11 July 2024

Internal Trade Department director-general, Mr. Vichai Pochanakit, has been transferred to assist at the Prime Minister’s Office, pending an investigation into complaints of hoarding and overcharging of face masks.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an order today, with immediate effect, transferring Mr. Vichai out of the Internal Trade Department to an inactive post, reportedly to restore public confidence in the Government over the shortage of face masks in the domestic market.

The department has come under fierce public criticism for insisting that there are sufficient face masks to meet domestic demand while, in reality, masks have disappeared from all retail outlets but remain available for online sale at highly inflated prices.

Critics have also questioned Mr. Vichai, in his capacity as secretary-general of the Committee on Pricing of Products and Services, for allowing millions of face masks to be exported, while there remains an acute shortage at home.

Mr. Vichai lodged a complaint with the police last week, alleging that the Customs Department had tarnished his reputation by suggesting that he had allowed the recent export of over 300 tonnes of face masks.

According to the transfer order, Mr. Vichai will work at the PM’s Office until the completion of the investigation and any change of orders.