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PM visits Roi Et ‘as a servant, not a boss’

Posted by pakin On August - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday visited the Northeastern province of Roi Et amid speculation his trip was an effort to gain favour in a region that had overwhelmingly rejected the charter draft in the August 7 referendum.

Though Prayut said he planned to visit all provinces regardless of how they had voted in the referendum, he publicly expressed his empathy for the province and the region known as Isaan, and tried to convince them that he had done his best as premier.

“I give importance to Roi Et and the Isaan region the most, no matter whether [Isaan voters] accepted or rejected [the charter draft] referendum,” said Prayut.

“I wholeheartedly trust that the people of Roi Et actually gave me support despite the results. I am never angry about that, and my visit today is as your servant, not a boss, as I’m a military officer serving the people and the country.

“I have not come to make you love me but to bring love to you. We have to work with together for a little while and I want you to have hopes and see the future.”

Prayut urged them to embrace the referendum as a starting point for democracy. He asked them not to be concerned about who would become the next prime minister, and said they should consider the performance of candidates rather than listen to what other people said.

“I wonder whether he or she would perform as much as I do,” he said.

Roi Et saw the region’s second highest percentage of “No” votes against the charter, and the highest against the additional question, 64 and 67.8 per cent respectively. Political observers believe the province’s referendum results were Prayut‘s motivation to visit the province.

During his one-day trip, Prayut presided over a meeting held at Roi Et Rajaphat University to follow up on the implementation of the policies involving local government agencies.

“Don’t be worried that I will cling to power. I have exercised my power to steer the nation forward, never for a second did I deploy it to garner popularity. Though [Roi Et people] don’t like me, I have already allocated more than a billion [baht] of the budget to projects proposed by the province.

“Please tell those who have not come here today that I have never hated them. But, it is because they don’t understand [the premier] and receive distorted information,” he said.

Before the meeting, he told university lecturers and students that true democracy is about co-existence of different opinions without using “guns” and violence. He also asked students to understand that he could not release those student activists, the junta dissenters who were charged and detained following the violation of laws and regulations.

Prayut also urged them to look forward and not get involved in conflicts. “Please be picky and choose what to listen to. Do not listen too much to matters of conflict and nonsense stuff.”

Prayut asked the people to believe and listen to him while the country is dealing with conflicts and said he is the one to steadily push the country forward.

The government delegation on the trip included Deputy PM General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya.

At the meeting, Prayut also gave the green light to an economic plan for the area and urged local agencies to start implementing projects related to government policies within the 2017 fiscal year.

According to provincial governor Anusorn Kaewkangwan, the plan focuses on producing value-added jasmine rice grown in Thung Kula Rong Hai, promoting the province’s tourism, and developing Roi Et to be the transportation and investment centre in the central Isaan region.

Democrat Party politician Phumsan Seniwong na Ayutthaya said he appreciated Prayut‘s visit and said the area is still struggling with poverty and has the country’s widest gap between the well-off and the poor.

But Pheu Thai Party key figure Surapong Towichakchaikul decried the trip. He said Prayut should stay in the area overnight to see the real problems in the area. Prayut flew back to Bangkok in the evening.

THE RESULTS of an E-Saan Poll released yesterday spelled out the reasons why Northeastern, or Isaan, people voted for or against the draft charter in this month’s referendum.

The poll, conducted by Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Economics, surveyed about 1,100 Isaan people in 20 provinces between August 13 |and 16.

Those who voted in support had eight reasons offered.

About 93 per cent said they wished to see a return to peace; 89 per cent wished to see an election held as soon as possible; 85 per cent wanted to see a more effective check and balance system against corrupt politicians; 75 per cent feared the worst from the draft; 71 per cent said they were satisfied with the overall charter content; 61 per cent said they trusted in the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to get the country through a transition; 58 per cent said they voted because politicians had declared their stances against the charter, while 54 per cent said they wished to see Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha continue his premiership.

Most want a ‘true people’s charter’

Among those voting against the charter, 94 per cent said they wished to see a true people’s charter; 87 per cent said they wanted to see a standard referendum process; 84 per cent feared the NCPO would prolong its tenure if the charter was passed; 81 per cent were not happy with the proposal concerning the appointed senators, and a similar figure showed people were not confident in the NCPO; 76 per cent said they were not happy with the overall content of the charter draft and 58 per cent said they followed their favourite politicians.

Why I exercised my right to vote

Posted by pakin On August - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

THE rule allowing people aged 18 to vote in the referendum has resulted in a number of young voters becoming eligible for the first time to decide whether they approve or disapprove of the charter draft. But 18-year-olds are not the only new players in this voting game.

For one aged 24, and having had the voting right for seven years, I never once stepped into a polling booth to cast a ballot – not until yesterday. Well, for one thing, I would say there had only been one election since I turned 18 until now.

That vote took place in 2011, following the red-shirt protests and brought Yingluck Shinawatra to power.Yingluck became Thailand’s first female prime minister.

The turn-out then was as high as 75 per cent thanks to the high tension between colour-coded factions competing against one another to bring to power their favoured political party.

But I was not one of them.

Back then, I was 19 years old, in college and far away from home. No, I did not have to pay some Bt2,000 for an airfare to go and vote at home. The state provided enough convenience such as voting outside the constituency and advance voting, encouraging the eligible to turn out. Still, I did not bother.

I did not feel I was part of the struggle between the two factions. I viewed politics and government as something very distant from me, which would not affect me, never mind who won the election.

As a member of a middle-class family with both parents working for the government, I cared neither about the universal healthcare scheme nor credit cards for farmers. And as a nerd who only paid attention to how to ace an exam, I was not very interested in killing an evil regime and backing a decent person to be a prime minister either.

Most importantly, I had zero faith that my vote would count for anything, that it would matter, that it would actually help shape the country. So, no, thank you. I’d rather let the chance pass.

There was another election in 2014, if it could be counted as one. Most people did not exercise their right because of tension and the possibility of violence breaking out. I am not going to lie. I did not think I would vote regardless of the political situation.

The same reasons as in 2011 still applied; I did not have faith that my ballot would mean anything. But things are different this year. I was determined to go the extra mile to vote because I am unhappy with the current regime that has been in power since the coup.

I may have little faith in politics but it does not take much faith anyway to believe that Thailand can definitely do better than what we have now.

So, yesterday I set my alarm clock for 6.30am and paid Bt20 for a motorcycle-taxi ride to a polling station for the first time since I turned 18, seven years ago, to vote.

By getting fingerprinted before voting, I am not sure whether the force of my impression would be enough to steer the country out of this mess. What I know is that by impressing the fingerprint I have relieved my bitter frustrations with the regime. I just hope they will not be around for too long.

Inefficiency and resistance to change in the state enterprise sector have long been notorious. The latest case in point is the mandated restructuring of TOT and CAT Telecom.

Both units have been hit hard by rapid changes in the telecom sector over the past few decades, making it necessary for them to embrace drastic changes. But some 15,000 employees at TOT and another 6,000 workers at CAT Telecom are reluctant to fall in line.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha threatened to take strong action against those opposed to the changes as ordered by the State Enterprise Policy Committee or Superboard, after union leaders and some executives did not cooperate with the Superboard mandate.

Basically, TOT and CAT Telecom have to merge their network operations to stay competitive within the next year, meaning transmission and fibre-optic sub-units will be combined as a new unit, the National Broadband Network Co, while their Internet gateway and submarine cable networks will be merged as Neutral Gateway Network Co.

Last but not least, the separate data centre operations will be merged as IDC Co.

However, TOT’s and CAT Telecom’s service units will remain separate operations as holding companies.

Employee unions and some senior executives have voiced their strong opposition to the drastic restructuring mandate.

Unless the two agencies are quickly reorganised, they will be heading for bankruptcy. TOT is especially vulnerable, as its revenues have dropped sharply as lucrative earnings from previous telecom concessions are coming to an end. The company has 15,000 workers.

Both agencies enjoyed an easy time for decades as the recipients of billions of baht in concession fees and shared revenues from privately-owned telecom companies which introduced mobile phone services to Thailand.

Now, their future depends on the competencies of management and workers in the highly-competitive technology-driven marketplace.

The combined assets of transmission and fibre optics are highly valuable as they are the core of the country’s national broadband network, which has the potential to take advantage of the fast-growing demand for telecom and digital services.

They are also highly prized by Internet gateway and data centre operations and could be leveraged to gain from the country’s rapidly-evolving digital economy.

Most TOT and CAT employees have little reason to fear for their future under the restructuring.

Gone, however, are the days of the easygoing work culture of state-owned agencies as these transformed units and their leadership need to adopt a more private-sector-like management style and mentality to stay relevant in the digital era.

Thailand Post is a good example of such a successful transformation. Previously, it was part of the Communications Authority of Thailand or CAT. Now, it is a competitive and a highly-profitable operator in the fast-growing e-commerce sector.

In the first half of 2015, Thailand Post reported profits of Bt1.3 billion on revenues of about Bt11 billion, with parcel delivery services accounting for nearly half of total revenues.

The company seems destined to enjoy high growth along the path of a sustained e-commerce boom in coming years.

TOT and CAT Telecom also have similar potential and they need to look at Thailand Post as an inspiration for change and renewed prosperity.

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