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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.

Race for police chief heats up

Posted by pakin On July - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The Police Commission’s curious reversal of its decision to appeal against an Administrative Court ruling in favour of Pol Lt Gen Sriwara Rangsipramanakul has suddenly made him a potential candidate to become the next police chief.

The decision is likely to stoke conflict in the top echelons of the police force as officers jockey to take the top post.

The Police Commission, the governing body of the police force, threw a spanner into the works when the panel decided at its July 6 meeting to reverse its resolution to appeal against the Administrative Court’s ruling that ordered the National Police Office (NPO) to compensate Pol Lt Gen Sriwara for a loss of opportunity in receiving a better promotion in recent years.

Just days earlier, on June 25, the commission had resolved at a meeting chaired by national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang to appeal. But Pol Lt Gen Sriwara submitted a formal complaint with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, to whom he is reportedly close, arguing that the commission’s decision was unfair to him.

The panel then called the July 6 meeting, which Gen Prawit reportedly chaired, when the commission did an about-turn and decided not to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court.

Senior police sources say the significance of this is that Pol Lt Gen Sriwara, currently Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner, will be entitled to receive a compensation package which could include his immediate promotion to assistant police chief. The compensation order would retroactively restore his loss from the day he was barred from a promotion that would have put him in line for the assistant police chief’s position.

The saga dates back to 2010, when Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, then national police chief, petitioned former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to put on hold a decision to promote Pol Lt Gen Sriwara as chief of the Provincial Police Region 1. Pol Gen Sereepisuth claimed Pol Lt Gen Sriwara did not qualify for the position due to an incorrect calculation of his years in service.

The promotion was suspended and the officer filed a case with the Administrative Court. If the 2010 promotion had not been suspended at Pol Gen Sereepisuth’s request, Pol Lt Gen Sriwara would have been eligible to become an assistant national police chief from 2011 onwards, the source said.

So if the commission will not appeal against the court ruling, Pol Lt Gen Sriwara should now be made assistant national police chief. But there is also speculation he would soon after be made deputy police chief and could be in the running for the police chief post at the end of the year.

“Pol Lt Gen Sriwara may be made an assistant national police chief for a few days before a new promotion follows which could make him a deputy national police chief,” one source said.

He added the first appointment may not result in strong opposition by other officers but the deputy national police chief promotion certainly will.

Pol Gen Sereepisuth claims Gen Prawit had no authority to chair the commission’s meeting and the commission members failed to perform their duty correctly in reversing their decision. He said Gen Prawit could face a charge of abuse of authority.

The possibility that Pol Lt Gen Sriwara could end up a candidate for national police chief has triggered conflicts in the NPO, because it would diminish the other candidates’ chances. Other key candidates are deputy national police chief Aek Angsananont, deputy national police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen and deputy police chief Jakthip Chaijinda.

Pol Lt-Gen Sriwara has close ties with Gen Prawit. Pol Gen Aek, meanwhile, is known to have close ties with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s wife and he is also the most senior of all the candidates.

As for Pol Gen Jakthip, he has good relations with both Pol Gen Somyot and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the source. Pol Gen Jakthip, who is known as a brilliant coordinator and is trusted by both the military and police brass, also serves as a member of the National Legislative Assembly.

In terms of weak points, Pol Gen Aek doesn’t have a track record in the crime suppression area and he may have a problem with managing police in the crime suppression section of the NPO, the source said.

Pol Lt-Gen Sriwara, too, has a weak point to worry about. The court saga could widen if he actually becomes police chief and someone contests his legitimacy with the Supreme Administrative Court. His personal conflicts with Pol Gen Sereepisuth also may lead to more conflicts, the source said.

Prayut bids farewell to Swiss ambassador

Posted by pakin On July - 2 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday assured the outgoing Swiss ambassador that Thailand would continue to pursue economic and political development and stability, while treasuring the dividends yielded by the decades-long relations between the two countries.

Christine Burgener was paying a farewell visit to Prayut, who is also head of the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order, at the Thai Khu Fah building at Government House.

Prayut expressed appreciation for the embassy’s operation during Burgener’s six-year term and her outstanding effort in furthering cooperation by the two countries, said Maj-General Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak, a deputy government spokesman.

The PM thanked Switzerland for hosting a photo exhibition marking the 80th birthday of His Majesty the King and the Royal Family’s first visit to that country.

He was also pleased to learn that Switzerland would appoint a specialist on Thailand and nearby regions as the new envoy.

Both sides congratulated themselves on enhancing economic cooperation in a very positive way.

Prayut welcomed Swiss companies to invest in Thailand and asked Switzerland to help initiate talks on a free-trade agreement, which would be good for trade and investment for both sides. The Thai government would do its best to ensure the safety of tourists from every country, including Switzerland.

The country is making satisfactory progress on the junta’s three-phase “road map to democracy”, he claimed.

As head of the Thai government, he was grateful for Switzerland’s keen interest in Thailand’s political reform and reconciliation, and also for the specialist exchange programmes and several academic seminars that they had jointly sponsored.

Burgener praised Thailand for its friendship and hospitality. She expressed understanding of the country’s political situation during her tour of duty here and reportedly acknowledged the improvements that had been made.

Switzerland is ready to support the reform process and share wisdom with Thailand, she said.

She also would like to return to this country, considered her second home, after retiring from the foreign service.

Aid prepared for Nepal, 66 Thais confirmed safe

Posted by pakin On April - 27 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The government is mobilising aid and rescue teams to send to Nepal, while authorities have confirmed that six Thai medical students, who earlier lost contact, are safe along with 60 other Thai citizens.

Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Sunday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed the Public Health Ministry and the Royal Thai Armed Forces to prepare medical and disaster relief teams to be sent to earthquake victims in Nepal as soon as possible.

The PM also asked the Thai embassy in Nepal to contact any Thai citizens either in Nepal or its neighbouring countries, which may also have been affected by the quake, said Maj Gen Sansern.

Any Thai affected by the earthquake who wants to return to Thailand will get help to travel back home under the Foreign Ministry’s protocols, Gen Prayut said.

Aside from immediate assistance, the government will organise a nationwide fund-raising effort to collect donations for quake victims, said Maj Gen Sansern.

If anybody wishes to inquire about relatives in Nepal, a coordination centre has been set up at the Thai embassy in Kathmandu, he said.

People are encouraged to call the Foreign Ministry’s hotlines on 094 003 7190, 094 003 7191, 094 003 7192 and 085 911 4076.

They may call the Thai embassy in Kathmandu directly at +977 14414372 or +977 9801069233 or fax +977 14371410.

Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said the government will send the medical and disaster relief teams to Nepal within the next few days.

“We will approve initial funds as a part of humanitarian assistance to Nepal. At present, we are working with the agencies concerned to find out what they need and how we can help,” Gen Tanasak said.

Sek Wannamethee, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said all Thai nationals in Nepal were confirmed as safe, with only some suffering minor injuries from the quake.

Wutti Wuttisant, the Thai ambassador to Nepal, said there are about 100 Thais living in Nepal.

At least 20 Thai nationals, mostly civil servants and their families, moved into a shelter at the Thai embassy in Kathmandu and prefer to stay in Nepal for the time being, according to Mr Sek.

The ministry confirmed Sunday the six medical students from Srinakharinwirot University who initially fell out of contact after the quake are now confirmed as safe.

The group was visiting Pokhara, about 140km from Kathmandu.

But Marisa Eve Girawong, a half Thai-American medical doctor working for a mountaineer team, was reportedly killed in an avalanche at a base camp on Mount Everest, according to media reports.

The 28-year-old Thai-American doctor, died after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands, including more than a dozen on the world’s highest mountain.

Hours before the avalanche, Marisa wrote on Facebook that she was craving sushi. She was most recently a resident of Edison, New Jersey. Seattle-based Madison Mountaineering confirmed Girawong’s death on its website.

“It is with deep sorrow and profound grief that we can confirm the loss of our Everest/Lhotse base camp doctor,” Madison co-founder Kurt Hunter wrote in a blog post entitled “Our hearts are broken.”

Girawong died at the expedition’s 17,500-foot elevation base camp. All 15 members of the expedition’s climbing team made it safely to Camp 2, where they were awaiting helicopter evacuation.

According her bio on the mountaineering company’s site, Girawong, who was born in Thailand, had been a physician’s assistant working in a Level 1 emergency room “with a focus on trauma and wilderness medicine” when she joined the Everest expedition earlier this year.

Girawong, an avid rock climber and mountaineer, had been working in the Everest region for more about a year.

“Officially the highest I’ve been so far at 5,550 meters/18,300 ft.,” she wrote on Facebook on April 12. “Never made it last year but finally got to the top of Kala Patthar.”

Hours before the avalanche struck, Girawong wrote on Facebook:

“Day 28 on this arduous journey, snow is falling & my food cravings are at an all time high. Is a crunchy spicy tuna roll with eel sauce too much to ask for?”

The UN Children’s Fund in Thailand (Unicef) launched an appeal for urgent donations from the Thai public to help with the response.

“It was a terrifyingly strong earthquake. [There was] extensive damage to buildings across the city and many people have spent the night outside in the cold because of the ongoing shocks,” said Bijaya Rajbhandari, Unicef’s country representative.

“These people are without basic facilities and the government hospitals are already overcrowded. People need help and they need it now.”

Unicef is providing supplies, such as water purification tablets, hygiene kits, tarpaulins and food, and is working with government and other agencies to meet children’s immediate needs. To make a donation, click on “Donate for Nepal”