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CDC defends charter summary with week to go

Posted by pakin On August - 1 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Criticism of pamphlets as propaganda that distorts new charter rejected by drafters.

CHARTER DRAFTERS said yesterday |authorised “simplified summary” booklets do not present distorted information as some |critics have claimed.

Authorities, meanwhile, have stepped up efforts to convince the public not to be |convinced by “false” information in the six days before the referendum.

The summary pamphlets conveying the gist of the draft, published by the Election Commission (EC) last month and distributed to 17 million households nationwide, have been criticised as propaganda that exaggerates the benefits people will receive if the charter is enacted.

The legal watchdog group Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw) blamed the pamphlets not only for alleged exaggerations, but also because they convey additional information not presented in the original version of the draft while omitting controversial points, |especially those regarding newly invented |parliamentary mechanisms.

iLaw published 34 infographics last week explaining its concerns about the pamphlets on its Facebook page, which have received more than 2,300 shares so far.

Those arguments, however, were countered by Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) spokesman Chatchai Na Chiangmai, who told The Nation that the CDC authored the summarised content of the pamphlets with only the intent to simplify complexity of the charter draft. Emphasising that the CDC did not distort the draft’s content by merely “summarising”, Chatchai said extra information needed to be added only to provide a clearer picture of what will happen if the draft is enacted.

Some points in the draft were also omitted because they were “too trivial” for people in general to acknowledge, Chatchai added.

The spokesman said that the CDC would probably not make official remarks on the matter despite the series of allegations about the pamphlets. “If they want to fix it, they should raise their concerns to us. Speaking elsewhere doesn’t help,” Chatchai said.

“Pamphlets for people to study”

Meanwhile, government Spokesperson Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said people should stick to EC-organised platforms to obtain knowledge about the charter draft, including the EC’s website, mobile application and the pamphlets.

“People, as holders of rights [to vote], should get to understand the draft by themselves,” Sansern said. “They should not believe politicians or ill-intentioned people who keep distorting facts and creating misunderstanding.”

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has also urged provincial order centres to closely monitor the situation during last stretch before the referendum, Sansern added.

EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn reiterated rules that apply to the run-up to the referendum, including that polling must not be conducted starting today at 4pm until August 7.

Surveys conducted and published earlier can be shared online but pollsters are not allowed to redistribute the results.

At social gatherings, people should not try to persuade others to vote in a particular way, he said, while social events held from 6pm on next Sunday to Monday must not serve alcoholic drinks.

Meanwhile, across the country, various activities focused on the final week ahead of the vote.

Pumsan Seniwong na Ayuthaya, Democrat Party chairman of the strategic committee on special activities for the Northeastern region, urged people to exercise their consciences before deciding whether to accept or reject the draft.

He said he did not question the Democrat Party’s decision to reject the draft on the grounds of democratic principles but he did not want the referendum to cause divisions between people who work together to protect the country. “We should give respect to one another. Do not forget about reform and the country’s enemy,” he said.

In Lop Buri more than 300 Thai students rallied in Kok Samrong district to urge people to cast ballots in the referendum.

In one example in Songkhla, a retired teacher took part in the referendum campaign by riding pillion on a modified motorcycle to encourage voters to cast their ballots.

Alert in the South

Meanwhile, security officials yesterday warned people in the deep South of car bomb attacks during the last week ahead of the referendum.

Colonel Therdsak Ngamsanong, deputy commander of the Yala Special Task Force, said people could cast their ballots in safety because officials would be united to keep the deep South peaceful and orderly.

He admitted that language barriers made it difficult for people to understand the charter draft but he hoped that draft specialists would explain to voters how to cast their ballots.

Therdsak added that the driver of a pick-up truck that was stolen in Yala, which authorities suspected could be used in a car bomb attack, had escaped along a route towards Krong Pinang district in Yala.

He said the perpetrator might wait until authorities stop searching for the |vehicle before modifying it and committing a crime.

The seven student activists freed from 12-day detention yesterday are standing firm that they will continue to carry out more protests against the charter draft.

Their lawyer, meanwhile, has vowed to file a petition calling on the Military Court not to try the case against the activists, claiming a civil case was not under its jurisdiction.

Of the seven pro-democracy activists, six were freed yesterday. The remaining one, Korakot Saengyenpan, was taken before the military court’s prosecutor on a separate charge before being freed on bail of Bt20,000, said lawyer Arnont Nampa.

Korakot had been charged separately with breaching the junta’s political gathering ban following his involvement in a trip to probe fraud allegations at Rajabhakti Park.

The seven were released following the court’s decision on Tuesday to dismiss a second round of 12-day detention requested by the police.

Along with six other activists released earlier on bail, they were accused of violating the ban on political gatherings and alleged campaigning against the draft after they handed out leaflets about the draft on June 23.

The seven activists were set free yesterday morning. They were received with cheers by a crowd who offered them roses and garlands when they first appeared in front of the prison’s main entrance. The activists and their supporters sang a song together for freedom.

The activists, led by Rangsiman Rome, declared they stood firm to fight against dictatorship for democracy’s sake, before dispersing.

Meanwhile, the police took Korakot to the court prosecutor to consider whether or not he would be charged and put on trial. Eventually, the prosecutor decided he should be, and he was freed on bail.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan suggested that Corrections officials use clear judgement before chaining detainees on the way to court. There was criticism when the seven activists were found in shackles while travelling to court on Tuesday.

However, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said officials had to perform their duties at best to ensure detainees under their supervision would not try to escape. The officials had to stick to legal procedures, he said, urging human rights activists to consider the officials’ side, and not blow up the issue too much.

Suthep Thaugsuban, former secretary-general of the Democrat Party and now secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, shared his views on the Kom Chad Luek talk show on Nation TV last night, two years after he led the Bangkok Shutdown that culminated in a military coup.

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE CURRENT SITUATION IN THE WAKE OF THE BANGKOK SHUTDOWN RALLY?

I am comfortable that the [previous] government, which hurt the country, and corrupt politicians who gained from people’s suffering are no longer in power. However, in order to reform the country, we need strong cooperation from all involved groups, and that’s not easy. We have different groups of people with different views.

DO YOU THINK THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR PEACE AND ORDER (NCPO) IS TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS TO REFORM THE COUNTRY?

The NCPO is mainly doing two things. Trying to restore the country, which has been damaged by severe corruption and hit by the global slowdown, and working on national reform. With many diverse viewpoints, it is not easy to complete this task in a short period of time. For instance, some ideas suggested by charter drafters were opposed by some groups.

The previous draft charter written by Borwornsak Uwanno’s team called for a national reform and reconciliation committee to be set up, which was viewed as a main reason why the draft was rejected by the National Reform Council. Do you think the current Constitution Drafting Commission led by Meechai Ruchupan will avoid such a mistake to ensure its draft will pass the national referendum?

I agree with the reform and reconciliation committee proposed by Borwornsak’s team. I think the panel would help us achieve reform, though democracy fanatics might find the committee unacceptable and view it as a problem.

THE PREVIOUSLY PROPOSED COMMITTEE WAS SEEN AS A MOVE TO CONTINUE THE NCPO’S POWER?

That was a misunderstanding. Many people are overly worried. People camped out on the streets [during the protests in 2014] because they wanted to see reforms. With no reform, these people will feel that their devotion was wasted. Meechai and his team must come up with a mechanism to ensure national reform succeeds.

If the next government decides not to implement any of the reforms, what will happen to our country? People want to see bureaucratic and political reforms, but there are still some who resist changes. It’s not easy to reform.

WHICH AREAS OF REFORM INTRODUCED BY THE NCPO DOES THE PDRC AGREE WITH?

First, its work on getting rid of corrupt officials. I think this is an outstanding achievement of the NCPO. Second, its work on national security and the monarchy. I think people are satisfied with their performance in these areas. Third, the way they have dealt with problems in times of crisis. People seem to feel they can rely on the NCPO. But there are also many issues that require more time to complete, such as healthcare and education. I think the NCPO is not likely to reform the police force. They may be worried that the force is too big with lots of personnel. Also, in this political situation, I don’t think the NCPO wants to have conflicts with the police.

THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS YOU LED ALLOWED THE MILITARY TO RULE THE COUNTRY. IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WOULD YOU DO THE SAME?

Certainly. It was about stopping an evil government that was destroying the country and our beloved institution. The rice-pledging scheme alone caused national losses of as much as Bt700 billion, and a lot of subsequent problems. The military could not cooperate with us [protesters], so they opted to seize government power. In fact, I didn’t like that option, but I am satisfied that an evil government lost its power and could no longer hurt the country and its people. There was no conspiracy, as alleged. If there were, I would now be part of this government.

WOULD YOU DO THE SAME AGAIN EVEN THOUGH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SAYS THE COUP IS BAD FOR THAILAND’S IMAGE?

I would. I think foreign countries have no right to interfere with our country’s internal affairs. I am dissatisfied with some foreign diplomats. When I met them, I told them frankly that it was not their business. We have never interfered with their countries. We have to tell them clearly or they will keep messing with us too much.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DEMOCRAT PARTY? YOU QUIT THE PARTY BUT ARE STILL VIEWED AS INFLUENTIAL AMONG DEMOCRAT FIGURES.

I no longer have a connection with the party. When I led the protest, I quit the party and announced I would never return. I have friends in the party, many of them like brothers and sisters, but we have gone our separate ways. I certainly have no influence on anyone in the party.

OBSERVERS SAY THE DEMOCRATS WILL FIND IT DIFFICULT TO WIN AN ELECTION, WHILE PHEU THAI IS CONFIDENT OF WINNING. WILL YOU ACCEPT IT IF PHEU THAI WINS AGAIN?

I will accept any party that wins. But if Pheu Thai still lets [former prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra command it, I can’t accept that. I don’t think the public will accept it either. We saw the damage that was done to the country. If Pheu Thai’s policies are really meant for the people’s benefit and not for some party figure’s own interests, then it’s acceptable. The Democrat Party also has to convince people that they can lead the country to progress. I have already suggested they reform the party and their members’ attitudes.

DID YOUR TIME AS A MONK CHANGE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THAKSIN AND YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA?

Personally, I have no bad feelings against them. I could talk with them in person and sit down to have dinner with them. I have no personal grudges. But if Thaksin still tries to command Thailand, I will continue fighting. And if Yingluck comes back for more irregularity, I will lead protests against her again.

Russel puts proviso on normal ties

Posted by pakin On December - 17 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The top US envoy for East Asia, who “left a wound in Thais’ hearts” after his January trip, has told Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha the full normalisation of ties will only come after the “successful return of democracy”.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel’s remarks come in the wake of growing anti-American sentiment among Thai ultra-nationalists.

In a joint news conference after the 5th Thailand-United States Strategic Dialogue meeting, Mr Russel insisted the US acknowledges the government’s roadmap to democracy, but full-scale bilateral cooperation will return only with a civilian-led and democratic government.

“We [the US] wish to restore full engagement with Thailand when the country restores a civilian-led and democratic government,” Mr Russel said.

“I had a chance to share with him [Gen Prayut] some specific areas of our concerns. I also listened carefully to his description of the situation and his roadmap to democracy,” he said, referring to the meeting with Gen Prayut Wednesday.

During Mr Russel’s visit in January, he called for a “more inclusive political process” in Thailand after holding talks with both government officials and ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

He sparked outrage when he said a vote by military-appointed lawmakers to impeach Ms Yingluck could be seen as political, which then deputy foreign minister Don Pramudwinai described “as a wound in Thais’ hearts”.

This time round, Mr Russel said he had shared “hope, woes and concerns” regarding the political situation in Thailand and prospect of improved US-Thai cooperation with Gen Prayut at Government House, after he gave the opening remarks at the dialogue meeting at the Foreign Ministry.

“We care deeply about our relationship with Thailand and will continue to work together in years to come,” Mr Russel said, adding that Thailand will remain a true friend, an important partner and ally.

Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Apichart Chinwanno described his talks with the senior US diplomat which lasted six hours at the ministry as a “frank discussion with a cordial atmosphere” and both sides affirmed they would boost cooperation.

“The partnership of Thailand and the United States will be further strengthened in the Asia-Pacific and beyond,” Mr Apichart said.

A joint statement was released after the meeting with pledges to promote peace, security and prosperity in both the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Thailand and the US will continue their defence cooperation, especially humanitarian assistance and peace keeping, for which Thailand has pledged to provide medical teams and experts to future United Nations peacekeeping missions.

During Mr Russel’s courtesy call at Government House, Gen Prayut told him the main objective of the administration is laying a strong democratic foundation, aiming to free the country from the cycle of political turmoil, according to the deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak.

“The premier told Mr Russel that democracy is more than holding elections and he hoped the US will not use the same standard in engaging with countries which have different levels of development,” Maj Gen Werachon said.

Mr Russel, meanwhile, responded to Gen Prayut saying that the US understanding of Thai political developments has gradually improved, but some issues are still a concern, particularly freedom of expression, human rights and human trafficking.

“Gen Prayut assured Mr Russel that the government gives the media and public freedom to share their views but the views should not increase conflict in the country,” the deputy spokesman said.

Mr Russel kicked off his three-day visit to East Asia in Bangkok on Wednesday as American lawmakers and labour union activists are pressuring the US to penalise Thailand over alleged human slavery in various labour-intensive industries, especially fisheries and poultry.

US officials and rights activists have called on Americans to stop buying fish and shrimp tied to supply chains in Thailand, where the Associated Press claims to have found migrants forced to work in the seafood industry as modern-day slaves.

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