Suvarnabhumi, Thai Airways Chiefs Quit Over Coronavirus

An immigration officer disinfects a biometric counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport on March 11, 2020.

BANGKOK — Frustration over the government’s botched responses to the coronavirus epidemic reportedly caused two aviation czars to resign from their post on Thursday.

Sumeth Damrongchaitham quit the post of director of Thai Airways on Thursday afternoon, closely followed by the resignation of Sutheerawat Suwannawat, director of Suvarnabhumi Airport. The two organizations were among the hardest hit by the outbreak, which critics fear to be spiraling out of control.

Sumeth did not say why he left the position, but media reports quote Thai Airways sources as saying that he was disappointed by a lack of assistance from the Ministry of Transport in containing the virus.

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Sumeth’s resignation was later confirmed in a letter submitted by the national flag carrier to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Airports of Thailand chief Nitinai Sirismatthakarn also confirmed Sutheerawat’s resignation in an interview with the media.

Nitinai said Sutheerawat made the decision to take personal responsibility over the escape of 80 workers from South Korea from a health checkpoint at the airport las tweek. Nearly all of the workers have since turned themselves in.

But a source at the Airports of Thailand told Khaosod that Sutheerawat was disheartened by refusal from other agencies – from the military and immigration to Ministry of Health, to cooperate with the airport in screening passengers for the virus.


“There was no coordination as agreed in meetings,” the source said.

According to the source, there’s also shortage of face masks for staff at Suvarnabhumi Airport tasked with screening passengers who might have the coronavirus. Supplies of masks were often taken away and distributed to other agencies without the airport’s knowledge, the source said.

The government has yet to respond to the double resignation.