Friday, August 18, 2017
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AUDITOR-GENERAL Pisit Leelawachiropas has threatened to release the names of local administrative officials who are organising trips to Bangkok in support of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. 

The threat emerged yesterday as Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai announced that he believed people would “give us [Pheu Thai] a chance to always stand by them”. 

Yingluck, the former leader of Pheu Thai, is fighting charges of negligence related to her government’s rice-pledging scheme, which allegedly caused massive financial damages to the country, at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions. 

When she showed up to deliver her closing statements in the case on August 1, more than 1,000 people attended to express moral support for her. 

On August 25, the court is scheduled to deliver a verdict in the case. 

“There are reports that some local administrative body officials have planned trips under the pretext of other missions. Local government officials have told us that there are plans to bring participants to the court too,” Pisit said yesterday. “Such actions happened before on August 1.” He added that his office was investigating the reports and would consider releasing the names of those involved. 

Surasarn Pasuk, a former MP affiliated with the Pheu Thai Party, urged Pisit to disclose the names, adding that otherwise society would be confused by the claim. 

“In my opinion, local administrative bodies have been very careful during the past few years under close scrutiny. I don’t think they will dare using the state budget for such purposes,” he said. 

Thida Thavornseth, a leader of the red-shirt umbrella group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, said red-shirt supporters were being suppressed and blocked from travelling to the court to show support for Yingluck on August 25, with most modes of transport having been made unavailable by the government. 

People who wished to show up at the court would have to take public buses, she said. 

Government suppression had caused difficulties for people and as a result angered them, she said, adding that the current situation was even worse than during the era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, whose military-led government in the 1950s and 1960s was notoriously repressive.

In response to Thida’s remarks, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the government did not intend to prevent people from showing their support for Yingluck, but needed to ensure peace and order. The NCPO had to prevent any mobilisation related to the event from escalating into a big political movement, he added.

Phutham said his party would respect the court’s ruling, regardless of the outcome, while insisting that the rice-pledging scheme had been conducted honestly and cautiously in line with the country’s administrative plan. 

“If our dedication to contribute to the well-being of the majority will hurt us, then we still believe that the people will understand, protect us and give us a chance to always stand by them,” said Phumtham.

The verdict in the rice-pledging scheme is seen as having a profound impact on the fate of Yingluck as well as Pheu Thai Party. 

Phumtham said Pheu Thai believed that national reconciliation could not be achieved unless there was justice in society.

It was the responsibility of the leadership, especially the government, to set an example in ensuring justice equally for everyone, he said.

“Pheu Thai Party has demonstrated our standpoint that unity can happen if the process towards creating it is not merely a ritual based on image, but a sincere effort towards facilitating fairness and equality for everyone,” he said. “With this, true unity can happen and it will be an important way to take our country out of crisis.”

The party secretary-general also denied that Pheu Thai was discussing who would lead the party in the next election, adding that the party was a political institution that had rules and regulations to follow. 

Determining the party leader must be done through an internal democratic process with the participation of party members, he said. However, due to the NCPO’s ban on political activities, it was impossible for a meeting to be held to make such a decision, he added. It was too early to determine whether the next leader would come from the Shinawatra family, he added.

As the day of the verdict approaches, the NCPO has been stepping up security measures and warning against organised mobilisation of Yingluck supporters as well as calling on people to stay home and not turn up at the court to support Yingluck.

Authorities have also ordered the temporary shutdown of a red-shirt TV station, citing one programme’s content as allegedly breaking the law. 

The move ahead of Yingluck’s verdict has been widely seen as an attempt to restrain Pheu Thai supporters from demonstrating their power. The party last week issued a statement calling for the NCPO to end violations of rights and freedoms of ordinary people and the media.

Phumtham said yesterday that all of the public’s basic rights under the Constitution must be respected by the government. 

Prayut gives Sakon Nakhon drain deadline

Posted by pakin On August - 3 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed authorities Wednesday to focus on the flood-plagued province of Sakon Nakhon and ensure most of the excess water is released into the Mekong River within a week.

After the floodwater is depleted, a full-scale rehabilitation plan will be implemented in flood-ravaged areas including industrial and agricultural businesses, he said.

Gen Prayut was speaking during his visit to the province after he was briefed on the situation there by provincial governor Witthaya Chanchalong and Royal Irrigation Department chief Sanchai Ketworachai.

He expressed his appreciation to local officials who he said worked at full steam to assist villagers.

Meanwhile, Government House is raising donations to help the flood victims, it said. Donors are eligible for tax reductions if they pledge to government-registered funds.

Gen Prayut said an additional budget has been allocated to repair Hua Sai Khamin reservoir in Muang district after it overflowed following heavy rains. The repair work is due to be completed by Aug 12.

The reservoir will be dredged to increase its capacity, officials said.

After the maintenance work wraps up it will be able to conserve an additional 600,000 cubic metres of water, bringing the total capacity to 3 million cu/m, they said.

According to the prime minister, the province was recently hit with 500 million cu/m of rainwater, exceeding the reservoir’s 240 million cu/m capacity and leading to overflowing in Muang district.

Gen Prayut also ordered inspections of the Kam and Un rivers, as well as forest land on Phu Phan mountain to assess how much rainwater they can absorb.

He also requested the media refrain from publishing what he described as a trivial matter, referring to the breach of Huai Sai Khamin reservoir.

“Now we are using 40 to 50 pumps to drain water from flood-hit areas in Sakon Nakhon,” he said.

“Would these facilities be sufficient if floods were to strike several provinces at the same time? No, we’d all be in trouble. So, we shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

Gen Prayut said villagers in flood-prone areas were still being warned to prepare for heavy rains that could trigger flash floods.

The prime minister then travelled to Nakhon Phanom to inspect floodwater discharged from Sakon Nakhon at a sluice gate in That Phanom district.

Seven of 12 districts in Nakhon Phanom were reported to have been hit hard after the province was inundated with floodwater from Sakon Nakhon. The situation was exacerbated by heavy rains, flash floods and runoff from nearby mountains.

Over 53,000 residents from 17,000 households were affected by flooding while 134,000 rai of farmland was devastated, according to reports.

The sluice gate inspected by Gen Prayut was the last barrier to filter overflow from Nong Han Lake, the country’s second-largest freshwater lake.

Eleven provinces in Thailand have been severely ravaged by flooding due to tropical storm Sonca, according to Somchai Lertlarpwasin, director of the northeastern-based Bank of Thailand.

Many farms have been swallowed by floodwater causing estimated damages of anywhere between 7 billion baht and 10 billion baht.


Government slams call for rice checks

Posted by pakin On July - 31 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd has accused politicians and rice mill owners who are calling for a new inspection of rice stocks under the controversial rice-pledging scheme of being part of a politically-motivated movement.

Lt Gen Sansern said it was no coincidence the movement comes just before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is to hand down its ruling in the rice-pledging case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Aug 25.

“This could be seen as an attempt to create some kind of impact on the case or a bid to draw public sympathy for Ms Yingluck,” he said.

“The Commerce Ministry has already explained on several occasions its principles in releasing the rice under the scheme,” he added.

He said some groups are still attempting to claim that good-quality rice has been sold along with the bad-quality stock, which made the rice prices drop.

“The irony is that most of these groups will actually be held responsible for losses associated with bad-quality rice kept at the scheme’s warehouses,” he said.

Previously, the owners of eight rice warehouses had called on the government to conduct a new round of quality checks on rice under the scheme, saying they weren’t confident in the results of past inspections conducted by officials.

According to warehouse owners, normal rice was auctioned along with rice used for producing animal feed, which is a waste of money.

They claimed they weren’t aware of the government’s intention to sell the rice as ingredients in animal feed until the days on which the auctions were held.

They added their move should help prevent further losses that could be worth several billion baht.

Itsaraphon Khongchawi, the owner of Worachot warehouse in Ang Thong, was the first to come up with a call for new inspection of the rice, saying she was confident the rice kept at her warehouse under the rice-pledging scheme was of good quality and was never intended to be sold as animal feed.

She said she had not been aware that one stack of C-grade rice at the warehouse would be sold along with four other stacks of rice graded as A and B — edible to humans — as animal feed.

If this 6,000 tonnes of rice is sold as animal feed, the government will face a further loss of at least 30 million baht, Ms Itsaraphon said.

The owner of Thawon Chokchai rice warehouse in Saraburi said although one half of the stock at his warehouse is of good A-grade quality while the other half is of C-grade quality, a random test conducted in 2014 showed all the rice in this warehouse was of C-grade quality, which has to be sold as animal feed.

According to the owner of Kit Charoen Sap warehouse in Lop Buri, given the 5.7 million tonnes of rice already sold as animal feed, the government is estimated to have lost more than 2 billion baht.

Wongwirot Palawat, the owner of Charoen Prapha warehouse in Lop Buri, insisted the move to call for a new inspection of the rice stock by the eight warehouse owners wasn’t politically motivated.

“The Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) has always responded in a formal letter to every complaint by these owners of rice warehouses and mills as well as the surveyor companies contracted to handle rice quality inspections,” DFP director-general Duangporn Rodphaya said.

“More importantly, these warehouses are the ones facing lawsuits lodged against them by both the Public Warehouse Organisation and the Marketing Organisation for Farmers over the substandard quality of the rice kept there under the rice scheme.

“Official results of the rice inspection that began in 2014 have been made public and used as evidence to pursue legal action against those who are held responsible for the damage in the rice scheme.

“At this point the eight warehouses have the right to make legal arguments and back their arguments with whatever facts they may have, but they won’t be able to request for new inspection of the rice as that process has already passed.”

“Nor do they have any right to suspend the government from selling the rice as the longer the rice sale is delayed, more damage will occur to the state,” she said, adding that the sales of rice from the eight warehouses have been completed under the rice policy and management committee’s resolution.


Cabinet approves a variety of reshuffles

Posted by pakin On July - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Source says Theerapat is being moved to Prime minister’s office because he did not respond to orders.

AGRICULTURE and Cooperatives Ministry permanent secretary Theerapat Prayurasiddhi will be transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister on October 1.

The Cabinet approved his transfer yesterday, along with the rotation of several senior officials belonging to various ministries.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngarm was interested in Theerapat’s abilities and had requested his transfer.

The source added that Leadviroj’s most recognised achievement was the AgriMap app that helped farmers decide what types of plants were suitable for their farmland location, while Somchai had stood out in work on projects related to HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s concepts.

As for the Public Health Ministry, Dr Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk – who now heads the Disease Control Department – is poised to succeed Dr Sopon Mekthon as the permanent secretary.

Sopon will retire due to his age on September 30.

With a medical degree from Southwestern University in the Philippines, Jedsada will become the first permanent secretary for Public Health who has not graduated from a prestigious Thai medical school.

The Cabinet also approved the promotion of Energy Ministry deputy permanent secretary Thammayot Srichuai to the post of the ministry’s permanent secretary while PM’s Office deputy secretary-general Patcharaporn Intreyonk will rise to the helm of her agency.

Agency promotions have also taken place.

For example, the Cabinet yesterday gave the green light to the appointment of the Board of Investment deputy secretary-general Ajarin Pattanapanchai as the new permanent secretary for Digital Economy and Society.

Local Administration Department director-general Jarin Chakkaphark has also been endorsed as the new permanent secretary for Labour.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said his ministry had concluded reshuffles of officials at similar levels already, many of which won Cabinet approval yesterday.

For example, Interior Ministry deputy permanent secretary Chayapon Thitisak will become the new director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department starting on October 1.

Another deputy permanent secretary for Interior, Nattapong Sirichana, will become Nakhon Nayok province governor. Nisit Chansomwong, another deputy permanent secretary, will serve as Nonthaburi governor.