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PM urged to suspend Prawit under Article 44

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS


PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha has been urged to exercise his absolute powers to suspend Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan from duty as the deputy premier remains mired in controversy.

“We call on Prayut to use Article 44 to temporarily suspend Prawit from his posts as deputy premier and defence minister without pay until the investigation conclusion,” Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Association, said in a statement issued yesterday, referring to the absolute powers granted to the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

In the statement, Srisuwan said Prawit was facing an investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) regarding whether he had intended to conceal his assets.

Early this month, Prawit landed in hot water after being photographed wearing a flamboyant Richard Mille wristwatch and diamond ring that he had not declared in his assets list to the NACC when taking office in 2014.

Social media users later piled on the pressure by posting photos of Prawit wearing seven other luxury watches while attending recent events.

In his four assets declarations during his on-and-off membership in governments since 2008, Prawit has never declared a single asset worth more than Bt200,000 to the NACC. His latest declaration in 2014 valued his total assets at Bt87 million.

The investigation has also raised questions about the general’s “unusual wealth” regarding his total assets and the expensive watches. Pictures have shown him wearing what look like two Richard Mille watches that are estimated to cost between Bt4 million and Bt10 million.

Srisuwan added that the deputy premier was also facing an online campaign pressuring him to step down over offhand comments he made about the death of cadet Phakhapong “Meay” Tanyakan, who died under suspicious circumstances at a military academy in October. Prawit’s remarks that he had also been previously disciplined harshly but had not died, seeming to blame Phakhapong’s poor health for his death, grabbed national headlines.

Srisuwan cited two previous suspension orders issued by Prayut, asking the premier to treat controversial incidents in a fair manner.

The NCPO chief invoked Article 44 to suspend then-Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who was under investigation over alleged irregularities during his tenure. Prayut also suspended Premsak Piayura, former mayor of Ban Phai Municipality in Khon Kaen, over accusations of misconduct in a case in which a reporter who exposed Premsak’s alleged engagement to a schoolgirl was stripped of his clothes as a form of public embarrassment.

“I hope Prayut will not use a double standard or favour his close associates. [Prawit’s suspension] is necessary to get rid of a bad apple to save the whole bushel, or the whole organisation. It would help to maintain the junta’s good image concerning fighting corruption,” Srisuwan said.

Meanwhile, Prawit smiled yesterday before telling the media briefly that he felt tired amid the mounting pressure on him to resign.

For the past two weeks, the embattled deputy premier has remained silent on how he will explain to the NACC his possession of the items, only saying early on in the affair that he would submit a letter of explanation to the agency.

However, local media have cited an aide to the deputy premier as saying that the watch had belonged to one of Prawit’s close friends who died earlier this year. The aide said the pair had known each other for more than 60 years since their elementary school days.

The unidentified deceased friend, who was described as a businessman and watch lover, lent watches to Prawit, some of which were not returned, the aide reportedly said.


PromptPay to spur cut in trading fee

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The popularity of the PromptPay service will lead e-payment gateways to reduce their fees and launch new services, says a local e-payment gateway pioneer.

“Banks are making an aggressive approach on payment gateways as more merchants use PromptPay because of free transfer fees and accept quick response (QR) code payment, developments that challenge e-payment gateway operators,” said Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, chief executive of Pay Solutions Co, a local payment gateway provider.

According to Bank of Thailand statistics, the highest volume of payment comes from e-payments, compared with other methods of payment such as cheques, ATMs, counter service, internet and mobile.

As of Nov 30, 2017, e-payment volume reached 330 million transactions, up from 302 million transactions in January 2017.

Moreover, intense competition is coming from new players such as BluePay and AirPay.

E-payment provider Paysbuy was a dominant player until its acquisition by Omise in July 2017. To cash in on the thousands of merchants connected to Paysbuy’s payment gateway, Omise has waived the transaction fees for the first 20,000 baht the merchants spend during the first six months.

Pay Solutions is also eyeing a share of Paysbuy traders.

“We hope to attract 10-20% of Paysbuy’s merchants to connect with Pay Solutions,” Mr Pawoot said.

Pay Solutions has developed its gateway to support Alipay by connecting with the authorised partner of Alipay in Thailand, which allows local merchants using its gateway to accept Alipay payment. This is particularly useful for Chinese tourists who need to book accommodation or make purchases in Thailand.

The intense competition has also driven down the payment gateway fee to 3.5-3.6% from more than 4.7%.

Mr Pawoot said the company will also enable its system to accept QR code payment to further help its merchants.

The growth of e-payment mainly came from online-based services including food ordering, booking or reservation and online shopping.

“Our uniqueness is that we accept every payment method, including instalments, and integrate with social media pages for social commerce,” he said.

Piyachart Ratanaprasartporn, chief executive of 2C2P Pte, a Southeast Asia payment service provider, said PromptPay and QR code payment will be important tools to drive e-payment in Thailand. They provide a fast and easy user experience for buyers and low charges for merchants, benefits that are bound to attract more people to adopt the schemes.

Moreover, smartphone players like Samsung and Apple also promote mobile payment.

E-payment is now pretty much borderless, he said, and a successful payment provider is one that provides many payment choices to merchants to expand their coverage, not just locally but across Southeast Asia.

“Online merchants will be consolidated and acquired by big corporations and expand regionally or globally, so payment needs to be cross-border too,” said Mr Piyachart.


IoT pegged to take centre stage in IT strategy

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) platforms will dominate enterprise IT strategies in 2018, according to Hitachi Vantara.

Information technology will adopt IoT platforms to facilitate the application of IoT solutions, and must work closely with the operational side of businesses to focus on specific needs and define the scope of IoT projects, according to a company survey of 2018 IT trends.

“Building IoT solutions that provide real value can be difficult without a deep understanding of the business to properly simulate and digitalise operational entities and processes,” said Hubert Yoshida, chief technology officer of Hitachi Vantara, a subsidiary of Hitachi.

Russell Skingsley, chief technology officer at Hitachi Vantara’s Asia-Pacific division, said enterprises should find IoT platforms that offer open, flexible architecture, simplifying integration with complimentary technologies. The chosen platform should further provide an extensible “foundry” on which to build a variety of industry applications companies need to design, create, test and deploy quickly, with minimal hassle, he said.

For enterprises that started their digital transformation this year, the first problem they ran into was the ability to access their data. Data is often locked in isolated islands that make it costly to extract and use. These islands were not built to be shared, and many contain data that is duplicated, obsolete or no longer used because of changes in business processes or ownership.

“Data scientists tell us that 80% of the work involved in gaining analytical insight from data is the tedious work of acquiring and preparing it. The concept of a data lake is alluring, but you can’t just pour your data into one system, unless it has been properly cleansed, formatted and indexed or tagged with metadata so that the data lake is content-aware. Otherwise you end up with a data swamp,” said Mr Skingsley.

While object storage can take in massive amounts of unstructured data and provide metadata management and search capabilities, the capacity to be context-aware is missing. Object storage now has the capability to be “smart” with software that can search for and read content in multiple structured and unstructured data silos and analyse it for cleansing, formatting and indexing.

Hitachi Vantara said this year would witness a growth in analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) across the board as companies see real returns on their investments. According to IDC, revenue growth from information-based products will double the rest of the product and services portfolios for a third of Fortune 500 companies by the end of 2017.

“AI became mainstream with consumer products like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri,” said Mr Skingsley.

Video content analytics will be a “third eye” for greater insight, productivity and efficiency in a number of domains beyond public safety. Algorithms that automatically detect and determine temporal, spatial and relational events combined with other IoT information such as mobile phone GPS and social media feeds can be applied to a wide range of businesses like retail, healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, education and entertainment.

Mr Yoshida said video can provide unique functions, like ego motion — 3D motion used in autonomous robot navigation — behaviour analysis and other forms of situational awareness.

“Retailers are using video to analyse customer navigation patterns and dwell time to position products and sales assistance to maximise sales. Video analytics relies on good video input so it requires video enhancement technologies like de-noising, image stabilisation, masking and super resolution. Video analytics may be the sleeper in terms of analytics for ease of use, ROI (return on investment) and generating actionable analytics,” said Mr Yoshida.

IT organisations have a legacy of siloed operations with server, network, storage, database, virtualisation and now cloud administrators passing change notices back and forth to deliver a business outcome. In fact, many would argue that IT was more focused on IT outcomes than business outcomes.

“Even when data centres use technology to create shared data repositories to break down the data silos, the different functions were still focused on their own objectives and not on the overall business objectives. Now with cross-functional teams using iterative agile sprints of two to four weeks, IT can focus on relevant business outcomes and deliver it more efficiently,” said Mr Skingsley.


Suthep law call angers Dem leader

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has slammed former protest leaders Suthep Thaugsuban and Paiboon Nititawan for their push for amendments to the organic law on political parties.

It is the first time Mr Abhisit has directly criticised Mr Suthep, a former Democrat secretary-general and powerful voice in the country’s oldest party, over his law amendment proposal which would bring about the “resetting” of all political parties.

Mr Abhisit said the calls to amend the law by the pair are in stark contrast to their gestures of constant support for those in power.

“I want to question the people who are calling for changes to the law. As you have constantly supported those in power [including the drafting of the law], I want to know what the differences are between those days and today and why [do you believe the law has problems today]?” Mr Abhisit said, without mentioning Mr Suthep or Mr Paiboon by name, although it was clear who he was referring to.

Mr Suthep, a former protest leader of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee and Mr Paiboon, head of the People’s Network for Reform, are thought to favour Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the military regime remaining in power beyond the 2018 election.

Mr Suthep has been questioned by some Democrat Party members over claims he has made an agreement with the regime to pave the way for a military party to be established in a way that would afford it advantages over existing parties.

Both Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon have called on the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to amend the organic law on political parties.

They said Section 140 and Section 141 of the law are unfair and should be amended to ensure fair treatment for new parties and new members.

The provisions deal with fees, membership and steps in forming new parties.

According to Mr Paiboon, the law exempts existing members from paying membership fees for four years while requiring members of new parties to pay at least 1,000 baht.

Unlike emerging parties, existing party members will be allowed to be registered despite not having paid fees.

Mr Abhisit said Monday that he felt the argument in support of the organic law on parties being amended to make it fairer does not hold water as the issue could be resolved with the partial removal of the political activities ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Instead of changing the law, the NCPO should lift the political activities ban to prevent established parties having an advantage over new ones, he said.

Small and emerging parties are having trouble recruiting members with the ban in place, and they must also present proof of membership payments to qualify them to contest the next general election, he added.

He said the lifting the ban could be done in stages so small and emerging parties will have a level playing field in preparing for the next poll.

Still, Mr Abhisit said he was confident his party would be able to meet the deadline to present its membership database for review on Jan 15.

Mr Paiboon rejected criticism that his proposals were a trick aimed at delaying the general election or advancing the interests of the military, which has been reluctant to let parties plan for the next poll.

He said enforcement of certain sections of the organic law on political parties should be suspended to ensure the general election takes place in November next year.

Undeterred by criticism he has a secret agenda to help the military remain in power, Mr Paiboon said he will submit his proposals to the prime minister this week.

Also Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam hinted Section 44 of the previous interim charter will be invoked to amend the organic law on political parties to extend the deadlines for them to complete the processes required by the law.

Mr Wissanu has previously said the organic law can be amended through the NCPO chief’s invocation of Section 44 of the previous interim charter, which has been carried over into the current constitution.

The other way to amend the law is through the normal legislative procedure via the NLA.

However, he said the NLA legislative procedure needs to follow Section 77 of the constitution that requires a public hearing as well as consultation with the Election Commission (EC) — a process which will take some time.

In light of this, the use of Section 44 would be the most viable option to expedite the amendment to the organic law, he said.

Even though the EC also has the power to extend the deadlines under the law, any move by the EC may be treated with suspicion should it appear to favour any particular party, so to ensure fairness Section 44 is the only option, Mr Wissanu said.

However, he admitted that any changes to the law would mean nothing if the ban on political activities is not lifted, adding it is up to the NCPO to decide when to lift the ban.

NLA chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholchai admitted that any amendments to the legislation will affect the time frame for the general election tentatively set for November 2018.

He said the NLA has not yet decided whether to amend Sections 140 and 141 of the organic law on political parties as proposed by Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon.

An NLA committee led by NLA deputy chairman Surachai Liangboonlertchai has invited Mr Suthep and Mr Paiboon to discuss their proposals on Friday.