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ALMOST HALF the local leaders from 600 communities surveyed by Master Poll wanted the government to cancel a plan to buy 89 high-tech microphones for the Cabinet room that cost about Bt100,000 each.

The poll conducted from September 11-13 released the results yesterday. It showed that 47.2 per cent wanted the project scrapped and 50.8 of respondents felt there was something fishy about the planned procurement of microphones costing Bt100,000.

However, 49.3 per cent of the public said they felt nothing was wrong with the purchase deal, 35.2 per cent supported it, 17.6 per cent said the plan should be cancelled and the official in charge of the project step down to take responsibility.

PM’s Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul said he did not want to see conflict among state agencies over the plan to buy the high-cost microphones, saying the deal was being checked by the committee to monitor state spending.

“I do not want to see state agencies passing the blame to one another. I have been trying to iron out their differences to bring about peace and unity to the Government House,” he said.

He said that the government’s honeymoon period was over and it now had to rush to work.

Poll: public likes NCPO’s style

The PM’s Office has been assigned to arrange a meeting between the Cabinet and permanent secretaries from all ministries and provincial governors on Wednesday when the prime |minister would inform them of the government’s policies.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva urged the government to ensure transparency in spending state funds for all projects. He said the public wanted transparency most in the use of “central funds” which the PM and the Cabinet had the power to approve.

He warned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha that controversies like that of the pricey microphone could create repercussions for his administration. The PM had better ensure the committee he appointed to check the planned procurement of the microphones made the truth prevail. He said the PM must ensure that no more such controversies are repeated.

Master Poll also revealed that people wanted the government not to fall into bureaucratic traps with 27 per cent voicing such concern, 20 per cent warned the government against becoming intoxicated with power, money or women – together with flattering civil servants, capitalists and close aides.

About 17 per cent suggested the government start work immediately to tackle pressing issues – while 34 per cent said the government needed no suggestions as it had performed well.

Asked why the public had accepted the junta seizing power, 57 per cent said people wanted the junta to heal national division, 32 per cent said it was needed to fight corruption, 7.4 per cent said to help solve economic problems.

About 84 per cent preferred the working style of the NCPO because the junta seemed to be seriously address issues the country faces. The rest said they preferred the government’s working style because its image was better than the junta’s among the foreign community, 78 per cent said they were most satisfied with the junta’s crackdown on hawkers on the beach.

NCPO mulls border shakeup

Posted by pakin On September - 15 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Migrant workers could travel to border towns without passports, writes Penchan Charoensuthipan

Thai labour authorities are designing new regulations that would allow workers from neighbouring countries to enter Thailand and legally work in border areas without passports.

The move would work alongside the military regime’s plans to develop special economic zones in border areas.

Permanent secretary for labour Jirasak Sukhonthachat said the plan has been proposed to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for consideration.

The new regulations would be issued in compliance with Section 14 of the Alien Working Act, which stipulates that workers from neighbouring countries who enter Thailand may be allowed to work in border areas with an entry document in lieu of a passport.

The regulations would stipulate which documents could be substituted for passports, where the workers could work, suitable occupations and work timeframes for those foreign workers, Mr Jirasak said.

The regulations must be approved by the cabinet before negotiations with neighbouring countries can go ahead, he added.

The NCPO in July approved special economic zones (SEZs) to be set up in the border towns of Sadao in Songkhla, Mae Sot in Tak, Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo, Khlong Yai in Trat and Mukdahan province.

According to Prime Minister and NCPO head Prayuth Chan-ocha, several more SEZs would be developed in the run-up to the Asean Economic Community next year.

The plan will address labour shortages in border areas.

Many business operators have complained that migrant workers leave border towns for big cities after they pass the national verification process and obtain passports.

Employment Department director-general Sumet Mahosot and Laos’ director-general of the Labour Skills Development and Labour Recruitment Department, Phouvanh Chanthavong, agreed to cooperate on the regulations earlier this month at talks in Nong Khai.

Mr Sumet said both sides agreed that workers from Laos should be allowed to cross the Thai border for daily work using just border passes. Details would be ironed out in the next round of talks, he said.

Mr Phouvanh said his fellow Laotians often come to Thailand to work in rice fields and other jobs in Thai border towns.

A source at a local business said it is common practice for workers from neighbouring countries to use border passes or temporary passes to enter Thailand for work, even though the documents are not work permits.

By law, a border pass only allows foreigners to enter Thailand to visit or trade, not to work. As a result, migrants working using border passes are illegal.

“We want to see legitimate employment where workers can be protected, while moving through the border systematically,” Mr Phouvanh said.

“If not, the problems of illegal migrant workers will not end.”

Out of Laos’ population of 6 million, 3.6 million are of working age, and authorities have established job centres in every province for residents who are seeking employment.

A 19-year-old Lao woman, who gave her first name as Orn-anong, said she came to Thailand to earn money during the university break.

She said she earned 2,400 baht a week from checking cargo stocks at a Thai trading company in Nong Khai.

Ms Orn-anong insisted she had no problems working in Thailand as far as communication and culture are concerned.

She said she entered Thailand with a temporary border pass at Wat Hai Sok in Nong Khai’s Muang district without paying anything, except her boat fare.

She registered her name using her Lao identification card and giving her reason of entry. No strict checks were enforced there, she added.

Friends of Women Foundation staff member Ubon Pakphum, who conducted a study of Lao workers in Mukdahan’s Don Tan district, said Thai employers, including rice field owners, often ask Lao brokers to find workers for them.

The labourers are then taken over the border with temporary passes and employers pick them up at jetties along the border, she said.

Workers are also verified at checkpoints set up by village headmen or local leaders.

The alien workers are required to register at border crossings, while their employers and brokers must also sign off employment guarantees.

Ms Ubon said if the new regulation is invoked, workers’ registration fees should not be too high, as they would burden labourers.

The fees should vary according to the type of employment, she said.

Labour Ministry officials have held talks with their counterparts from Myanmar and Cambodia about possible ways to regulate migrant workers entering Thailand for work on a daily basis.

The countries reportedly agreed with the regulation and said they would forward the issue to their governments for consideration.

A source at the Employment Department confirmed that Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia officials had agreed on the changes in bilateral talks with Thai officials.

The countries also agreed that E-border passes should be used instead of paper documents to expedite the process, the source said.

Royal model woven into govt policy

Posted by pakin On September - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

One-year mission to be spelt out on Friday

PRIME MINISTER Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has mapped out policies for his one-year mission emphasising the King’s sufficiency philosophy, the junta’s guidelines and demands from the people, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said after a special Cabinet meeting yesterday.

The policies to be announced on Friday to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) cover 11 sectors and include parts of the 11th national development plan prepared by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), he said.

Prayuth called a special Cabinet meeting yesterday to explain working procedures to his ministers, Wissanu said. The premier wants ministers to check what relevant ministries have done since the May 22 coup, he said, noting that the ministers would be given a handbook on how to carry out their jobs.

The premier, his deputies and officials from the National Budget Bureau spent the last weekend adjusting a draft of the policies set to be announced to the NLA, he said.

The administration’s policies differ from those of elected governments, which are usually prepared by political parties ahead of election campaigns. The new government’s policies came from five sources within the state apparatus, Wissanu said. The five sources are royally granted strategy, sufficiency philosophy, the 11th national development plan, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s roadmap, plus 12 principles and people demands, he said.

Prayuth has assimilated His Majesty’s grand strategy into all the policies, he said. The royal strategy has three principles: understand, reach out and develop. The King granted these to the Thaksin Shinawatra government to use for conflict resolution in the deep South. The sufficiency philosophy emphasises rational and social protection, he said.

“The prime minister wants to clarify people’s problems in the policy paper. People want to know clearly whether their home could be nationalised, how land zoning will look. And whether they are in agricultural or industrial zones,” Wissanu said.

“Over 60 governments in the past have only had a constitutional obligation to administer the country, but the provisional charter commissions three duties for this government – running the country, reform and reconciliation,” said Wissanu who drafted the 2014 Constitution.

The government’s policies cover 11 sectors including economics, education, religion, security, the environment and foreign affairs, he said. The policy has three timeframes; one month, one year for mid-term and 5-10 years for long-term plans, he said.

“The double rail system, for instance is a long-term plan for future governments, but this government must lay out the foundation and legal frameworks,” he said.

Prayuth’s motto was, he said, act first, do it seriously and yield results that can be turned into action, Wissanu said.

The government would also give importance to the National Reform Council (NRC) as architects of the country’s future. The government would coordinate and cooperate with the NRC, but not intervene in its work, he said. Only 250 people would be picked as NRC members, but others shortlisted would be able to give input to the forum. They may be selected as advisers or subcommittees for reform tasks.

Mapping out plans of action

After the policies are announced, the government would meet with ministries and departments to map out action plans to implement tasks.

“We have to realise that this government has only one year in office, not four as other elected government, so the policy will be completed within a year,” he said. “Democracy is the goal, ridding the country of corruption is another goal. We will do what we can to reach the objectives of having a new Constitution and a newly elected government.”

“Of course, we have to address human-rights issues in the policy paper. We talk about legal and justice reform. The policy mentions security as well as human rights and freedom,” he said.

Problems in the deep South were addressed in a security context, but no timeframe has been set for peace in the predominantly Muslim region, he said.

Ampon Kittiampon, the Cabinet’s secretary-general, said ministers would officially start working only after the policies are declared on Friday.

Yesterday, PM’s Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana was assigned to represent the government in coordinating with the NLA.

As the government takes over, the NCPO will need to reduce its role after Cabinet starts working, Wissanu said. He said the NCPO would not have authority to issue orders or summon anyone for questioning, unless it takes recourse in martial law. Several panels appointed by the NCPO must be restructured under the government.

Democrats urge scrutiny of government

Posted by pakin On September - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Abhisit denies saying reform process will take three years

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has stressed the need for more vigorous monitoring mechanisms to scrutinise the interim government and keep corruption in check.

Mr Abhisit’s comments came as National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief Prayuth Chan-ocha began his job as prime minister at Government House on Tuesday.

Mr Abhisit said the Prayuth government wields total power in running the country, allowing it to take action more swiftly than past elected governments, particularly in pushing legislation.

Even though some independent organisations and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which acts as a parliament, exist, the system to monitor and prevent corruption and policy mismanagement may not be as vigorous as when democracy ruled, Mr Abhisit said. The government leader must find ways to ensure monitoring mechanisms continue to function, he added.

Unlike democratically elected governments, which are usually judged by their pledged policy moves, the current government must explain to the people whether their measures respond to public needs, Mr Abhisit said.

However, he admitted such a comparison may not be applicable in all cases because the current government is only temporary and aims to solve nationwide problems.

Mr Abhisit also wanted the government to focus on solving bread-and-butter issues and high living costs.

He added that he supports Gen Prayuth’s anti-corruption drive, saying corruption will be widespread without mechanisms to monitor and prevent it.

Mr Abhisit also denied saying the Prayuth government could stay in power for up to three years to complete national reform.

He added that many analysts believe the government cannot afford to remain in power for only 18 months or two years.

He said the government’s job will from now on become difficult, particularly regarding reforms which will probably face differing responses and resistance.

Economic issues will be another difficult mission for the government. Besides budget constraints, the uncertainty of the global economy is another challenge.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam said yesterday all cabinet ministers will submit declarations of their assets to the National Anti-Corruption Commission by Oct 2 — within 30 days of being sworn into office last Thursday. Their assets will be revealed to the public, Mr Wissanu added.

Speaking about the NCPO’s role, Mr Wissanu said it will become only an organisation, not a government as it previously was.

From now on, the NCPO can no longer issue any announcements or orders, nor can it summon anyone to report as the government has taken on all decision-making powers on national administration. However, the NCPO can still exercise power under martial law.

During yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Gen Prayuth instructed NCPO section heads to report on their activities over the past three months to provide updates for cabinet ministers who will take over the NCPO’s work, Mr Wissanu said.

The cabinet also discussed the policy address statement which the government is due to deliver before the NLA on Friday, Mr Wissanu said.

He said Gen Prayuth instructed that the government’s policies include the strategies given by His Majesty the King as well as the monarch’s sufficiency economy principle; the NCPO’s three-stage plan for reconciliation, reform, and election; and solutions to problems facing the country and the public.

Mr Wissanu also said that in the past, governments were only required to run the country under constitutions.

But the current interim charter stipulates three tasks for the government for the first time — to run the country, to implement reform and to foster unity, Mr Wissanu said. Therefore, the government’s policy statement address must cover those tasks, he said.

He said the policy statement address will include the 11 areas of reform set out by the NCPO and an anti-corruption campaign will be included as a top priority in the 11 reform categories.

Gen Prayuth has vowed to make the anti-corruption campaign a national priority, saying fighting pervasive graft is a central theme of the government’s national reform strategy.

The 11 areas being targeted for change are politics, law and justice, national administration, local administration, education, the economy, energy, public health and environment, mass media, social affairs, plus a special category to deal with “other issues”.

Mr Wissanu said the interim government is well aware of the limited time frame for its work, unlike other governments which have four years in office.

Its policies are designed for the government to implement within a one-year framework, Mr Wissanu said.

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