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Suthep law call angers Dem leader

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has slammed former protest leaders Suthep Thaugsuban and Paiboon Nititawan for their push for amendments to the organic law on political parties.

It is the first time Mr Abhisit has directly criticised Mr Suthep, a former Democrat secretary-general and powerful voice in the country’s oldest party, over his law amendment proposal which would bring about the “resetting” of all political parties.

Mr Abhisit said the calls to amend the law by the pair are in stark contrast to their gestures of constant support for those in power.

“I want to question the people who are calling for changes to the law. As you have constantly supported those in power [including the drafting of the law], I want to know what the differences are between those days and today and why [do you believe the law has problems today]?” Mr Abhisit said, without mentioning Mr Suthep or Mr Paiboon by name, although it was clear who he was referring to.

Mr Suthep, a former protest leader of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee and Mr Paiboon, head of the People’s Network for Reform, are thought to favour Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the military regime remaining in power beyond the 2018 election.

Mr Suthep has been questioned by some Democrat Party members over claims he has made an agreement with the regime to pave the way for a military party to be established in a way that would afford it advantages over existing parties.

Both Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon have called on the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to amend the organic law on political parties.

They said Section 140 and Section 141 of the law are unfair and should be amended to ensure fair treatment for new parties and new members.

The provisions deal with fees, membership and steps in forming new parties.

According to Mr Paiboon, the law exempts existing members from paying membership fees for four years while requiring members of new parties to pay at least 1,000 baht.

Unlike emerging parties, existing party members will be allowed to be registered despite not having paid fees.

Mr Abhisit said Monday that he felt the argument in support of the organic law on parties being amended to make it fairer does not hold water as the issue could be resolved with the partial removal of the political activities ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Instead of changing the law, the NCPO should lift the political activities ban to prevent established parties having an advantage over new ones, he said.

Small and emerging parties are having trouble recruiting members with the ban in place, and they must also present proof of membership payments to qualify them to contest the next general election, he added.

He said the lifting the ban could be done in stages so small and emerging parties will have a level playing field in preparing for the next poll.

Still, Mr Abhisit said he was confident his party would be able to meet the deadline to present its membership database for review on Jan 15.

Mr Paiboon rejected criticism that his proposals were a trick aimed at delaying the general election or advancing the interests of the military, which has been reluctant to let parties plan for the next poll.

He said enforcement of certain sections of the organic law on political parties should be suspended to ensure the general election takes place in November next year.

Undeterred by criticism he has a secret agenda to help the military remain in power, Mr Paiboon said he will submit his proposals to the prime minister this week.

Also Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam hinted Section 44 of the previous interim charter will be invoked to amend the organic law on political parties to extend the deadlines for them to complete the processes required by the law.

Mr Wissanu has previously said the organic law can be amended through the NCPO chief’s invocation of Section 44 of the previous interim charter, which has been carried over into the current constitution.

The other way to amend the law is through the normal legislative procedure via the NLA.

However, he said the NLA legislative procedure needs to follow Section 77 of the constitution that requires a public hearing as well as consultation with the Election Commission (EC) — a process which will take some time.

In light of this, the use of Section 44 would be the most viable option to expedite the amendment to the organic law, he said.

Even though the EC also has the power to extend the deadlines under the law, any move by the EC may be treated with suspicion should it appear to favour any particular party, so to ensure fairness Section 44 is the only option, Mr Wissanu said.

However, he admitted that any changes to the law would mean nothing if the ban on political activities is not lifted, adding it is up to the NCPO to decide when to lift the ban.

NLA chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholchai admitted that any amendments to the legislation will affect the time frame for the general election tentatively set for November 2018.

He said the NLA has not yet decided whether to amend Sections 140 and 141 of the organic law on political parties as proposed by Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon.

An NLA committee led by NLA deputy chairman Surachai Liangboonlertchai has invited Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon to discuss their proposals on Friday.


PM rips media over Prawit bling furore

Posted by pakin On December - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwon, claiming the media stirred up a fuss over the deputy premier’s luxury accessories to cause a rift between them.

Gen Prawit, who also serves as the minister of defence, has been in the spotlight after a picture of him wearing a diamond ring and a luxury watch spread across news media and the internet last week. This caught the attention of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) after suspicions emerged that he had failed to report them in his declaration of assets and liabilities as required by the anti-graft agency.

Gen Prawit, however, yesterday failed to submit a letter clarifying the acquisition of the watch and ring to the NACC as it had been reported he was requested to do.

Last week, Gen Prawit was asked to provide a written explanation to the NACC, but his letter has so far remained with the Office of the Minister of Defence due to the three-day holiday weekend.

The letter was expected to be submitted to the NACC yesterday.

At Government House, Gen Prayut said yesterday Gen Prawit did not need his moral support and could handle the issue himself.

“I don’t have to deliver my moral support to him because he is a soldier and a grown man so he can take care of himself. We are not children,” he said.

The premier asked the media to refrain from attacking Gen Prawit, saying the matter must be dealt in compliance with the judicial process.

“Many people target him, and want him to be divided from me. You [the media] all know this very well,” he said.

“If nobody is beside me, I will tell you, I will be fiercer. I will fully exercise my power,” he said.

Speaking about feedback from political parties which reaffirmed their trust in his transparency but not his ministers, Prime Minister Prayut extended his thanks, saying he has always instructed his subordinates and relevant authorities to work with transparency.

The prime minister said all decisions about previous projects have been made by the cabinet, not the deputy minister or any individuals.

Each project must be contemplated by the Office of the Council of State and the cabinet before approval.

He also stressed that people can report any individuals or agencies found to be abusing their position in return for financial benefits.

As for corruption at the provincial level, Gen Prayut said probes will be launched against officials as long as the accusers have solid evidence.

Meanwhile, Gen Prawit said yesterday he has not submitted his explanation about his costly watch and diamond ring, said to be worth US$500,000, to the NACC yet.

He also said he had no knowledge of an unconfirmed report which suggested he may claim he inherited the diamond ring from his mother and the luxury watch belonged to a businessman friend who had lent it to him to wear.

Veera Somkwamkid, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Network, also wrote on Facebook yesterday that he had evidence that Gen Prawit had many luxury watches and rings which were not included in the asset declaration submitted to the NACC.

The NACC then should do its job honestly and investigate how Gen Prawit came into possession of such expensive items, whether they were obtained after the coup in 2014 or could be traced back to his role in the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in 2009, he stated.

Mr Abhisit, Democrat Party leader, said he would wait for the result of the investigation. He asked the NACC to do a thorough job, warning its members would be held accountable should it fail to do so.

ACTING National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Worawit Sookboon yesterday appealed for “normal procedures” to be followed over allegations regarding Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan’s possession of a luxury watch and diamond ring.

Worawit urged people to let the NACC do its job before jumping to any conclusions.

“Please let us follow our normal work procedures. Don’t speculate too much about it,” said Worawit.

Last week, the NACC gave Prawit 30 days to justify his possession of the two extravagant items, which he wore during a group photograph with the recently reshuffled Cabinet last Monday.

The photo – which showed the 72-year-old retired general shielding his eyes with his hand, displaying what appeared to be extremely expensive accessories – quickly caught the public’s attention and raised questions as to how a lifelong military officer could afford such luxuries.

Prawit is expected to submit an explanatory letter to the NACC today, according to a source close to him. The letter was at the Defence Ministry office and would be forwarded to the NACC after the long weekend, the source said.

An unconfirmed local report also claimed that Prawit’s ring was inherited from his mother, while what looked like a multi-million-baht Richard Mille watch was borrowed from Prawit’s businessman friend.

The source close to Prawit refused to confirm those claims, adding that the junta’s second-in-command would explain the matter only to the NACC.

The NACC is presided over by Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, who used to serve as a deputy secretary-general to the prime minister attached to Prawit. This has raised questions about whether the probe will be impartial.

Prawit’s “unusual wealth” was also an issue in 2014 when he entered the Cabinet, after he failed to declare any assets worth more than Bt200,000 to the NACC.


A gay American couple who author the Instagram page “Travelling Butts” have been arrested at Don Mueang International Airport for having taken photos showing their backsides with the respected Temple of the Dawn.

Police have so far only identified the two as Joseph and Travis, as their identities have yet to be confirmed with the Bangkok Yai police station whose jurisdiction covers the temple.

Immigration Police deputy spokesman Pol Colonel Choengron Rimphadee said the two were arrested at the outbound immigration counter at the airport.

The spokesman said when the couple were checking out at the counter, the online database of the Immigration Bureau alerted police that they were on the arrest watchlist.

On November 24, the Manager Online reported that the two had taken the so-called “buttfie” showing their bottoms with the Temple of the Dawn in the background. Police then began searching for them.

The two were handed over to the Bangkok Yai police station for further action. The spokesman said the charge would not be a normal public indecency charge. Instead, they would be charged with committing indecency in a place of worship, which carries a long jail term.

Following their arrest, the two have deleted all the photos taken in Thailand, leaving only their “buttfie” photos taken in other countries.