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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.

Russian PM to visit Thailand Tuesday

Posted by pakin On April - 7 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Dmitry Medvedev will make the first visit to Thailand by a Russian prime minister in 25 years when he leads a delegation to meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Tuesday.

Mr Medvedev’s April 7-8 trip is aimed at strengthening Thai-Russian cooperation in areas including politics, economics, energy and culture.  It also comes as Thailand forges close ties with Russia’s historical rival, China.

The Russian premier, who began an official visit to Vietnam on Monday, and Gen Prayut will hold talks on Wednesday, which will focus on enhancing bilateral economic relations, including the increasing of trade volumes, expanding markets for agricultural products, seafood, and industrial products; as well as cooperation between state enterprises and the private sector.

During the visit, Thailand and Russia will sign bilateral agreements in various fields such as energy, culture, and tourism.

Mr Medvedev’s entourage includes Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov. He is expected to discuss with his Thai counterpart collaboration in civil aircraft manufacturing, the automotive industry, nuclear engineering, and oil and gas industry equipment.

SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott faced a wave of criticism Wednesday, including that he was unfit to be leader, after describing living in remote Aboriginal communities as a “lifestyle choice”.

The country’s indigenous people are the nation’s most disadvantaged, with a much shorter life expectancy than other Australians while suffering disproportionate levels of imprisonment and social problems such as unemployment.

Abbott said late Tuesday he supported a plan to close more than 100 remote Aboriginal communities across the vast Western Australia state if essential services could not be provided.

“It’s the job of the taxpayer to provide reasonable services in a reasonable way, to indeed to provide high quality services in a reasonable way,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have.”

Aborigines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years and the comments drew stinging criticism, with Abbott’s key indigenous advisor Warren Mundine saying Aboriginal people had a cultural connection to their land, and it was not simply a matter of going to “live in the bush”.

“These people are actually living on their homelands and it affects a lot of things, it affects their cultural activities, it affects their native title, it affects a number of areas,” he said.

“It’s about their life, it’s about their very essence, it’s about their very culture.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said the comments were “baffling” and would cause offence in the indigenous community.

“We’re going to make a situation that’s pretty bad already in those places even worse,” he said.

Abbott defended the remarks on Wednesday, saying he was being realistic.

“If you or I chose to live in a very remote place, to what extent is the taxpayer obliged to subsidise our services?” he said.

“It is incredibly difficult for the kids to go to school if there’s only half a dozen of them and getting teachers there is all but impossible.

“Similarly it’s very difficult for adults to get a proper job if there’s no employment within hundreds of miles. And this is where we have to be a little bit realistic.”

Abbott last year spent almost a week running the government from a remote Aboriginal community in the nation’s far north and will do the same this year.

Rolf de Heer, an acclaimed filmmaker who has made indigenous movies including “Ten Canoes”, said the comments were “so inappropriate that it’s laughable”.

“It shows such ignorance that he has no right to be the prime minister of Australia,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying.

Aborigines are believed to have numbered around one million at the time of British settlement in 1788, but there are now just 470,000 out of a total population of 23 million.

PM assures Japan of poll

Posted by pakin On February - 10 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Abe hopes for swift return to democracy

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Monday sent a clear message to the Japanese government, its business leaders and the media that elections would be held in Thailand at the end of this year or early next.

This was a consistent theme laid out by Gen Prayut during his string of meetings, which ended with bilateral talks with his counterpart Shinzo Abe.

At the end of their 45-minute talks, the two leaders issued a joint statement covering politics and security, people-to-people exchanges and co-operation on regional and international issues. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Abe said he hoped reconciliation would occur and democracy would return to Thailand swiftly.

At the same press conference, Gen Prayut thanked Japan for its concern and reiterated the same message he had given earlier to the Japanese business federation Keidanren – that elections would be held at the end of this year or early 2016.

“I promise that Thailand will return as a strong nation,” he said.

During their talks, Mr Abe praised Gen Prayut for his leadership, a government official attending the meeting told theBangkok Post.

Earlier in the day, Japanese business leaders raised the issue of “a return to civilian leadership”.

Gen Prayut assured Mr Abe he had no intention of retaining power, even after elections.

He went into considerable detail about the process, as he had with Japanese business leaders earlier.

Once the charter is completed in September, it will take several months for organic laws to be passed and polls would be held at the end of the year or early in 2016.

All is going according to the roadmap, although martial law is still necessary to maintain order, Mr Abe was told.

Both leaders witnessed the exchange of a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) on future cooperation in developing Thailand’s railways.

The MOI was inked earlier in the day between Transport Minister ACM Prajin Juntong and Akihiro Ohta, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Although Japan has not officially agreed to fund development of the railway, it has agreed to research and study development of two rail links – Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Mae Sot-Mukdahan.

The development will either focus on the improvement of existing metre-gauge lines or the development of new standard-gauge ones.

Both Thai and Japanese ministries will continue to explore possible technical cooperation, including technical transfers on the railway sector.

In order to improve rail connectivity with neighbouring countries in the Southern Economic Corridor from the East to West, both ministries would also cooperate on research and study on railway development of three routes – Kanchanaburi-Bangkok, Bangkok-Chachoengsao-Aranyaprathet and Bangkok-Chachoengsao-Laem Chabang.

The MOI also states that a “study on the feasibility of cooperation” on rail freight services in Thailand would be conducted.

Both ministries welcomed the “ongoing cooperation” on the development of the mass transit railway system in Bangkok – the Purple and Red lines.

A joint steering committee at the ministerial level will be set up to oversee the implementation of the MOI.

The existing Railway Working Group will support the new steering committee.

At the end of last month, Thailand and China agreed on the construction of the dual-track system on the Nong Khai-Map Ta Phut-Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi route, totalling 873 kilometres.

It is not clear how long the Japanese would take to conduct their study, but an informed source said that it is possible the government would allow the Japanese first pick of one of the routes before opening the others to bidding.

In their joint statement, Gen Prayut outlined Thailand’s initiative to establish the first of six Special Economic Zones along the borders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia as part of a national strategy to stimulate economic growth, attract foreign investment, foster development of border areas and support Asean integration.

Mr Abe took note of the initiative.

Both sides reaffirmed the importance of promoting the Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar through trilateral consultations between Japan, Thailand and Myanmar. Japan will start procedures to meet the necessary conditions for equity investment in Special Purpose Vehicles, while Thailand said it looked forward to Japan’s input on the project’s master plan.

Both leaders expressed “resolute condemnation over the outrageous and impermissible murders of the two Japanese nationals by the Islamic State group”.

They agreed that the international community should remain united and not give in to terrorism.

Gen Prayut, in his talks with Mr Abe, praised Japan for its “proactive contributions” to peace in the region, while in the joint statement, expressed appreciation for Japan’s role in working towards peace and stability in the Middle East.

Mr Abe said he appreciated Thailand’s strong support for the permanent membership of Japan in the reformed United Nations Security Council.

Gen Prayut is scheduled to leave Tokyo Tuesday on the high-speed Shinkansen (bullet train) for Osaka, where he intends to meet with regional business leaders before returning to Bangkok.

He plans to visit Japan again in March to attend the Third United Nations Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and again in July for the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit.