Thai government accused of covering up spread of swine flu since 2019
Move Forward MP Padipat Suntiphada accused the government today (Thursday) of covering up the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) since October 2019, as there was an official letter issued, which was acknowledged by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit and Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Srion, ordering the setup of an ad hoc committee to try to contain the contagious pig disease.
Speaking in Parliament on the first day of the two-day general parliamentary debate, Padipat claimed that ASF was first detected in 2019 and spread until last year, during which time about 300,000 pigs died, either from the disease or through culling to prevent the disease from spreading. About one billion baht in compensation has been paid by the government to affected pig farmers.
As a direct result of the cover-up of the spread of ASF in 2020, Padipat said that the disease had spread across almost the entire country, forcing many small pig farmers to sell off their animals at fire-sale prices to middlemen who pushed the prices of live pigs down to 300-500 baht each, instead of having the animals culled.
The Move Forward MP said that the government’s cover-up and persistent claims that pigs died from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), not ASF, prompted a network of deans from several veterinary faculties to conduct their own tests, which confirmed that the animals died of ASF.
He added that he, accompanied by veterinarians, went to Nakhon Pathom province last December to exhume a few pig carcasses for tests and found ASF disease in the remains.
“We did not just find stinking decomposed pig remains, but also the foul smell of the rotten Department of Livestock Development Department. After three years of infections, they still have the nerve to say that there is no ASF in Thailand,” said Padipat.
He claimed that the Cambodian authorities found ASF in pig blood being sent from Thailand since September 29th last year and yet the government has denied the existence of the contagious disease.
Regarding the surge in pork prices, Padipat said they started to climb last October, from about 125 baht/kg to between 190-220 baht/kg in January which, he noted, was contradictory to the global trend in the prices of pork.
Pork prices continued to rise until January 11th, when they started to stabilise and decline when the government, for the first time, admitted to ASF infections in Thailand.
In the meantime, he said, the government ordered a check on frozen pork meat in cold storage facilities throughout the country, in a bid to bring pork prices down.
He called this exercise by the government just a “charade” to deceive the Thai people, who have been kept in the dark for years about the ASF infections, adding that the cover-up was intended to protect the interests of a handful of people who were aware of the contagious disease and took advantage of the situation to make lucrative profits, while the public in general and the small pig farmers were suffering.
As a long-term solution, the opposition MP said the government should provide funding for small and medium-sized pig farmers, to bring their farms up to standard, and set a pig production quota system, to be applied to big, medium and small-sized pig farmers.
He also said that the government should invest in research into and development of animal vaccines, to reduce Thailand’s dependence on imported vaccines and the oligopoly of vaccines by pharmaceutical manufacturers.