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Yingluck’s fate sealed, says Pheu Thai

Posted by pakin On January - 19 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Ex-PM’s allies claim NLA urged to impeach

It is clear that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be impeached when the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) decides her fate on Friday, according to the Pheu Thai Party.

The military and the NLA, meanwhile, have reiterated that lawmakers are free to vote however they see fit and claim there has been no direction from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) or the government on which way to vote.

However, Pheu Thai core member Surapong Tovichakchaikul said NLA members have already made up their minds about the allegations against Ms Yingluck, citing her absence from Friday’s questioning.

Some NLA members, especially those from the Group of 40 Senators, are hostile towards Ms Yingluck and are bent on impeaching her, he said.

Mr Surapong maintained the National Anti Corruption Commission’s (NACC) probe into Ms Yingluck’s role in the rice-pledging scheme has been hasty and its conclusion that her behaviour implies corruption is more of a feeling than a carefully considered conclusion.

Another key Pheu Thai member, red-shirt leader Worachai Hema, said the former prime minister’s fate has already been decided.

He said the impeachment process against Ms Yingluck is part of a campaign to uproot obstacles in the way of the coup-makers and those who want to prolong Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s stay in power.

Ms Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years if she is impeached.

She is unlikely to survive the impeachment vote, Mr Hema said, adding that former House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranon and ex-Senate speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich, who both face impeachment proceedings for supporting a charter amendment bid, are likely to be impeached too.

A source close to Pheu Thai’s internal affairs committee said Sunday the NACC and the NLA are in league in the case against Ms Yingluck.

The source warned about possible political unrest in the aftermath, saying the NLA would face tremendous pressure and social division would be rekindled if it rules against the former premier.

Supreme Commander Gen Worapong Sanganet insisted Sunday the NCPO and the government are not pulling strings in the impeachment vote, set for Friday.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark Royal Thai Armed Forces Day, Gen Worapong, also a member of the NCPO, said lawmakers, including those close to the military, will decide freely when casting their vote.

The NCPO and government will not interfere with their judgement, he said.

All 220 NLA members were handpicked by the NCPO and more than 100 of them are former and active military officers.

By law, the votes of three-fifths of the 220 NLA members, or 132 members, are needed to impeach Ms Yingluck.

Gen Worapong played down speculation about possible violence breaking out following the NLA rulings, saying he believed the public would accept the decisions and support the government’s efforts to return peace and order.

NLA vice-president Surachai Liangboonlertchai maintained there has been no direction or intervention, as the NLA prepared to cast a secret ballot.

Mr Nikhom and Mr Somsak will deliver closing statements on Wednesday while Ms Yingluck will do so on Thursday.

Ms Yingluck can choose whether or not to address the questions prepared by the NLA’s inquiry committee when making her closing statement, he said.

The questions were made public on Friday, when Ms Yingluck failed to appear before the NLA to answer the 35 questions.

Her lawyers and former ministers who turned up to testify on her behalf were not allowed to answer the questions, as the NLA insisted they were designed for Ms Yingluck alone.

“Ms Yingluck has another chance to answer the questions. I believe the NLA will give them [the NACC and Ms Yingluck] the opportunity before the vote on Friday,” Mr Surachai said.

The NLA would review the situation and decide whether extra security measures would be necessary to make sure that voting would not be disrupted, he said, adding the situation would be kept under control. He called on the public to accept the outcome.

A source in the NLA said that its president, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, has instructed all members to attend the meeting from Wednesday until Friday and told those who are overseas to return by Tuesday.

The ex-premier will appear before the NLA to make her closing statement, said her lawyer, Norawit Lalaeng.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also oversees the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed relevant security agencies to use appropriate channels to prosecute people who violate the security law, junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said yesterday.

Winthai said that after a meeting between the Cabinet and the NCPO, Prayut said violators of security laws, living both in Thailand and overseas, would be given a fair chance to prove their innocence and fight through the judicial process.

The prime minister acknowledged also that not many people understand the situation and that an appropriate channel is necessary to ensure there are no negative feelings, especially among university students.

Prayut has instructed state agencies engaged in procurement and construction projects to ensure there is no bribery and corruption so the public can have trust in the government’s work

Scholars decry protest repression

Posted by pakin On November - 21 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Lecturer says regime treats critics as ‘enemies’

Soldiers’ harsh reactions to students holding symbolic demonstrations against the coup could cause more harm than good for reform and reconciliation, political experts warn.

But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stood firm on retaining martial law indefinitely. He said it was the only way to maintain national security.

“Tell me this. Who’s troubled by it?” he asked, quickly adding, “Conflict and social disparity must be stopped.”

Surichai Wun’Gaeo, Chulalongkorn University’s director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the government should ease rules to allow free expression.

He said prohibiting freedom of expression could hinder reform and reconciliation because engagement is important for change.

“At first, people naturally allowed the NCPO to have full control over the situation. But it has been six months after the coup, and it should be time to create a more conducive and semi-normal environment for the election,” said the associate professor.

His comments came as police detained three student activists for anti-coup activities outside two Bangkok cinemas that are screening the latest chapter of The Hunger Games film series.

Two students were apprehended at Scala cinema for giving media interviews. The third was taken into custody outside Siam Paragon cinema after flashing The Hunger Games’ three-finger gesture, which symbolises rebellion against totalitarian rule.

On Wednesday, five members of Khon Kaen University’s Dao Dinstudent group were detained after they carried out a small anti-coup protest while Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was delivering a speech during his visit to the province.

Eleven other students from several universities were also briefly detained in Bangkok after they gathered at the Democracy Monument to give moral support to the Khon Kaen students.

“There are many issues that people have grievances about, and the government should be more open-minded and mature enough to regain the trust of the people,” Mr Surichai said.

Somphan Techa-athik, a humanities and social science lecturer at Khon Kaen University, said the students’ show of defiance was their reaction to the clampdown on freedom of expression.

“This is a transition to democracy, and those with different ideas should not be treated as enemies,” said Mr Somphan, adding that the military government must try to open space to allow people to express their opinions.

Some political scientists shared a similar view that the increasing dissatisfaction with the military is becoming a challenge to the military administration on how to handle its opponents.

Both Sukhum Chaloeysap of Suan Dusit Rajabhat University and Wanwichit Boonprong of Rangsit University said if the government responded to those anti-coup activities with forceful actions, the resistance would intensify.

On the other hand, if the government was too gentle in dealing with the dissenters, more groups will follow suit, the experts said.

Mr Wanwichit, meanwhile, said the NCPO has to distinguish between political movements and public participation in politics.

The political scientist also warned that if opponents of the military government were not given room to express their opinions freely, they would eventually turn to social media, which is far more difficult to control.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he was confident the majority of the people in this country understood what the authorities were doing.

“Give us one year. When the National Reform Council finishes its task, the country will then head for an election. That is it,” said Gen Prawit, who added he was not worried about the current anti-coup movements.

In another development, a group of 102 academics, writers and activists issued a statement calling for the military government to lift martial law as soon as possible.

In Khon Kaen, the Dao Din group posted a message on its Facebook page saying all five students have been released after their “meetings” with the military. It said Jetsarit Namkot and Phayu Boonsophon had signed an agreement to stop activities against the military after their families had pressured them.

The other three students — Jatupat Boonpatraksa, Wichakorn Anuchon and Wasan Seksit — had refused to sign the agreement and they were later released without being charged, the group said. Likhit Amatayakhong, deputy rector of Khon Kaen University, said the university has yet to take any disciplinary action against the five students.

Luang Pu calls for new body to police MPs

Posted by pakin On November - 14 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Monk’s reform plans aim to protect morality

Activist monk Phra Buddha Isra, also known as Luang Pu, yesterday proposed the establishment of a national body to regulate the ethical conduct of politicians at all levels.

Speaking after a meeting with National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Wichitcholachai, the monk said he had asked the assembly to draft a bill allowing for a new national institute to govern politicians.

He said he also asked the NLA to amend the law to drop the 20-year statute of limitations on all corruption cases and suggested that politicians accused of graft should be suspended.

Phra Buddha Isra is the abbot of Wat Or Noi in Nakhon Pathom. Aside from meeting the NLA, he was yesterday invited to give his recommendations on national reform to Thienchay Kiranandana, chairman of the National Reform Council (NRC) and his deputy Borwornsak Uwanno, who is also chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

The monk proposed the establishment of three further councils — a national morality council, a national farming council and a national energy council.

He also forwarded a 90-point proposal on energy reform to the NRC and CDC for consideration. The proposal was drawn up after public forums between civil society groups and the Energy Ministry.

Phra Buddha Isra meanwhile criticised any political party that refuses to take part in the charter drafting process and called for the lifting of martial law to allow those involved in politics to hold meetings discussing the charter. He also voiced support for a national referendum on the constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday called on political parties to seek permission from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) if they want to hold meetings to debate reform proposals and the content of the new charter.

His remarks came after politicians called for the NCPO to ease its ban on public gatherings to allow political parties to debate ideas for the new constitution.

He said he believes the NCPO will ease the restrictions if parties inform the council of their plans to hold meetings.

Mr Wissanu also brushed aside concerns that the CDC might ignore the views of outsiders, denying accusations that the move to invite input from various political groups was a ploy to give the charter-drafting process legitimacy.

“The CDC has good intentions. It wants to hear views from political parties and other groups and believes that will be useful in drafting the charter,” he said. “I think political parties should participate. If they don’t want to meet the CDC, they can submit their opinions in writing. It would be a pity to let the opportunity slip.”

Meanwhile, NCPO spokesman Winthai Suwaree said political parties may ask for permission to conduct activities to brainstorm ideas for the new constitution.

He said the NCPO will consider requests on a case-by-case basis and will likely allow activities that have no hidden political agenda, do not breach national security guidelines and are deemed to be in the best interests of the nation.

Pheu Thai’s acting deputy leader Plodprasop Suraswadi yesterday said the party is currently unlikely to join activities relating to the coup-sponsored government.

He said its members would only offer broad suggestions or ideas if it chose to give input at all.

However, the party would have to hold a meeting to decide on the matter, which is currently impossible due to the NCPO’s ban, he said.