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NCPO to open channels for talks : spokesma

Posted by pakin On October - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The National Council for Peace and Order will continue to look after security but will make its work less obtrusive.

Winthai Suvari, deputy NCPO spokesman, said after the NCPO met with the Cabinet for more than six hours yesterday that the situation in the country is generally orderly and there was no sign of political violence or activities that may destabilise the government.

The NCPO will try to engage those who think differently or do not understand the NCPO and the government in a verbal discussion.

Channels will be opened for students and academics to express themselves in a constructive manner and there won’t be a crackdown as long as they harbour good intentions.

The NCPO will continue to follow up on seven areas that touch on the judicial process and social psychology among other security-related issues and help create a suitable environment for the government to run the country and foster national reconciliation and unity.

Activities to promote and protect the royal institution will continue, and preparations for the honouring of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who will turn 60 next April are underway.

Public safety and security will be beefed up within the timeframe of 60 days, especially for tourists.

As for the violence in the three southernmost provinces, a plan to resolve conflicts and develop the area over the next three years is being readied.

The NCPO and the government would seek to hold a shorter meeting at their next monthly consultation, he added.

60 scholars call on NCPO for ‘freedom’

Posted by pakin On September - 22 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Ban on forum sparks petition for free speech

Sixty scholars from 16 universities have asked the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to better respect their freedom, following the NCPO ban on their latest academic forum on dictatorship.

They have signed a petition to protest against the action of soldiers and police to abruptly cut short a forum titled “The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries” on Thursday. University scholars and organisers took the petition to Khlong Luang police station, Prat Panchakhunathon, lecturer of Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of arts, said Sunday.

The Sept 18 forum, held at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, was joined by scholars including prominent historian Nidhi Eoseewong and Janjira Sombatpoonsiri. The talk was moderated by Prajak Kongkirati.

The three, with other student organisers, were detained for questioning before being released.

Though the  group directed its message to the NCPO, which currently restricts all kinds of political activities, it has not yet decided which agency it will submit the open letter to. On Sunday, members wanted first to unveil their stance publicly to “communicate with society” on the NCPO’s policy, Mr Prat said.

The scholars are aware of the NCPO’s attempts to prevent circumstances that will lead Thailand back to political conflict and further widen the division among pro- and anti-Thaksin groups.

However, the authorities’ action against the participants in the forum was “highly unacceptable”, Mr Prat said.

He said he found the claim unconvincing that the forum topic, which is part of the organisers’ Democracy Classroom, might affect national security.

A forum, no matter whether it is about domestic or foreign politics, is just a normal academic issue, he said. So far, Mr Prat said, there have never been cases, both in and outside Thailand, where this kind of forum affects national security.

The group of scholars wants the NCPO to stop restricting the freedom of university scholars and students.

“If their basic rights to this intellectual exchange within a university are not respected, how can we pin our hopes that Thailand after its reform will be a country where people’s rights are respected?” Mr Prat said.

Academic freedom, he added, is a type of expression that has a low chance of causing harmful impact.

NCPO spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree called for understanding of the authorities’ need to keep “distance the current atmosphere from political activities”.

“If certain agencies want to reflect their problems or make suggestions, they can directly hand in letters to the prime minister and the NCPO chief,” he said.

Col Winthai is worried that expressing their views via other channels may lead to the recurrence of social conflicts that put Thailand in stalemate earlier this year.

One of the 60 petitioners, Kanokrat Sathitniramai, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said soldiers were putting too strict controls on their academic freedom.

Ms Kanokrat was referring to a requirement that scholars must first send topics that will be discussed in forums for the NCPO’s approval.

“That clearly violates academic freedom. With such control, how can we call our work ‘really academic’?” she said.

Despite the ongoing controversy over the NCPO’s role, soldiers in Chiang Mai province have reportedly asked organisers of another academic forum to cancel it, an academic source said.

The forum, scheduled to be held at Chiang Mai University’s faculty of law on Thursday, urges participants to discuss and share their views on happiness and reconciliation under the 2014 interim charter, the source said.

It is co-organised by the university and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which promotes freedom, justice and solidarity.

Prayuth to keep tabs on ministry work

Posted by pakin On September - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Ill-prepared plans face budget vetoes

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered every government ministry to submit performance reports to the cabinet and the budget scrutiny committee every three months for examination.

He was speaking at a meeting with senior state officials about departmental policy at Government House yesterday.

Gen Prayuth said the examinations will be conducted every three months. He said the cabinet will not approve the disbursement of budgets for work plans which are incomplete or have not undergone public hearings.

The plans must be ready to be carried out in time for the next fiscal year starting Oct 1, he said.

The plans will also be examined by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the budget scrutiny committee, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and ministry inspector-generals, he added.

Gen Prayuth played down criticism about the large number of military officers appointed as board members of state enterprises, saying irregularities would be curtailed with soldiers overseeing the organisations.

“If the military officers do not work well, they can be removed,” he said.

He insisted corruption is the most serious issue to monitor and said all ministers, deputy prime ministers and civil servants must be vigilant about the matter.

He also urged the public to help protect the monarchy, warning there is still a movement afoot to destroy the institution.

Gen Prayuth noted his overseas visits as prime minister would begin in November.

Asked whether he would pay a visit to the US, Gen Prayuth said: “If they want to meet me, I will go.” He added that plans are also being drawn up to organise cabinet meetings in the provinces, saying the meetings would be held in all regions of the country.

Meanwhile, the NACC has requested cabinet members to declare their assets by Oct 3.

NACC deputy secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said cabinet members will have to declare their assets, as well as liabilities, within 30 days of pledging an oath of allegiance to His Majesty the King on Sept 4. That means the due date falls on Oct 3. The NACC will publish cabinet members’ assets within 30 days, or by Nov 2.

He was speaking after a brief talk with cabinet members to inform them about regulations concerning the declaration of ministers’ assets at Government House yesterday.

Mr Worawit reiterated the assets of ministers, their spouses and underage children must be submitted altogether in line with the charter.

The constitution prohibits a cabinet member from holding more than 5% of the shares of any private firm. If they want to keep the stakes, they have to inform the NACC within 30 days of their appointment to office.

They are obliged to transfer their shares to their authorised juristic officials within 90 days and report the matter to the NACC within 10 days from the transfer.

Appointed political officers will also be required to proceed with their asset declarations in the same way ministers do, Mr Worawit said.

Unregistered spouses who hold assets on behalf of ministers are also bound to submit their assets and liabilities, he said.

The standard of the assets scrutiny will be on par with what the NACC carried out for other governments, Mr Worawit insisted.

He said members of the NCPO are not obliged to submit their assets and liabilities by law, but since most of them are senior state officials, they have been asked to do so.

PM elevates graft fight to top priority

Posted by pakin On September - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Defence plan flags poll law, NLA changes

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha accepted a proposal by the National Defence College (NDC) Monday that the fight against corruption should be made “the core national strategy”.

Speaking at a gathering of the NDC’s Class 56, Gen Prayuth said combating corruption is the key policy of the government and the military regime, even though the issue is not one of the 11 fields earmarked for national reform.

“Now Thailand has both crisis and opportunity, the challenge is how we can turn crisis into opportunity,” he said.

The prime minister said the crackdown on corruption is not listed as one of the reform fields because the issue is considered central to each category of reform. Stamping out corruption will be incorporated into those 11 fields, be it politics or public spending, he said.

The NDC is considered the country’s top educational institution on strategy and security studies. Its students are senior officers from the three armed forces, the police, civilian officials from government agencies and high-profile executives from the private sector.

At Monday’s gathering, Class 56 presented the 2015-2019 national strategic defence proposal which has listed corruption as the most urgent issue and challenge facing the country.

Under the proposal, tackling corruption must be made a national strategy and resources should be mobilised from all sectors to deal with it.

The proposal also calls for stricter enforcement of corruption-related laws and recommends use of social sanctions to deter fraudulent practices. Mechanisms should be established to allow for examination and confiscation of ill-gotten assets.

Legal amendments on the election of MPs and cabinet ministers are also suggested to make sure political office-holders are good enough for the job.

The proposal also suggests the National Legislative Assembly may be extended after a fresh election to baby-sit parliament.

Other suggestions include a need to strengthen the civic network and promote public participation and the possibility of allowing state officials to seek a transfer to work in politics on the assumption that politics should not be limited to politicians only.

Gen Prayuth said he is pleased the NDC shares a similar approach to the government and the National Council for Peace and Order.

“Today is my first day at Government House and this is my first official outing as the prime minister. I am standing here in the capacity of prime minister, the NCPO chief, and the army commander. The problems remain the same,” he said.

He said another urgent issue is the administration of state affairs. He emphasised the need for all government agencies to work in unison.

He said it is also important to understand who is in charge when all agencies have to work together, and which is the key agency. Without this, money could go to waste, he said.

On national security, Gen Prayuth said all sectors are responsible but they have different roles to play, noting security is not just about border issues.

He also admitted the second phase of the road-map laid out by the NCPO is a tough task.

It is about building and promoting sustainability for the country in one year.

“We should help strengthen the bricks of democracy that are crumbling. I didn’t steal power in the coup. The [Yingluck] government didn’t have full power. So we stepped in to take over,” he said.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Khumchaya urged agencies under his supervision to step up their fight against graft and corruption.

Cases before the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, which is responsible for investigating corruption practices by state officials, had increased by 168%, he said.

The minister also instructed justice agencies to compile outdated laws for revision and improvement.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman for the army, said the secretariat office of the NCPO will be moved from the army headquarters to Ban Manangkasila.

She said the number of staff will be also cut as the NCPO is expected to reduce its role after the interim government takes office.

She noted the NCPO will meet once a week and will meet the government once a month.