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PM visits Roi Et ‘as a servant, not a boss’

Posted by pakin On August - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday visited the Northeastern province of Roi Et amid speculation his trip was an effort to gain favour in a region that had overwhelmingly rejected the charter draft in the August 7 referendum.

Though Prayut said he planned to visit all provinces regardless of how they had voted in the referendum, he publicly expressed his empathy for the province and the region known as Isaan, and tried to convince them that he had done his best as premier.

“I give importance to Roi Et and the Isaan region the most, no matter whether [Isaan voters] accepted or rejected [the charter draft] referendum,” said Prayut.

“I wholeheartedly trust that the people of Roi Et actually gave me support despite the results. I am never angry about that, and my visit today is as your servant, not a boss, as I’m a military officer serving the people and the country.

“I have not come to make you love me but to bring love to you. We have to work with together for a little while and I want you to have hopes and see the future.”

Prayut urged them to embrace the referendum as a starting point for democracy. He asked them not to be concerned about who would become the next prime minister, and said they should consider the performance of candidates rather than listen to what other people said.

“I wonder whether he or she would perform as much as I do,” he said.

Roi Et saw the region’s second highest percentage of “No” votes against the charter, and the highest against the additional question, 64 and 67.8 per cent respectively. Political observers believe the province’s referendum results were Prayut‘s motivation to visit the province.

During his one-day trip, Prayut presided over a meeting held at Roi Et Rajaphat University to follow up on the implementation of the policies involving local government agencies.

“Don’t be worried that I will cling to power. I have exercised my power to steer the nation forward, never for a second did I deploy it to garner popularity. Though [Roi Et people] don’t like me, I have already allocated more than a billion [baht] of the budget to projects proposed by the province.

“Please tell those who have not come here today that I have never hated them. But, it is because they don’t understand [the premier] and receive distorted information,” he said.

Before the meeting, he told university lecturers and students that true democracy is about co-existence of different opinions without using “guns” and violence. He also asked students to understand that he could not release those student activists, the junta dissenters who were charged and detained following the violation of laws and regulations.

Prayut also urged them to look forward and not get involved in conflicts. “Please be picky and choose what to listen to. Do not listen too much to matters of conflict and nonsense stuff.”

Prayut asked the people to believe and listen to him while the country is dealing with conflicts and said he is the one to steadily push the country forward.

The government delegation on the trip included Deputy PM General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya.

At the meeting, Prayut also gave the green light to an economic plan for the area and urged local agencies to start implementing projects related to government policies within the 2017 fiscal year.

According to provincial governor Anusorn Kaewkangwan, the plan focuses on producing value-added jasmine rice grown in Thung Kula Rong Hai, promoting the province’s tourism, and developing Roi Et to be the transportation and investment centre in the central Isaan region.

Democrat Party politician Phumsan Seniwong na Ayutthaya said he appreciated Prayut‘s visit and said the area is still struggling with poverty and has the country’s widest gap between the well-off and the poor.

But Pheu Thai Party key figure Surapong Towichakchaikul decried the trip. He said Prayut should stay in the area overnight to see the real problems in the area. Prayut flew back to Bangkok in the evening.

PM says ‘sorry’ for latest flare-up at reporters

Posted by pakin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave an cold shoulder to a troop of reporters at Government House as he arrived for a meeting yesterday.

Before attending the annual internal security meeting in the morning, he encountered the reporters, who greeted him a “wai” of respect. Prayut returned the gesture, but remained silent and stony-faced before walking past them to the meeting room.

The Premier later told the meeting that people may or may not understand his recent bouts of anger, but he had been trying his best to curb his emotional expressions.

“Soldiers are hot tempered, but once addressed, we are always ready to improve [our responses],” he said.

PM Prayut has lost his temper in public while giving press interviews on a number of occasions, and last Tuesday’s outburst exceeded the level of his previous anger.

He later apologised for losing his temper and scolding journalists through his spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who said the premier was under pressure as he had been left to “walk alone”.

“The prime minister asked me to convey to media and [others] that he regretted his outburst on Tuesday,” Sansern said. He was also worried [about public sentiment], but we should understand that he is working under pressure due to high expectations of the people.”

One of the prime minister’s New Year resolutions was to try to be a “good guy” – at least in the eyes of the mass media – by avoiding hot-tempered exchanges with critical reporters.

That resolution appeared to have been broken when the PM – described by reporters as “furious” – was asked about the draft charter and the election road map at Tuesday’s press briefing.

PM erupts after questions about ‘cruel’ charter

Posted by pakin On February - 3 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

A month after promising to become a ‘good guy’, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday reacted furiously when asked by media about the highly-discussed charter draft and his administration.

“Tell me how this draft is cruel,” the premier said at his weekly press briefing when asked of his thoughts of comments by the Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchupan, who said that the ’more cruel version of charter’ would be active if this draft is voted down in a national referendum.

“They talk about the new authority of the Constitution Court. They say it will be overwhelming. But tell me, who else will end all the crises?” Prayut continued. “The Court could do nothing prior to May 22 [2014], and I had to come to put an end to it. Did I ever want to?” he exclaimed.

The premier’s mood in the morning was already soured by the media questions in regard to the water management plan, but PM Prayut stopped short to say anything, when asked what set him off. “Stupid. Try finding an answer yourself (rather than asking everything). Aren’t you all already smart?” Read the news. I do, and that’s why I know things,” he uttered in a verbal tirade.

A source close to the premier said that Prayut was irritated by news on the charter draft and election, as well as reshuffle of permanent civil servants, especially military officers.

On the same day, Government Spokesperson Maj General Sansern Kaewkamnerd asked media to lift their working standards and reform themselves.

They should also not let people with hidden agendas manipulate them to spread distorted information, that will only destroy the Kingdom’s images, Sansern said.

The media should also be more careful with reporting, he said.

“For instance, discussions on the charter draft via the media were shallow, without attempts to understand that it is designed to prevent [political] conflicts,” he said.

Expert warns of dangers of Article 44

Posted by pakin On January - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Move to vest absolute power with PM could have long-term effects

The post-coup Article 44 was included in the 2014 interim charter with the aim of giving the prime minister the option of wielding absolute power in a bid to find solutions for issues of importance.

But given its absoluteness, critics have viewed the use of it with scepticism, and its fruitfulness remains in question in the eyes of those watchdogs and individuals affected by its application.

Article 44 grants absolute power to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in his capacity as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. It is an absolute authority in ordering and retraining people or performing any act, whether legislative, executive or judicial.

Enacted after the lifting of martial law last April, Article 44 has been evoked by Prayut to deal with a variety of issues, from reorganising lottery prices to removing officers alleged of corruption.

“Article 44 is [designed] to grant the government the authority to deal with problems which that could hardly be solved or solved at a slow pace [if tackled using regular laws],” said Prayut last June. “That’s why [a special] law is needed. Some problems need urgent solutions and some need integrated law enforcement for solutions.”

As monitored by The Nation and the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform, Prayut invoked this power 54 times between December 2014 and January 20. Three orders were issued in the name of national security and nine were issued to enforce laws and implement measures to reorganise society.

There was also an order to set up a new agency, two orders to improve the economy, seven orders to adjust administrative processes and 28 orders to appoint, shift or suspend officers.

Despite the government’s effort to do this in a legal manner, there are doubts over whether the practice truly aims to accelerate solutions and is merely designed to allow the premier to end critical issues. For instance, instead of seeking a royal endorsement as usually practised, Prayut signed order No 26/2015 last September to revoke the police rank of the former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Many people are concerned this absolute power could be wielded without discussions with relevant parties, like when Prayut signed order No 17/2015 last May to declare five special economic zones that resulted in the acquisition of land in the designated areas.

The order was declared out of the blue, said Chompunut Kraekonwong, whose mother’s crop fields in Tak’s Mae Sot district have been expropriated following the order. Chompunut’s mother and some 90 other farmers can still make a living in the fields, but they have no idea when that will end.

“We have learnt that the authorities will turn our farmlands into industrial districts,” Chompunut said “But we were never asked if we want that to happen.”

Local people would gain little to nothing from the industrial zones, she explained. She said that as a borderland, the economically advanced Mae Sot would be flooded with Myanmar workers on one-day entry visas once the SEZ was activated. Increasing construction would affect fertile lands, which locals inherited from generation to generation, she said, adding that locals were concerned.

Chompunut said the committee for the Mae Sot Special Economy Zone had promised to provide between Bt7,000-Bt12,000 per rai as compensation, but had decided to rely on compensation figures calculated by the Irrigation Department. The exact amount of compensation remained undecided, she added.

“No matter how much it is, it will never be a substitute for the land that has fed our lives,” she said.

Chompunut and other affected locals have written to several governmental agencies, including three letters toPrayut via the Damrongdhama Centre, and were told the matter would be reconsidered by relevant agencies. “And we’ve seen no progress so far,” she said, adding: “We can’t see how the Article [44] will ever benefit the country. [The authorities] can stimulate the economy in other ways without affecting people. We should also be the ones contributing for such development.”

The phrase “out of the blue” was also used to describe the issuance of order No 21/2015 that resulted in Lt-General Pongsakorn Rodchompoo being dismissed as deputy secretary-general to the National Security Council (NSC) on July 23. He was transferred to an inactive post as an adviser to the PM.

“Till today, I don’t know why I was transferred,” Pongsakorn said. “At the NSC, I was working on terrorism issues, such as pushing for a more integrated immigration data base in the region. But with my current position, I can do nothing further on that.”

Now a subcommittee member in the drawing up of a 20-year national strategy and an adviser to the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) committee on local administration, Pongsakorn admitted that his current positions involved about only 20 per cent of his full capability.

“I feel it is a pity. There are not many NSC officers capable of working on terrorism issues, and now there is not even a senior [officer] pushing them,” he said. “There should have been discussions with officers over where they would have liked to be reassigned.”

Legal academic Ekachai Chainuvati warned that using Article 44 in such a manner ran the risk of turning it into an abusive power as it could not be reviewed judicially.

The power was also deemed dangerous to any person who wielded it, Ekachai said. “As Prayut has a soldier background, his character tends to favour quick, clear, and immediate decisions. But it’s impossible forPrayut, and everyone else, to know everything,” he said.

He continued: “I believe he receives proposals from agencies, but it’s he who has to take sole responsibility when issuing orders.”

Despite Prayut‘s best intentions, an academic said, Article 44 might not be the best solution to deal with national-agenda matters. For instance, the public may believe it helped curb corruption, but there were existing options to solve problems without the need for such power, the academic said.

Ekachai said Article 44 could not be used alone to tackle national reform, as the process required a broader consensus from all sections of society.

The impact of the article could even stretch beyond Prayut‘s reach, he said, as its impact would remain until there was a new law or order to revoke it, and Prayut may no longer be premier.

The use of the article showed that society was tolerant of state authority, he said. It also indicated that society accepted “an end justifies the means, no matter what it is”. “To simplify that, it means that it is acceptable to do whatever [is decided] to achieve desirable goals. As a legal academic, I can’t accept that.”