Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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POLICE ARE ATTEMPTING to determine whether anyone financed recent protests by anti-junta activists, a deputy national police chief said yesterday.

Amid the crackdown on protesters, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday continued to insist he was willing to listen to everyone’s voice.

The prime minister said in a weekly press briefing that he understood that protesters had their own reasons to rally publicly, but he warned them against violating the law.

Prayut also said he listened to all groups of people. Regarding the delay in the next election that protesters opposed, he said it would certainly bring advantages and disadvantages to different groups of people but he did not think the government would benefit.

Pol General Sriwara Ransibhramanakul, the deputy police commissioner-general in charge of security affairs, said investigators would summon seven activists who had been accused of violating the junta ban on political gatherings and instigating disturbances.

He said the ongoing police investigation could lead to more suspects being called in, but he declined to disclose a number.

His comments came after Colonel Burin Thongprapai, an official with the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), filed a complaint at Pathum Wan Police Station against seven activists who organised a rally last Saturday on the skywalk above the Pathum Wan intersection.

The demonstration, which included more than 100 participants, called for a general election by November, as had been promised by Prayut. The seven activists are Rangsiman Rome, Sirawit Sereethiwat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampha, Ekachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan and Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, most of whom are members of the Democracy Restoration Group.

Sirawit yesterday asked “people power” to rise up against the “NCPO dictators”.

He said in his Facebook message that, “On February 10 I will never back off,” referring to the date of a planned rally by anti-junta activists at the Democracy Monument.

However, Netiwit said in a Facebook message yesterday that he had joined Saturday’s rally as a citizen, and not as an affiliate of any group. “I feel honoured to be one of the seven accused,” he added.

Sriwara said yesterday that police were investigating to determine who was behind this “regular” group of protesters, but he declined to provide further details.

“Wait until arrest warrants are approved by the court, and you will know. The supporters are no mystery. They are behind the gatherings in five to six areas,” he said.

As the activists were being charged with political assembly, Prayut yesterday said the government was not guilty of discrimination. For example, he said, he had also been criticised by the media and yet had not prohibited their coverage.

“Don’t create misunderstandings. It is reported to the international community and now they view that the government as discriminatory,” Prayut said to Government House reporters.

He said activists should consider whether their rallies affected peace in society, adding that actions should be in line with the law.

“The Administrative Court has already granted an injunction [to the We Walk marchers]. Now try not to violate the law,” he said, apparently referring to activists marching to Khon Kaen to address public policy issues.

Prayut also advised people to look at the motives of the activists, while adding that he did not want to be in conflict with anyone.

He also admitted that the government’s popularity was in decline, saying it was common for every government in its fourth year of ruling. But the government would try to work hard and serve the people, he said.

Meanwhile, Sriwara yesterday met Pathum Wan district chief Nawaporn Klinbuakaew, who maintained that the rally site at Pathum Wan intersection was a public area. Police said protests were prohibited in the area under the Public Rally Act because it is located less than 150 metres from royal premises.

The case’s chief investigator, Pol Lt-Colonel Samak Panyawong, yesterday said the seven accused had been summoned to meet with police on Friday to be formally notified of charges against them. If they fail to meet with the investigators after being summoned twice, arrest warrants would be issued against them, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday said authorities would rely on relevant laws and junta orders in dealing with protesters. He also noted that the junta was still in power and its ban against political gatherings of more than four people remained in effect.

“I have measures to take care of them. According to the intelligence, there is only one group [of anti-junta protesters]”, Prawit said.

Meanwhile, the National Security Council (NSC) was looking into reported moves by “hardline” groups and “foreign instigators” in support of the activists, NSC secretary-general General Wanlop Raksanoh said yesterday.

“We are trying to verify the reports,” he said, adding that there should be no problem as long as their acts were not against the law.

 

Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo sought Cabinet approval on Wednesday to extend by three months a March 31 deadline for verifying the nationalities of the 900,000 foreign migrant labourers in Thailand.

Adul said he would personally inspect the verification process to ensure it was being handled smoothly and fast, but he noted that the ministry still needed more equipment, such as retina-scanning devices.

Enforcement of a new law governing the management of migrant workers, which stipulates tough penalties for their illegal employment, is to begin once the verification process is completed.

The law would see employers of illegal migrants fined Bt400,000-Bt800,000 for every labourer hired.

 

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.

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