Friday, October 20, 2017
Get Adobe Flash player

Referendum is over but dozens fighting charges

Posted by pakin On October - 10 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

AT LEAST 44 people charged under the Referendum Act are struggling to fight the cases, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Defendant lawyers have also found that given what they describe as the ambiguity of the Act, it is even harder to prove that their clients’ actions were in line with democratic principles.

“Section 61 of the Act allows the authorities to broadly interpret the provision and they can consider anyone as having committed wrongdoing against the law,” lawyer Pawinee Chumsri of TLHR said.

Pro-democracy observers and legal experts said the Referendum Act created a climate of fear after it was promulgated in mid-April.

Legal experts from non-profit group Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) and former senators championing human rights believed the second paragraph of Section 61 of the Act was “ambiguous”, and it could lead to confusion and a climate of fear, under which people are afraid to express their views towards the draft. They petitioned the Ombudsman, which submitted their claim to the Constitutional Court. It asked the court to rule on whether the law violated the 2014 Interim Charter, which guarantees people’s right to expression.

Under the section, dissemination of “false”, “vulgar”, “provoking”, and “intimidating” messages relating to the referendum with the “intention” to incite unrest or influence voters to cast ballots either way was deemed a violation of the Act, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail, equivalent to a murder offence.

TLHR is working for 22 of the 44 defendants, while the other cases are being looked after by other groups of lawyers. The 22 are involved in five separate cases. These include the high-profile cases of the seven anti-coup student activists who distributed anti-draft pamphlets in Samut Prakan province, and the case of aPrachatai journalist arrested while working in Ratchaburi province, Pawinee said.

All of the defendants are on bail. Of the five cases, two have been forwarded to the Court of Justice by public prosecutors, the legal team revealed. “Most of them were arrested following the dissemination of pamphlets with information against the draft or for campaigning against the referendum,” Pawinee said.

The team of lawyers has learned that not all their clients’ charges relate to Section 61 of the Act. They have found that in some cases the defendants were arrested under Section 61 alone, while others were charged under Section 61 along with other offences relating to national security related laws such as the National Council for Peace and Order’s ban on political gatherings, the Computer Crime Act, and sedition in the Criminal Code.

Those charged under Section 61 will be tried in a civilian court, while those charged under “national security” laws face the further complication of being tried by a military tribunal, Pawinee explained.

Pawinee said the vagueness of the law made it difficult to fight the cases, and it was tougher for cases to be tried in a military court, where the trial process has been criticised for not being in line with international standards.

The lawyer said she and her lawyer colleagues would adhere to democratic principles to defend the cases because they believed the accused did not commit any offences. “They did not perpetrate [an offence], we know. They just expressed what they think about the charter draft.”

She said experts would testify that the defendants’ actions were legal and Section 61 was vague and did not qualify as a law due to its ambiguity.

Moreover, she added, the provision breached Section 7 of the Referendum Act which ensured people’s freedom of expression related to the referendum.

The lawyer team plans to ask the Attorney-General to withdraw the cases, arguing that the cases contributed nothing in terms of public benefit because the August 7 referendum is over and the Referendum Act only applied to that event.

Of all the cases handled by TLHR, Pawinee said, the accused would deny all the allegations and they would refuse to enter into a justice reconciliation process, an alternative to the punitive measure of a jail sentence.

Some observers view the legal fight as a gesture of disapproval over the referendum law. They observed that the law seemed to be set out to quell anti-charter campaigns, given that no pro-charter campaigners were charged.

Fate of Pheu Thai now hangs in the balance

Posted by pakin On September - 13 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

They may doubt the survey methods, but politicians should not ignore recent opinion polls showing public support in favour of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha retaining his role after the return of civilian rule.

Following the overwhelming endorsement of the military-backed constitution in last month’s referendum, the surveys present further evidence of widespread public support for the coup leader.

Politicians can no longer afford to wait and see if the Constitution Drafting Commission drafts an organic law to dissolve political parties. If they sit still now, it could be too late to win back people’s trust and stem the flow of popularity towards the junta chief.

Instead they urgently need to restructure their parties and reform themselves to meet public expectations. The message from the referendum and opinion polls should be especially alarming for the major parties. Pheu Thaiand the Democrats desperately need to revamp themselves.

As both parties appear to be up against just one strong competitor – General Prayut – their first question is who to choose as leader for the general election next year.

Democrat incumbent Abhisit Vejjajiva, who opposed the draft charter, says he is willing to continue in the role if his members back him. He could be re-elected for a fourth successive term at the end of next year, when his current tenure ends.

The Democrat Party’s election of executives would take place close to the date of the next election as scheduled by the junta’s road map.

Pheu Thai, meanwhile, might be compared to a headless chicken. Fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra is looking for a suitable person to replace acting leader Viroj Pao-in.

Pheu Thai’s status looks more shaky that that of the Democrats because its real bosses, Thaksin and his sister Yingluck, are seen as the main opponents by the junta.

In contrast, many Democrat politicians have maintained a close relationship with former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who is currently chairman of the People’s Democratic Reform Foundation and also has close ties with the junta.

It’s unlikely that the junta will allow a party dominated by the Shinawatras to rise from the grave, after administrations led by two members of the family were overthrown by successive military coups.

Generally, politicians prefer to be members of a coalition party in government rather than be sitting on the opposition benches. Pheu Thai politicians are no exception. But the chances of them forming the next government may be zero.

Hence, political observers foresee disarray for Pheu Thai. Some members may seek to defect and join other parties to ensure a better political future. A former Pheu Thai government minister, who asked not to be named, recently told reporters that he was looking for a new party.

If the worst comes to the worst, the party could be torn apart, with only the most loyal Shinawatra followers opting to stay.

Thaksin, who has lived in exile overseas since 2008, now has a choice to make: compromise, or continue fighting the military-backed regime.

A leader willing to compromise and forge a relationship with the military regime could rescue his party, but that would also risk triggering a mass defection by Pheu Thai members opposed to the dictatorship, which could sink the party.

Former PM Thaksin has been feeling the heat from legal action taken against those close to him during his post-coup government’s tenure. His sister Yingluck is also fighting criminal charges related to her government’s rice-pledging scheme, with jail time beckoning if she is found guilty.

The organic law on political parties might not end up resetting the political landscape, but other developments could set Thaksin back to square one.

Prayut gets high marks in survey on confidence

Posted by pakin On August - 29 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

MORE than 70 per cent of people surveyed in a new Suan Dusit Poll across the country have confidence in Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Over three quarters of respondents were pleased with the government’s tackling of graft over the past two years, the highest figure, while the economy and bread-and-butter issues remain the areas people most want improved.

The opinion poll was conducted on 1,293 people from Monday till Saturday.

It found that 26 per cent and 46 per cent of those surveyed were very confident or fairly confident in PMPrayut respectively. They said that the PM had accomplished many things in the past two years and was capable of dealing with immediate problems, besides being a good, hard-working, and sincere person.

Some 19 per cent and 8 per cent said they were not very confident and not confident at all in the PM respectively because they thought he had a problem controlling himself and he came to power through a coup, which made scrutiny of his government impossible.

The survey also revealed the five most satisfying works undertaken by the Prayut administration.

More than 75 per cent said they were impressed with the corruption fighting both in the private and public sector.

Some 71 per cent were satisfied with the forest reclamation measures, as well as actions taken against people who had encroached on preserved forests.

Peacekeeping, social order, and drug crackdowns came third with 70.6 per cent of the respondents voicing satisfaction with those measures.

A survey showed that 65.5 per cent of respondents in Thailand were satisfied with government efforts to tackle human trafficking after the country was raiseed from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report.

The fifth most satisfying measure was the reduction in petrol and energy prices (63.4 per cent).

As for what needs improvement the most, 82.6 per cent said the economy and 78.6 said bread-and-butter, cost of living, and quality of life issues.

The deep South conflict was third on the list with 73 per cent saying the government should speed up its work to deal with the issue. The constitution and the writing of organic laws and law changes came fourth (67 per cent).

The fifth issue deemed in need of most improvement was the agricultural sector, including the fall in prices for agricultural products.

As for the government’s overall performance, two thirds – 66 per cent – said they were confident in the regime, reasoning that it had been decisive and able to tackle problems quickly and followed the roadmap, as planned.

In another survey by Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Business Administration conducted on 4,000 respondents, PM Prayut earned a score of 8.63 points out of 10 for helping people ease bread-and-butter problems over the past two years.

Trade and investment, security, political conflict, and corruption were named as areas that people want the government to tackle the most.

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.

TAG CLOUD