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PM returns to spotlight in fine voice

Posted by pakin On October - 21 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

AFTER staying out of the spotlight for a week, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha returned yesterday looking somewhat calmer.

Before presiding over the Cabinet meeting, he began the day by jokingly kicking a boxer who was visiting Government House to promote cultural campaigns.

Prayut then told reporters that he had been busy preparing for the “five rivers” meeting next Wednesday, as well as other events. The prime minister managed to retain his style of “elaborating”, but his voice seemed softer than usual.

That was until he was asked about the legitimacy of the charter-drafting process, especially the public acceptability of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) members.

“If you don’t like how the country is now, then go back before May 22 [last year],” Prayut replied, referring to political clashes before the coup. “Could those conflicts solve political issues?” Prayut seemed to relax before raising his voice again. “It’s been long that I haven’t been this loud.”

In the course of the 40-minute press briefing, the PM managed to convey his disapproval of “limitless democracy and freedom”, referring to how Thailand suffered from a series of political conflicts. The government will also strive hard to solve previous problems and put everything in place, he insisted.

Prayut also announced his intention to make rarer public appearances, but stressed that he would still provide interviews on important issues.

“The PM has been fine with us,” said Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kawekamnerd, who has been appointed to fill in when the PM is less inclined to assume his public role. “We haven’t had any problem speaking for him so far.”

The less frequent nature of Prayut‘s public appearances will not necessarily keep the government from getting its message across, however. The prime minister’s updates can still be tracked through his “Returning Happiness to the People” TV programme every Friday.

Observers believe his rare appearances are unlikely to obstruct news reports, as major procedures relating to the government, such as the charter drafting, are still only at the beginning.

PM insulated from order on Yingluck damages

Posted by pakin On October - 15 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Wissanu say only endorsement from Finance minister needed to seek compensation over rice scheme

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha did not need to ink an administrative order to have ex-PM YingluckShinawatra pay compensation for losses over the rice pledging scheme as only an endorsement of the Finance Minister was needed, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.

Wissanu was speaking after Yingluck’s lawyer argued that the PM’s move to issue an administrative order to make Yingluck pay compensation might be deemed abuse of authority and motivated by politics.

Wissanu said legal specialists met half a month ago and resolved that the PM did not need to endorse the administrative order in the latter half of the legal procedures to make Yingluck pay compensation for damages incurred in the rice subsidy scheme.

“Article 5 of the Liability of Wrongful Act of State Official 1996 stipulates that when state officials who committed a wrongful act are not under the jurisdiction of any agency, the Finance Ministry will be in charge of the case. Yingluck is not under the jurisdiction of any ministry, so her case will be under the responsibility of the Finance Ministry, Wissanu said.

Wissanu defended against criticism that legal specialists were resorting to a legal tactic to prevent Prayutfrom being sued for abuse of power.

“We are not trying to protect the PM. Look into the law. The PM co-signs with the ministers in charge of the case only in the first half of the procedure and not the latter half. If General Prayut must sign but he fails to do so, then the order will be invalid. The PM has announced that if there is anything wrong, he will take responsibility,” Wissanu said.

Wissanu said the PM himself was taken by surprise when he learned he needed not to sign any more documentation.

He added that the government would continue with its decision to issue the administrative order in Yingluck’s case because if the government does not take action before the two-year statute of limitations expires, the National Anti-Corruption Commission would sue the government and make it pay the compensation for the losses over the rice subsidy.

Norawit Lalaeng dismissed a statement made by Wissanu that the government had no alternative but to take recourse under the Liability of Wrongful Act of State Official 1996 because Yingluck committed gross negligence over her handling of the rice pledging scheme.

He cited that the Charter Organic Law on Anti-Corruption Act 1999 did not specify which law must be applied to seek compensation.

Boy, 16, handed to police but later released without charge

A student protester who displayed a banner demanding education reform during the prime minister’s Anti-Corruption Day speech yesterday was apprehended by security guards and turned over to Pathumwan Police Station, before being released.

The Mathayom 5 (Grade 11) student from a prestigious high school said he had planned to put his petition for education reform directly in the PM’s hand with the intention of cultivating an anti-graft mentality.

The message on the banner was neither violent nor offensive to the government or anyone, he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was at the Centara Grand Hotel delivering a speech on the government’s progress in promoting reform and tackling the corruption problem.

“The government is not hunting down anyone. We are just bringing unresolved cases to justice,” he said.

“Even though I can do anything by employing Section 44, the use of this power is not interfering with the judicial system. My duty is to enforce legislation so that the country can move on,” he said.

During the question-and-answer session following the speech, the

student hoisted his banner and asked the PM to cut back the citizens’ duty class, add philosophy to the education curriculum and improve the teaching of history by making it less nationalistic.

The student was visited at the police station by members of Thammasat University’s Dome Front Agora.

His parents also went to the station to meet with police before he was released without charge.

Prayut was reportedly not surprised by the student’s outburst and he even saw the funny side.

“What’s happening? He’s still young. Please take good care of him and please understand the security officers, they have had to watch over me carefully lately.”

He jokingly asked if the student was on “his side” and told the

security guards to be gentle with him if he was.

PM claims sole power on reshuffle

Posted by pakin On July - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted yesterday he does not have to consult any ministers if he decides to instigate a cabinet reshuffle.

He said changes to the cabinet lineup will depend on the performance of cabinet members.

The prime minister’s comment came amid mounting speculation of a looming cabinet reshuffle, particularly in the economic affairs section to restore public confidence in the government amid an economic slump. Speculation about changes has also focused on the defence minister.

Gen Prayut also responded to media reports that he was reluctant to reorganise the cabinet so as not to hurt the feelings of those he had invited to work for his government, several of whom are his military seniors.

“Since I’m now the person who is responsible for this, any decisions [about cabinet replacements] are my business,” he said. “I’m the one who got them to work [in the cabinet]. I have absolute power here. There’s no one else above me.”

Gen Prayut insisted there would be no favouritism in a cabinet reshuffle if he decides to make lineup changes.

“The media may need to correct factual errors [speculating about] who might emerge as new cabinet ministers,” said Gen Prayut. “Why fuss over cabinet reshuffling? It depends on how the members work.

“If they all do what I tell them to do, I won’t change anything. But if they don’t do as they are told or are not effective, I will have to adjust something then,” he said.

The cabinet is currently undergoing weekly assessments to follow up on ministers’ progress on assigned work, he said.

Gen Prayut said he has two simple rules for his ministers when it comes to leading the cabinet. The first rule is that they should follow his instructions and if they are unable to, they must be able to explain why, he said.

The second rule is that if they don’t agree with his orders, they must tell him and he will provide suggestions.

The bottom line in measuring the performance of cabinet ministers is their efficiency, he said.

Regarding speculation that Udomdej Sitabutr could replace Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in September, Gen Prayut blamed media for spreading such rumours.

“Next time, you [reporters] may become defence minister, then you can appoint anyone you want,” he said. “Not everybody can be defence minister.”

Gen Prawit was absent from yesterday’s Defence Council meeting, which was instead chaired by Gen Udomdej, further fuelling speculation.

But Gen Prayut dismissed it, saying that Gen Prawit had fallen ill.

The prime minister declined to comment on a report by local media that Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula had told the Thai Bankers Association on Friday that the PM did not really understand economic matters.

The article said the comments provoked Gen Prayut into considering his transfer. MR Pridiyathorn yesterday denied the report.

“I did speak with those bankers but I didn’t say the prime minister didn’t understand economic issues. He actually knows best about the economy. Why would I say that?” MR Pridiyathorn said.

He said there had been attempts at spreading malicious rumours aimed at removing him from his position of overseeing economic affairs.

He said he attended the meeting to tell bankers about government policy and to ask them for their cooperation in speeding up the provision of small- to medium-sized business loans.

According to political observers, the amended interim charter that took effect on July 15 paved the way for changes among economic ministers, as it allows banned politicians to join the cabinet.

The focus is on Somkid Jatusripitak, an advisor to the National Council for Peace and Order who served a five-year political ban until 2012.

Finance Minister Sommai Phasee, who is also rumoured to be facing a transfer, said the conjecture originated with those who want to oust him from the ministry.

“Finance minister is a position that creates more enemies than friends. I’m still motivated to work however,” he said.

Gen Udomdej, meanwhile, dismissed rumours that he is likely to replace Gen Prawit as defence minister. “I don’t think that is true. It’s simply a rumour. I think everyone has been working to their fullest capacity,” he said.