Monday, October 23, 2017
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THE former chairman of Chulalongkorn University Savings Cooperative – wanted for fraud after allegedly luring people into a lottery “scam” that caused hundreds of millions in damages – surrendered to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok early yesterday morning.

Dr Sawat Saengbangpla, 79, turned himself in to investigators at around 2am, CSD chief Pol Maj-General Suthin Sappuang confirmed. 

Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Thitirat Nonghanpitak will announce details of the case at a press conference today.

‘Confessed to bogus scheme’

A police source said Sawat confessed during six hours of interrogation that the lottery scheme was bogus. 

Investigators will now seek to trace his transactions, retrieve the money and arrest more accomplices. 

The source said Sawat would be taken to court today when they seek approval for an initial period of detention. They will object to him being released on bail on grounds that the ‘scam’ caused Bt540 million in damages to 78 victims and he may tamper with evidence.

Arrest warrants have been extended for suspected money launderers, including Methawat Khonman, 32, who allegedly received Bt40 million to Bt60 million from 2010 until February from Sawat; Pavisaporn Baiket, 28, who allegedly received Bt42 million from Sawat; and Pavisaporn’s friend Jiratchaya Khunyosying, 32. 

Victims complained to police after Sawat suddenly disappeared after failing to pay them dividends from a separate cooperative scheme he allegedly lured them to invest in. 

The people who lost money were told that the scheme, which reportedly ran from 2010, would buy and resell lottery tickets and yield a high return of one per cent a month. 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he will discuss the controversial media reform draft bill in the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The premier responded to 30 media organisations which asked him to suspend the bill following their concerns the law could lead to state authority overshadowing media affairs.

“I’ll look at these concerns and will discuss this with the Cabinet today,” Prayut said after receiving a letter proposed by Thai Journalists Association president Pramed Lekpetch.

The media’s move came a day after the National Reform Steering Assembly endorsed the draft bill.

While the controversial licensing requirement and its penalties were removed following high concern from the media, the proposed media professional council featuring two ministerial permanent secretaries remained in the draft.

The bill draft will be forwarded to the Cabinet for further consideration.

The PM said: “The government’s only hope is to improve this country. The media should also help us with this.

“The media are speakers to the government’s good deeds because the government doesn’t do anything bad … Please don’t think that the government overshadows everything. But the media need to be capable to self-regulate also.”

In a letter directly handed to Prayut, the media groups expressed concern about the so-called media professional council, fearing it would allow the state to take part in the industry despite the press having the role of monitoring authorities’ use of power.

They also said the bill draft defined media workers too broadly – that it would cover not only professional workers but also general media users. This would result in the groups being regulated by mechanisms proposed in the draft, they said.

The media groups also said the constitution should be followed by in relation to the matter. In the charter, they said, it was stipulated that people’s freedom of expression was guaranteed while any legislation must be issued on a necessity basis and must go through a hearing involving related parties.

“We support media self-regulation where laws may be issued to recognise the status of the media,” the groups said. “But the laws must not aim to punish the media and be pushed without receiving holistic opinions from related party.”

 

PM tries to calm fears on media regulation bill

Posted by pakin On April - 28 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

NRSA panel chief wants online media to be included in licensing system.

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday attempted to allay fears over the controversial media regulatory bill, denying it was intended to restrict media freedom and calling for mutual trust between the media and the government.

He said it was necessary to have a new law to regulate the mass media, particularly online social media, due to a lot of problems created by “bad people” who spread false information irresponsibly.

“Do not fear restriction of the media. Why do I need to do so? I cannot work without the media. The media help expand my understanding. The media warn me about something bad, and I am ready to look into it,” Prayut said.

He urged the media to accept a regulating committee in the new legislation, but said he did not completely agree with the draft bill proposed by the National Reform Steering Council (NRSA). “I still do not agree with the draft. Before agreeing with it, I have to listen to the people and the media so see what they think,” he said.

Prayut did not elaborate as to whether he was referring to a proposed requirement that all media professionals, including those in the social media, need to have licences.

 

Any media professional working without a licence risks a jail term of up to three years or a maximum fine of Bt60,000, or both, according to the media reform bill.

The prime minister said media groups had admitted they were unable to regulate their members and therefore a regulating body was required.

He maintained that he was not blaming the media but that the regulating body was required to prevent “bad people” from doing whatever they liked. “Other countries have the same thing and they have problems with social media. We are adopting a principle that is acceptable to the international community,” he said.

NRSA vice president Alongkorn Ponlaboot said yesterday that the assembly had no intention of restricting media freedom or controlling the media by proposing the new law.

“We just want to improve the quality of the media profession. We want the media to adhere to a code of ethics and take social responsibility,” he said.

Alongkorn, formerly a politician from the Democrat Party, also said he did not think the NRSA would agree with any provision that went against international standards.

Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, said yesterday that the 2017 Constitution does not require media professionals to have licences.

Despite strong opposition, the contentious media regulatory bill has been scheduled for deliberation by the NRSA at its meeting next Monday.

In the latest revision, alternative news outlets broadcast via online channel are also included in the draft law. They are expected to be subject to the same treatment, such as have a licence, like traditional and mainstream media.

 

ACM Kanit Suwannet, chairman of the NRSA’s media reform committee, told The Nation that the assembly viewed online media as no different from traditional media such as newspapers or television, apart from their broadcasting channels, so they should be included in the new regulatory system too. The draft bill had given a rough definition of such new media as instant creators who earned income from providing online content, he said.

“Anyone who feeds content to the public online and gains profit, for instance, from advertisements would be under this law, too,” Kanit said. “These include those [Facebook] pages with a lot followers that have advertisements running on them.”

The law had to keep pace with the advances in technology, he said.

Alternative news outlets in the online world have gained significant momentum in recent years. They are considered by many people as competitors or even killers of the traditional mass media, as audiences are increasingly rely on the Internet for news rather than listening to the radio, watching television or reading papers.

These outlets include portal websites and online new agencies such as Kapook.com, Sanook.com, Thematter.co, and the Momentum.co. They are expected to be impacted by the media regulatory bill too.

Teepagorn Wuttipitayamongkol, a co-founder of alternative online news agency The Matter, wrote on his Facebook that the bill was an obvious attempt to control the media.

“Imagine having to ask for permission every time [we] make a joke or report news that might oppose the powers that be. [Imagine] a world where a handful of people try to impose their morality on diverse people,” the veteran columnist wrote. “We can see how tragic this media registration is.”

Online media people and bloggers yesterday had mixed reactions to the proposed licensing of media professionals.

Nunchavit Chaiyapaksopon, IT blogger at Yokekungworld.com, said the licensing requirement could make online media and bloggers more responsible. However, the requirements should be set out clearly and the licensing process should be transparent enough for outside checking.

Nuttaputch Wongreanthong, digital marketing blogger at Nuttaputch.com, saw potential in the regulation attempt. By doing so, he suggested, online thought leaders should be encouraged to take part in the bill-drafting process to provide timely and true-to-context insights.

Poramate Minsiri, managing director and CEO at Kapook.com, however was concerned that the government’s role in licensing could curb media freedom. He believed that self-regulation and society could be a more efficient in the modern world.

“When authority sets up such a process, we will see fewer online reporters, given that they will be required to register beforehand,” Poramate said. “The media might be more limited to report on issues, especially on rights infringements.”

Khajorn Chiaranaipanich, an IT blogger at Khajochi.com, said it would be hard to specify who are media workers and who are not in the online arena.

Apisilp Trunganont, president of Thai Webmaster Association and co-founder of Pantip.com, saw ambiguity in the NRSA’s explanation of the bill. “What kind of media will need to be licensed, who exactly will issue the licences, and how they will be used upon a worker or legal person?” he asked. “We need to know answers to these questions,” he said.

IT TV host Pongsuk Hiranprueck said he was willing to be licensed. “But I’m sure that more than 1 million Thais will be ready to break the law,” he said, adding that he did not think Facebook would allow an authentication system to screen out unlicensed media.

Govt lauded for its efforts to fight graft

Posted by pakin On April - 27 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Experts seek more action to deal with cronyism.

THE PRAYUT government has made some progress in suppressing corruption but it needs to show that it would not spare any wrongdoers including its cronies, anti-corruption experts said yesterday.

They were speaking at a seminar, “Monitoring the Prayut Government’s Anti-Corruption Policies”, which was organised by Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI) and the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT).

Thippatrai Saelawong, a principal researcher from the TDRI, said the government has been doing its best to tackle corruption by reforming and enacting some new laws. At least five laws to help suppress corruption have been enacted during its term of nearly three years.

The research team looked into the progress of the government’s anti-corruption effort by examining degrees of action, from light action to the most concrete action of law enactment.

The team found that the government had performed quite well, with a score of about 67 per cent, in preventing officials intervening in state business via subjective judgements, one of the two prime sources of corruption. The other is state procurements.

At least two necessary laws have been put in place, particularly the state service facilitation law, under which state permission has become more transparent through concrete procedures, Thippatrai said.

The government has scored around 60 per cent regarding progress in trying to steer clear of corruption in state budget spending. At least two necessary laws, including the state procurements law, have been put in place to regulate and make spending of the state budget more transparent.

However, the promotion of public participation to ensure more transparency of state acts has been less successful as most laws have not yet been enacted, including the state information provision law, said Thippatrai.

“We have seen some progress in the government’s anti-corruption policies by taking a look at its law enactment on what is necessary. Still, we cannot tell yet whether these would lead to the success of corruption suppression as we need to monitor the enforcement of these new laws more as well as the outcome of the action,” said Thippatrai.

He added that there was still concern that an open atmosphere for discussions and participation was still relatively slim and several issues still remain closed to the public, including security issues.

Mana Nimitmongkol, ACT’s secretary-general, said the government has not yet been able to reach enough people to discuss solutions to the problem of corruption.

Some groups have joined the government’s efforts but they are being outpaced by the scale of the problem. This government had enacted more anti-corruption laws than past governments but cronyism has overridden its efforts.

Efforts in structural changes or long-term anti-corruption policies are desperately needed, he said.

 

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