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A meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Tuesday approved the invocation of special power under Article 44 of the interim charter to accelerate the development of projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Invocation of this special power is expected to take place in the next few days, covering three areas, said Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

First, it will be executed to speed up the conduct of environment impact assessment (EIA) of each of the planned key projects in the EEC, with the national environment committee being able to appoint a panel of experts to dedicatedly study the environment impact of specific projects.

Foreign experts will also be allowed to sit on this committee, which will have to finish the EIA study of each project within a year of receiving the preliminary EIA report on the project, he said.

Second, the special power provided for under Article 44 will empower the board steering EEC development policy to approve the various public-private partnership (PPP) projects that will be set up in the corridor, without the need to seek consideration of the PPP committee, the spokesman said.

However, approvals of these PPP projects will have to involve consultation with the Finance Ministry and related state agencies in order to ensure transparency.

Third, Article 44 invocation will permit foreign private-aviation firms to hold a share of more than 50 per cent in aviation-related businesses they plan to invest in the EEC’s aviation industry zone, Sansern said.

Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said the board steering EEC development policy, which is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, would have direct authority to consider on a case-by-case basis which foreign companies should be allowed to over 50 per cent in aviation businesses within the zone, as the privilege would not be on offer to all foreign entities.

Foreign firms eligible to enjoy the privilege must submit proposals that cover investment, technology transfer, local employment, and a plan to support related businesses in Thailand, the minister explained.

The EEC – taking in the provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong – is targeted for massive infrastructure spending to support technologically advanced industries.

 

PHEU THAI Party politician Watana Muangsook yesterday was released on bail of Bt80,000 by the military court on condition that he does not get involved in political provocations and cannot leave the country without court permission.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday had sought the military court’s permission to extend Watana’s detention for his alleged violation of an NCPO order.

The politician denied the allegation, saying he had just expressed his opinion on a social network and had not violated any agreement with the NCPO, according to his lawyer Narinpong Jinapak.

Watana is accused of breaking an agreement with the NCPO that he would not carry out political activities, which he had signed for his previous release from detention.

The politician has been detained four times, including the most recent detention, which was justified because he had violated the NCPO Announcement Number 39/2557, according to an NCPO source.

The politician has been on a partial hunger strike since being detained on Monday, consuming only coconuts and juice.

Students get Army lessons on referendum

Posted by pakin On February - 29 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Critics say students shouldn’t be used as ‘political machinery’; teachers endorse NCPO pole in coup.

A VAST historical battlefield at the foot of the legendary mountain Khao Chon Kai is usually the site of weapons and ammunition stockpiles for military training.

But now it is dotted with giant infographic vinyl boards in preparation for a new campaign.

As a referendum on the new charter draft draws near, the Army has turned this training field into an open classroom for Thai Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students from across the country. Its aim is to educate these forces about democracy and the content of the new charter so they can help to encourage people to turn out and cast their votes.

The one-day charter introductory course is part of the “ROTC Volunteer” project the Army introduced a few months ago to recruit the corps to do extra volunteer work, including raising public awareness on issues of importance.

Under the project, up to 80,000 ROTC students have registered with the consent of their parents. Army chief General Theerachai Nakvanich has expressed a wish to see students help to move the country forward.

Since the first charter draft was developed more than a year ago, opposition has been growing, raising fears that the trend could undermine efforts ahead of the referendum. A low voter turnout is among the issues of concern as it could result in the referendum being considered invalid.

Controversial topics and content to be presented include the new election methods for MPs, Senators and the premiership; the prime minister’s role; and stringent measures limiting politicians’ power and governing their conduct.

Territorial Defence Command Chief Lt-General Weerachai Intusophon said the Army realised the referendum would involve important decisions about the country’s future and people should have a good understanding of it before making a decision.

As a result, the military plans to educate students and assign them to encourage voters to exercise their voting rights.

The volunteer students will be visiting communities in every district from March to May before the referendum near the end of July.

“At least, they will be able to ignite people’s interest in the new charter to learn more about it,” Weerachai said.

In talks with the Election Commission (EC), the Territorial Defence Command agreed to develop the unconventional training class, which is meant to expose students to the charter draft and referendum. According to Sampun Sangkumlerd, deputy director general of the Department of Election Campaign and Information Dissemination, students will then have a role in returning democracy to the country.

In the course curriculum, instruction materials are used along with verbal instructions, according to Maj-General Prakran Padavanija, commanding general of the Reserve Affairs Centre. Students are also meant to learn ideas by themselves using the infographic boards, he said.

The newly designed curriculum is based on six installations, which present subjects including environmental preservation, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) roadmap, the referendum roadmap, the controversial content of the charter draft, the concept of democratic citizenship and the volunteers’ mission, said Lt-Colonel Boonlerst Yimyai, a lead trainer.

The content is then transformed into fieldwork. Last week, The Nation observed as the six installations were set up at the Khao Chon Kai military camp on an outdoor cement platform. The installations are called “Learning Stations” and decorated with large, coloured vinyl canvases.

About 600 female reservists trotted to the learning bases to escape the scorching sun. A couple of young military trainers greeted the girls and instructed them to sit down.

The students were divided into six groups to visit each station with each learning session lasting seven minutes. When one session finished, students moved to another base where a military trainer explained the NCPO’s roadmap and mission with a large picture of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in the backdrop.

“If [during the 2014 coup] the NCPO had not taken the country over and governed it, what would have happened” the trainer asked the audience.

“How would Thailand have been seen in other countries’ eyes” she continued.

“Bad,” responded the students.

Standing by the side of the NCPO’s roadmap display, a male trainer explained the new election system outlined by the draft charter. “Look at the infographic board and go through the content,” said the trainer.

A couple of minutes passed. “The new election method enables people to get involved in politics more,” the trainer added.

“Understand” shouted the young trainer. “Yes!” answered the fourth-year female students.

After finishing sessions at every base, some students shared their views with The Nation. Napath Rattanakrittiyapar, a female fourth-year student said: “It gave me a rough idea of the referendum. It’s good. The NCPO is also good. They are clear and manage things [in an] orderly [way].”

Some students, however, thought differently.

“My friends and I did not learn about the charter draft much in the camp. I’m not really interested in politics and the charter. Only a couple of my friends in the battalion joined the ROTC Volunteer project,” said Thun Chakshuraksha, a leader of the second-year student battalion.

Since the course began, some political observers have voiced concerns over the short duration of the training, saying a few minutes were not enough to help the students to understand the complicated content of the charter draft and the referendum. But more critically, they questioned whether it was appropriate to get Army reservists involved in political matters.

“This is not the Army’s responsibility, but I’m not surprised about this move. This is a military government,” said Sombat Boonngamanong, a pro-democracy activist known as Bor Kor Lai Jud.

“This could be a strategy convincing people to accept the charter. This is political machinery asking people to cast votes in the referendum,” said the activist, who specialises in using political symbolism. EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn disagreed: “[For ROTC students] to campaign to draw people’s attention to the charter draft and the referendum is fine. It is not using the students to instruct people to vote ‘Yes’. But if that was so, it would be unacceptable.”

The EC also insisted it had designed the content to fit the course duration. “The content regarding democracy and the road to the referendum is simple and concise. We only aim to raise the students’ awareness of democratic citizenship, a general election and the referendum,” Sampun said.

ROTC students are also using social media daily and can pass on what they learn to other people around country, which was the real reason why they were chosen, lead trainer Boonlerst said.

“It is easier to teach the young than the old. The reason why we target ROTC students is that it is easy for us to approach them, compared to high school or university students,” he said.

Junta accused by Amnesty of rights violations

Posted by pakin On February - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Annual report highlights numerous restrictions and alleged abuses.

ALLEGED human-rights infringements by the military and claims of ill-treatment of victims in the legal system were Amnesty International’s top concerns in Thailand over the past year, AI said in its annual report yesterday.

“[Thailand’s] military authorities extended their powers to excessively restrict rights and silence dissent in the name of security,” the report said. “The numbers of people harassed, prosecuted, imprisoned and arbitrarily detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights escalated sharply.”

The country’s political transition plans were also delayed, the report says, along with increasing arrests and prosecutions under the lese majeste law.

AI Thailand’s chairman Chamnan Chanruang said civilians were brought before military courts and charged with offences against internal security, “the security of monarchy” and infringement of orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The Bangkok Military Court also summarily dismissed a number of legal petitions questioning its jurisdiction over civilians and seeking a ruling on the incompatibility of the use of military courts with the Kingdom’s international human-rights obligations, Chamnan said during a release of the report at a Bangkok hotel.

Such incompatibility was seen in charges against and detention of activists of the New Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen groups, who carried out separate peaceful public protests against the junta government, he said.

The charges followed the NCPO order 3/2015, he said, authorising military officers arbitrarily to detain individuals and censor a variety of media, and criminalised public political meetings of five or more people.

The abuses also occurred in the form of the opening of a temporary military detention facility for civilian detainees in September, and the deaths of two detainees in custody in October and November, he said.

A draft bill criminalising torture and enforced disappearance was put before the National Legislative Assembly but had made no further progress since last year, he said.

Amnesty claimed human-rights abuses included continuation of the armed conflict in the predominantly Muslim region in the deep South, with civilians being targets of attacks suspected to have been carried out by armed groups, he said.

There were also restrictions on freedom of expression towards citizens and journalists. Two journalists from the online news site Phuketwan were acquitted of defamation charges after a long court battle with the Navy, which had sued them for publicising a Reuters article exposing official involvement in human trafficking, he said.

Regarding abuses against refugees’ and migrants’ rights, he said Thai authorities deported 109 people of Turkic origin to China, where they were at risk of convictions, and prohibited Muslim Rohingya passengers from landing in the Kingdom. They were also slow to set up search and rescue operations for boats in distress, he said.

To counter its concerns, AI urged the Thai government to alleviate restrictions against peaceful commentators and human-right defenders. It said it must also amend the lese majeste law by abolishing clauses allowing parties to appeal against one another over charges, AI said.

The government must also unconditionally dismiss charges against any party merely exercising its right of expression, the AI report said.

The international non-governmental organisation urged Thai authorities to adopt an independent investigative process and pass the draft bill criminalising torture and enforced disappearance, in accordance with international human-rights laws.

In regards to conflicts in southern Thailand, there must be an efficient investigative process – together with detainees’ ensured access to their lawyers and relatives, including a successful search for long-disappeared lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit.

AI urged the government to respect a principle on non-refoulement and ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It urged the government officially to abstain from using the death penalty, despite its practical dormancy in the Kingdom since 2009, it said.

AI’s annual report was handed to and acknowledged by a representative from the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Organisations at the end of the launching event.

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