Friday, February 21, 2020
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THE government may need to go it alone in choosing the election date if political parties failed to “cooperate” and take part in a meeting to be held in June, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.

In June, political party representatives are expected to meet the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and its appointed constitutional drafters and legislators to discuss holding the next election.

Also in the same month, all four organic laws essential for the election are to be announced in the Royal Gazette, paving the way for the country’s first general election in over four years after the May 2014 coup.

“We’ll have to find a conclusion as much as possible. Whichever party wishes to come is welcome,” Prayut said during his weekly press briefing at Government House.

“We have to hold the election eventually. Without cooperation, we will have to set the date on our own. How hard would that be?” he said.

Political parties would also be expected to explain how they would continue work initiated by his junta government, Prayut added. “They can’t have nothing in hand and get elected just like that,” he said.

While parties would not be expected to elaborate on their policies in front of the junta, Prayut said they should be able to “answer how problems can be solved”.

“They can reveal their policy platforms afterwards. I don’t expect to hear them,” he said.

“Political parties’ policies can’t make changes to the country because they benefit just certain groups of people. Hasn’t it been carried on in that way? The rice-pledging scheme, for instance. Who was it made for? Have they ever been responsible for the burden on the national budget?” he asked rhetorically.

The premier was apparently referring to the rice-pledging scheme carried out by fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. Last year, Yingluck was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in a court case that stemmed from the project. Some of her Cabinet members and businesspeople involved in the project are facing lengthy jail terms and hefty fines.

Democrat Party key member Ongart Klampaiboon said the party might have to see an official invitation before deciding whether to join the discussion.

“The Democrat Party is more than willing to help contribute if the discussion will yield something for the country,” he said in reference to Prayut’s comments. “However, I’m not sure what this discussion will be about, because the topic keeps changing.”

The veteran politician also noted that scheduling the election date was normally the responsibility of the government and the Election Commission (EC). He said he was not sure what role political parties would play in that matter, as they had never previously had any involvement.

Pheu Thai Party politician Korkaew Pikulthong said yesterday that his party saw no need to join a discussion with the government regarding the election date.

“Determining the election date is the job of the EC and government,” said the former MP. “This government has failed to keep its promise [about the next election]. We’ll have to keep following up this issue,” he added.

Korkaew also said it was not the government’s business to discuss with political parties about their policy platforms. They had the freedom to formulate policies to satisfy voters and get elected, he added.

Prayut yesterday reiterated the so-called political road map was still valid despite the increasing possibility that the last two organic laws required for an election would be submitted to the Constitutional Court for review.

While the two laws have already been approved, a court decision on whether they violate the charter would mean that the legislative process could take longer and result in an even longer delay before the election.


“It can happen by legal procedure. We have the court. Otherwise the court would have no work to do,” Prayut said.

He also insisted that the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) should take care of the task. “They haven’t sent them back to [the government]. Don’t throw it to us,” he added.

Meanwhile, chief constitution drafter Meechai Ruchupan yesterday said he would not formally recommend to the prime minister that he seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the contentious MP election bill, despite concerns that its constitutionality issue may hamper the next election.

Some observers, including lawmakers, pointed to certain provisions deemed to be in conflict with the Constitution and they warned that the issue could fail the political road map and lead to an indefinite delay in the election.

The election bill allows people with special needs to be assisted by polling-booth officials in casting their votes. For many, this goes against the Constitution, which requires ballots to be cast in secret.

Meechai, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), said yesterday it would not be a problem as long as such unusual voting did not happen in too many constituencies, and nobody raised the issue at the Constitutional Court.

However, Jade Donavanik, a law expert and advisor to the CDC, told The Nation that the legislation should be based on a broader interpretation, meaning it should not leave anything to chance.

He said the bill should be scrutinised by the Constitutional Court for the best clarity possible.

Members of the NLA, meanwhile, have insisted on not taking the bill to the court. In their view, it should not be a problem. Also, hey did not want a judicial review to put off the election further.



Brian Acton, one of the co-founders of WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for $1.6 billion in 2014, has urged people delete their accounts from the social network.

“It’s time”, Acton wrote in a tweet on Tuesday, which included the hashtag #DeleteFacebook.

Acton’s remark comes in the wake of increasing public outrage from users around the world over the misuse of private data of as many as 50 million Facebook users by British firm Cambridge Analytica.

The news which broke over the weekend has now grown into a full blown crisis with lawmakers in the US, UK and Europe demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. On Tuesday, the BBC reported that Zuckerberg, who at the time of writing was yet to officially comment on the scandal, has not even addressed Facebook staff since the news broke, with employees at its headquarters in California being spoken to by one of the company’s senior lawyers on Monday.

Investigations in the UK and US are now underway into Cambridge Analytica, which has claimed it helped Donald Trump win the White House. Cambridge Analytica accessed the private data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

They did this by creating a quiz that was taken by 270,000 Facebook users. The people who created the quiz passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, which is in breach of Facebook’s policy.

Facebook said it knew about the leak since 2015, but the incident only became public last weekend after reports by the New York Times and Guardian. Meanwhile, in the wake of the scandal, Cambridge Analytica confirmed it has suspend its CEO, Alexander Nix.


Suu Kyi ally set to take presidency in Myanmar

Posted by pakin On March - 22 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS


Win Myint, a trusted aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, is tipped to become Myanmar’s new head of state after President U Htin Kyaw resigned yesterday due to health reasons.

Analysts, however, expect no other changes in the government.

Shortly after the President’s Office announced the resignation of Htin Kyaw, Lower House speaker Win Myint also put in his papers.

The resignation of the two senior political figures took place only a day after Suu Kyi returned home after the Australia-Asean special summit where the Rohingya crisis was comprehensively discussed and Asean was urged to play a bigger role.

While Asean has followed its traditional policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a member country, Suu Kyi has been strongly criticised for her role in handling the situation. The United Nations’ human rights body has pointed to a possible genocide since August when violence forced some 700,000 people to flee from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

Htin Kyaw took office after the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the 2015 election. His role in the administration was ceremonial as Suu Kyi, who was barred by the military-sponsored constitution from the position, created for herself the position of State Counsellor, effectively becoming the de facto leader.

Htin Kyaw is an old school friend of Suu Kyi, who was loyal to her and advised her at the peak of her political struggle and house arrest. The 71-year-old president, who has had a heart problem in the past, has been in poor health and was found to have lost a lot of weight recently. He reportedly received medical treatment in Thailand.

Politicians in Myanmar told The Nation that Htin Kyaw’s move to step down was due to health problems.

“We believe President Htin Kyaw resigned from his post because of his health. We need to respect his decision,” said NLD spokesperson Monywa Aung Shin.

“We’ve been hearing about President Htin Kyaw’s medical treatment for a long time. Everybody knows that he needs to take rest. So, we are not surprised by this development,” said Nanda Hla Myint, spokesperson of the rival Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The USDP was the ruling party during the previous administration under General Thein Sein.

Win Myint, 66, who is tipped to be the new president, is also a long-time trusted Suu Kyi loyalist. He served on the NLD’s executive committee for many years. He became House speaker after the 2015 election victory because of his background in law.

According to the constitution, Myanmar’s parliament would appoint a new president within a week.

Vice President Myint Swe, a retired general who took the position under the military quota, will be the acting president until the new head of state is appointed.

Analysts said the new president must be someone who is trusted by Suu Kyi. “We strongly believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will make an excellent choice again, selecting another capable leader who can lead the government and the country in line with NLD’s mission, vision and regulations,” said Monywa Aung Shin, an NLD executive committee member.

“Anyone who she selects as president will be someone she has complete trust in,” independent analyst Richard Horsey was quoted as saying by AFP. “That trust is the basis of her being the seat of power in Myanmar. She has no power under the constitution. Any power comes from that relationship with the president.”

Nanda Hla Myint agreed, saying, “We believe that the new president will be the second U Htin Kyaw – the one who she can trust, who obeys her, who is capable of making her desires happen, and who is really willing to follow her instructions. So, there will be no significant impacts.

“We do not expect many changes in Myanmar’s political climate due to this announcement. We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to lead the State even though U Htin Kyaw resigned from his post,” he said.

Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the private sector understands the nature of political change and is willing to cooperate with the new president.


Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg vowed Wednesday to “step up” to fix problems at the social media giant, as it fights a snowballing scandal over the hijacking of personal data from millions of its users.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said, in his first public comments on the harvesting of Facebook user data by a British firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Writing on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg announced new steps to rein in the leakage of data to outside developers and third-party apps, while giving users more control over their information through a special toolbar.

Zuckerberg said measures had been in place since 2014 to prevent precisely the sort of abuse revealed at the weekend.

“But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it,” he said.

The scandal erupted when a whistleblower revealed that British data consultant Cambridge Analytica (CA) had created psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users via a personality prediction app, created by a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan.

The app was downloaded by 270,000 people, but also scooped up their friends’ data without consent — as was possible under Facebook’s rules at the time.

Facebook says it discovered last week that CA may not have deleted the data as it certified.

“This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.”

“We need to fix that.”

– Probe by special counsel? –

Zuckerberg’s admission follows another day of damaging accusations against the world’s biggest social network as calls mounted for investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Max Schrems, a Vienna-Based activist who has brought online data protection cases before European courts, told AFP he complained to the Irish Data Protection Authority in 2011 about the controversial data harvesting methods.

Schrems also recounted a seven-hour meeting with Facebook representatives the following year to discuss concerns around apps operating in this fashion, but said they said they saw no problems with their policies.

“They explicitly said that in their view, by using the platform you consent to a situation where other people can install an app and gather your data,” Schrems said.

ABC News reported meanwhile special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, was looking at Cambridge Analytica’s role in the Trump effort.

Citing anonymous sources, ABC said several digital experts who worked on Trump’s campaign have held closed-door interviews with Mueller’s team.

The British firm has maintained it did not use Facebook data in the Trump campaign, but its now-suspended CEO boasted in secret recordings that his company was deeply involved in the race.

– #DeleteFacebook –

The data scandal has ratcheted up the pressure on Facebook — already under fire for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platform during the US presidential election.

A movement to quit the social network gathered momentum, while a handful of lawsuits emerged which could turn into class actions — in a costly distraction for the company.

One of those calling it quits was a high-profile co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service acquired by Facebook in 2014.

“It is time. #deletefacebook,” Brian Acton said in a tweet protesting the social media giant’s handling of the crisis.

Both Facebook and CA have denied wrongdoing, as attention focused increasingly on Kogan, the inventor of the controversial app — personality survey dubbed This Is Your Digital Life.

But Kogan said in an interview he was “stunned” by the allegations against him, claiming CA had assured him his activities were above board.

“I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” he told the BBC. “We thought we were acting perfectly appropriately. ”

The University of Cambridge psychologist said CA had approached him to do the work, and that he did not know how the firm would use the data collected with his app.

European Union officials have called for an urgent investigation while British, US and EU lawmakers have asked Zuckerberg to give evidence.

Responding to Zuckerberg’s comments Wednesday, US Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts was the latest lawmaker to call on Zuckerberg to appear.

“You need to come to Congress and testify to this under oath,” Markey tweeted.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged Facebook and CA to cooperate with the national information commissioner’s probe.

“The allegations are clearly very concerning,” she told MPs.

“People need to have confidence in how their personal data is being used.”

Facebook shares steadied Wednesday, gaining 0.74 percent after steep declines this week that wiped out some $50 billion in market value.

But questions abounded on the future of Facebook, which has grown from a startup in a Harvard dorm room to become one of the world’s most powerful companies.

Analyst Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research said Facebook “is exhibiting signs of systemic mismanagement,” possibly from growing too fast.

“Investors now have to consider whether or not the company will conclude that it has grown in a manner that has proven to be untenable,” Wieser said in a research note.