required to report to the committee. Every one of the board members have insisted that this is the normal practice and there is nothing to stop the project. It is just there is a new limitation of 5 million baht. Every project is approved and conducted with thoughtfulness, no squandering involved.
As for ThaiHealth’s involvement in the project of Issara Institute involving politics and media corps seminar, Dr Wichai said he was not reported of the project as ThaiHealth conducts hundreds of projects each year. “The information I received is that it was about a development project aimed at improving the investigative news reports among the members of the press, pointing out the connections between the society’s health and alcohol, cigarettes, and politics. In reality, Issara Institute has not been sponsored by ThaiHealth alone but it received budgets from other organisations too. Like in the project conducted by Ajarn Mingkhwan Khaosa-ard, Director of Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies, who conducted studies in terms of health. It is inevitable that politics is in play but there has been news reports that it actually was a study about politics. This is a groundless accusation pointing out links that is untrue. I personally believe there must be a group of people behind these accusations.”