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Prayut tells Cabinet to study charter draft

Posted by pakin On April - 21 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Cabinet to closely examine the charter draft and see if it can solve the country’s problems before submitting its views to Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam by May 14, Deputy Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

The recently completed charter draft is now being studied by the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), who will hold a joint meeting to discuss the draft on May 19.

Prayut has told the Cabinet to look at every provision in the draft to assess how the top laws will enable every ministry to have a hand in solving the country’s problems.

He also welcomed public participation in the country’s administration, but said the key question was at what stage they should be allowed to submit input.

He said that if there were no laws specifying the stage at which the public can participate, the government could hit snags.

Lifting of martial law gets the thumbs up

Posted by pakin On April - 1 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

PM says public has nothing to fear about Article 44; business and tourism sectors expected to benefit from improved sentiment

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday sought royal approval for lifting martial law, which was imposed shortly before the coup in May last year, and replacing it with Article 44 of the interim charter.

The move was welcomed by the business sector, but a human-rights lawyer criticised it, saying conflicts of interest would persist under Article 44 as the prime minister would have more absolute power.

Prayut said after chairing a weekly Cabinet meeting that his power under Article 44 would be mainly used to arrest and detain quickly those violating security laws and committing severe crimes.

As head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Prayut assured the public that ordinary folks had nothing to fear. He added that he was not doing it to remain in power but to enable the Kingdom to move forward “more conveniently”.

“Don’t just talk about freedom or democracy alone. I am [for] democracy. If I am not democratic, you people won’t be around like this with me,” he told reporters. “If you have done nothing wrong, why should you be worried?

“I need to use power under Article 44 of the provisional constitution to allow the authorities quickly to conduct searches and arrests without having to wait for a court warrant.”

There would have to be five to six orders issued under Article 44, he said.

The maximum period for military detention without charge under Article 44 would be seven days, just like under martial law, and after the period the detainee would either be released or turned over to the police and prosecutors, depending on whether the person had violated any security law.

Under Article 44, civilians facing a military court will have the right to fight through the appeal and supreme military courts system. Absolute power under Article 44 will also be used to pass legislation that the previous government had failed to and the National Legislative Assembly may not have the time to or finds it difficult to pass.

Anon Nampa, a key member of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, reacted negatively to the latest development, saying conflicts of interest persisted.

All military court judges, said Anon, are under the chain of command of the Ministry of Defence and not truly independent. Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan is also the deputy head of the NCPO, while those facing military courts for violating security law are opposed to the NCPO, Anon noted.

“Why don’t they put these people through an ordinary court if they truly believe it’s the same?” Anon asked.

As for Prayut‘s promise to use Article 44 to detain people without charge for no more than seven days, Anon said the junta leader could in the end extend that, given the absolute power he holds under Article 44.

‘Article 44 little understood’

Meanwhile Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Board of Trade and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the cancellation of martial law should create better sentiment for private enterprises, but would not help tourism, as the sector has been affected by other factors, mainly volatile currencies.

He said the tourism structure had been changed to rely on the global economy.

Darren Buckley, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, said Article 44 was little understood by foreigners and the effectiveness of the changes in law on the confidence of tourists would depend on how the article is used by the prime minister, who now has the de facto power to control many things.

“The good news is that tourism has been increasing, and that is a positive sign. The fact that martial law can be lifted is also a positive sign, not just for tourists but also a positive sign that the government feels [that] perhaps the situation in Thailand is much more stable now,” he said.

Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said tourists – especially from Western countries – would no longer worry about travelling to the country, as the government was lifting martial law.

“A new problem regarding concerns over civil-aviation safety is expected to hit tourism as well as the country’s image. It needs to be solved as soon as possible,” he said.

Nats Santivipanon, head of brand and communications of AXA Insurance, said that in principle insurance companies overseas would offer coverage to policyholders who travel in countries that are not under martial law.

Thai General Insurance Association chairman Anon Vangvasu said Article 44 was unlike martial law, as the latter affected insurance coverage for foreign travellers, adding that foreign countries are more concerned about martial law as it is seen as unsafe.

Article 44 is likely to give more power to the prime minister, but he said Article 44 was better than martial law as the latter covered the whole country. Under Article 44, the prime minister might consider each case individually, he said.

ML Jiriseth Sukhavasti, chief life officer at AIA Thailand, said international markets only knew about martial law, as insurance companies will not cover customers who travel to countries with this law. Therefore, even though Thailand has replaced martial law with Article 44, foreign insurance companies will cover their policyholders who travel in Thailand.


What we know so far from

Prayut about the use of Article 44

n Search, arrest and detain people without charge for a period of no more than seven days like under martial law, specifically for people who violate security laws or |committing severe crimes;

n Enable civilians facing military court to fight through the appeal and supreme military courts;

n Passing of laws.

Trust the junta not to hog power, says Prayut

Posted by pakin On March - 12 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

WIssanu InsIsts substantIal changes can stIll be made to the new charter

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday asked for public trust in his government and reiterated that members of the junta would not stay in power after the new constitution comes into effect.

The junta and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday acknowledged the first draft of the new constitution completed by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

He urged the public to trust the “driver of the Thailand car.”

“We have replaced the brakes and other spare parts,” he said.

Prayut was speaking at the Army Club on the sidelines of yesterday’s meeting of the five post-coup bodies – the NCPO, the Cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the National Reform Council (NRC) and the CDC.

‘Gear up for next elections’

He said yesterday’s meeting was aimed at reporting the progress of the five bodies in their efforts to solve the country’s problems.

He urged the relevant agencies to gear up for the next general election after the new constitution comes into effect.

He called on all parties not to cause conflicts for the country and said that his government was working on ensuring social justice.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said changes can still be made to the new constitution.

The National Reform Council (NRC) will next month deliberate the final draft before referring it to the government.

“More changes can still be made at that time, even on the major principles of the constitution,” he said.

Wissanu, a legal expert, said any of the five junta-appointed agencies could even make substantial changes to the draft charter, such as deleting or adding entire sections.

Wissanu, who also attended the meeting, was responding to concerns that members of the junta might attempt to stay in power after the new constitution comes into effect.

The meeting was attended by key leaders of the five bodies, including Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, NLA President Phornpetch Wichitcholchai, NRC President Thienchay Kiranandana, and CDC Chairman Borwornsak Uwanno.

It was the third meeting of the five organisations, which came into existence following the coup last May.

Security was tight at the meeting, with a joint force of police and soldiers guarding the area around Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road.

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.