Police summon leaders of healthcare protests

The police have summoned for questioning the leaders of a protest against revisions of the healthcare law. Meanwhile, the authorities have announced that the amendment process will go ahead despite opposition from numerous groups.  

On 18 June 2017, about 300 members of the People's Health Systems Movement (PHSM) and other associated organisations gathered at a public forum on the amendment of the 2002 National Health Security Act at the Centara Government Complex Hotel on Chaengwattana Rd., Bangkok.

The group, led by Nimit Tienudom, Director of the Aids Access Foundation (AAF), and Saree Aongsomwang from the Foundation for Consumers, refused to join the hearing.

Protestors lifted banners to denounce the amendment process, shouting “if the change is not good, then don’t do it”. They later lay down in front of the entrance to the forum.

Police officers closely monitored the event and later summoned the leaders to a police station for a discussion. However, there are no reports that the police filed any charges against them.

According to the group, the amendment process lacks public participation because only two seats out of 26 on the committee set up to amend the act were given to representatives of civil society while the rest are for representatives of professional medical associations and officials selected by the Public Health Ministry.

Protestors disapprove of the committee's plan to change the composition of the board of the National Health Security Office by allocating more seats to professional medical associations and Public Health Ministry officials.  They say that this would give service providers too much power in the public health system.  

They also argued against the proposal to demand co-payment where patients have to pay extra if they choose to get better medical treatment at public hospitals.

A day earlier, the public forum in Khon Kaen Province was abruptly cancelled after about 200 people from 75 civil society groups in northeastern Thailand intervened and denounced the forum.

The groups include the Legal Centre for Human Rights (Isaan region), the New E-saan Movement, and the Human Rights and Peace Information Centre (Isaan).  

The protestors issued a similar joint statement against the National Health Security Act amendment, calling on the authorities to guarantee genuine public participation in the process of revising the law in accordance with Article 77 of the 2017 Constitution.  

But according to the Bangkok Post, Warakorn Samakoses, chairman of the committee to amend the act, said that the committee will proceed with the next public hearing scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Protest at the public forum on the amendment of the 2002 National Health Security Act in Bangkok on 18 June 2017 

People from 75 civil society groups in northeastern Thailand intervening the public forum on the amendment in Khon Kaen on 17 June 2017 (Photo from Our Gold Card)