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Prayut Falsely Claims Thailand Asia’s #1 Coronavirus Killer, But Country’s Record Should Still Be Lauded

A dodgy Malaysian survey gave PM chance to shine warranted spotlight on Thailand's strong pandemic performance.

Thailand Hospital ICU Coronavirus COvid19

With only 3,135 reported cases and only 58 confirmed deaths, Thailand would appear to be one of the world’s best countries in suppressing the novel coronavirus, so why isn’t it getting more credit?

Repeatedly over the past two months – most recently in the Los Angeles Times to June 12 – world media have lauded Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and even China for stopping Covid-19 in its tracks.

Yet Japan has reported more than 17,000 cases and 924 deaths, and Singapore nearly 41,000 cases and 28 deaths. They’re haled as models for the west to follow, while Thailand’s efforts – currently 20 days without any reported community transmission – are ignored.

Clearly, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha believes the country deserves more recognition.

He claimed – falsely – on Sunday that Thailand ranks as the country to have best recovered from the pandemic in Asia and rank second – again falsely – among 184 countries recovering successfully from Covid-19 worldwide.

Statistics can tell any story you want and Prayut based his fallacies on a June 11 survey by Malaysian consulting firm Pemandu Associates and that country’s Ministry of Science and Innovation. It ranked countries in Asia-Pacific based on fatalities per capita. With 67 million people, Thailand can easily out-capita Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore. But basing numbers of population instead of reported cases, is deceptive.

Seventy percent of the Thailand’s ranking was based on the number of patients under treatment, the rate of cured patients per number of cases; the number of tests per confirmed patients and the number of tests per capita in the country, a figure Thailand doesn’t rank near the top in.

The other 30 percent of the score was based on statistical data collected from the Global Health Security Index.

Prayut said his government was well aware that what was socially necessary during the Covid-19 epidemic and that the three-month lockdown and closure of borders were difficult for the people, but everyone has cooperated well enabling Thailand to overcome the crisis.

A simple look at the numbers, however, makes it clear something is fishy with the ranking.

Taiwan has had only 443 reported cases and seven deaths. Hong Kong claimed 1,110 cases and fourth deaths. And then, of course, there’s Laos, Myanmar and that supposedly have had only 280 cases and 6 deaths between the two of them.

Whose numbers can be believed? Can any of them? Clearly, Myanmar and Laos’ figures are a joke. But Thailand can’t with a straight face position itself as pinnacles of accuracy and transparency.

Whose numbers can be believed? Can any of them? Clearly, Myanmar and Laos’ figures are a joke. But Thailand can’t with a straight face position itself as pinnacles of accuracy and transparency. News and anecdotal reports from the early days of the pandemic – weeks before the country locked down on March 18 – reported a massive spike in deaths attributed to viral pneumonia, as there not only were no tests available in the country for Covid-19, but no political will to report them.

Still, transparency has improved considerably in the weeks since and there’s a strong case to be made for putting Thailand on the podium next to Taiwan and Hong Kong for the best disease suppressors.

If the virus were truly running rampant, but unreported, in the country, the evidence would become very apparent through viral photos of besieged hospitals, bodies stacked up in refrigerator carts and body cremators running around the clocks.

The fact is, there’s very little evidence of any substantive number of cases or excess deaths in Thailand. The disease has been corralled.

But all bets are off once the borders open to tourists again.