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Election

Army chief steps into the political fray again

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Army chief steps into the political fray again | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong against a snappy hot pink backdrop

by Supalak Ganjanakhundee

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong’s provocative comments against foreign-educated politicians with ‘leftist leanings’ and activists is a threat to democracy, and could lead to social unrest, violence and even collapse of the regime… warnings from prominent Thai scholars and rights defenders yesterday.

The comments follow another step into the political realm by the Thai Army chief.

“Those who graduated from abroad shouldn’t bring extreme leftist ideology to topple the Thai democratic regime with the monarchy as head of state,” Apirat said at a press conference held to mark the 112th anniversary of the First Infantry Division.“Students, scholars and even government officials, no matter where you graduated from, should bear in mind that democracy needs to be adjusted in line with local culture and norms.”

“We are Thai and this is Thai democracy. You have to adapt what you have learned to fit within our country. Thai democracy is the notion of Thais love Thais, and we are united.”

Though the Army chief did not mention any group, he was clearly referring to comments posted on social media – a weapon that he admits is more powerful than military hardware – that labelled one political group as a democratic force and the junta as dictator.

The Army chief called on all parties to accept the rules set and enforced by the Election Commission.

“Like a football match, if a team loses, the fans have to accept defeat too,” he said.

“The connotation of democracy versus dictatorship is a political discourse created to divide voters,” he said implying that a six-party coalition led by Pheu Thai, calling themselves the pro-democracy camp, are competing with the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party to form a government.

“Let me ask if the NCPO is a dictator? Is our work over the past five years that of a dictatorship?” asked Apirat, who is also the NCPO secretary-general.

Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk, meanwhile, said military coups and military interference in politics are the biggest threats to Thailand’s democracy.

Hence, he said, instead of denouncing people’s demand to end military dictatorship, the Army chief should take his troops back to the barracks and end all forms of meddling in politics.

“The right way to ensure stability and reconciliation is to respect differences and peaceful coexistence in society, not repression and prosecution of dissenting voices. That is why the military needs to give power back to the people and return the country to democratic civilian rule,” Sunai told The Nation.

Paul Chambers, an expert on military affairs from Naresuan University, said Apirat’s comments were clearly directed at the Future Forward Party, as he detests the party because of its anti-military standpoint and political reformist nature.

The Future Forward’s secretary-general, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who graduated in law from France, is in the hot seat as ultra-rightists are accusing him of championing an anti-monarchist ideology with the intention of toppling the institution of monarchy.

Many have twisted Piyabutr’s lecture on the role of monarchy in the justice system, painting the scholar-turned-politician as a threat to the monarchy.

Meanwhile, former Thammasat rector and prominent historian Charnvit Kasetsiri used the Thai proverb “iron loses its strength when it rusts inside” as a metaphor to warn people that sometimes one ends up destroying what they want to preserve.

“The administration of the ancient Ayutthaya kingdom had collapsed from inside long before the Burmese came and toppled it,” he warned.

STORY: The Nation

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Election

Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises | The Thaiger

Amidst rumours circulating that the Palang Pracharat Party may renege on some of the promises it made to secure MP votes from the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, the Democrat party leader Jurin Laksanavisit says he believes the Palang Pracharat party will keep its promises.

Thepthai Senpong MP, a key Democrat party member, is warning that the coalition government will be in big trouble if the promise is broken. He says the coalition government would “function with great difficulty” if the Palang Pracharat party does not stick to the promises it made to the Democrats, according to Thai PBS.

Meanwhile, Somsak Thepsutin, one of the Sam Mitr faction within Palang Pracharat, says that if one of their group isn’t offered the agriculture minister’s post (reportedly offered to the Democrats as part of the ‘deal’), the promises they made with Thai voters during the election campaign could be affected.

Somsak has already spoken of his aspirations to become the next agriculture minister, despite the portfolio being used as a political football during negotiations with the Democrats.

But the new leader of the Democrats, Jurin Laksanavisit insists that the issue of the quota of ministries for his MPs has already been settled. He re-iterated yesterday that Palang Pracharat would not go back on its promises to the Democrats. He added that he had not been informed of any changes to their arrangements despite being aware of the media reports about the prevarication.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | The Nation

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Election

Palang Pracharat still quibbling over portfolios in the new Thai parliament

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharat still quibbling over portfolios in the new Thai parliament | The Thaiger

Election – check. Vote for PM – check. New government sworn in – not quite yet.

There is still a reported back-room fight over cabinet portfolios between factions in the Palang Pracharat Party. Several key ministries were offered to Bhumjaithai and Democrat MPs in return for voting for Prayut Chan-o-cha as PM on Wednesday.

Now that Prayut’s been installed back behind the big desk at government house, there have been sources reporting wrangling and possible back-tracking over the promises made preceding the parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

  • The Democrats were promised the agriculture, commerce and social development ministries while the Bhumjaithai were reportedly offered the Transport Ministry post.
  • Palang Pracharat MPs claim that, as the leading party in the coalition, it should control key ministries to follow through on its election promises.
  • PPRP list MP Somsak Thepsuthin, a leading figure of the “Sam Mitr” faction in Palang Pracharat, claims the party needs control of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and that PM Prayut will have a final say on the matter (a notion that was flatly denied by the PPRP last week).
  • Palang Pracharat MP Buddhipongse Punnakanta admits the quota of cabinet posts for coalition parties “might” change but didn’t detail any of the Cabinet position affected, including the position of agriculture minister.
  • Newly elected House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, a former Democrat PM, waded into the issue yesterday saying he was sure that Palang Pracharat would honour the promises made in regards to Cabinet posts offered to the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties.
  • Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit says the deal with the PPRP was singed and sealed and believes it would be honoured.
  • Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charvirakul says the agreement with the PPRP remains unchanged, and insisted the party will push for its election pledges to be implemented.
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Election

“We were robbed of victory” – Future Forward’s Thanathorn

The Thaiger

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“We were robbed of victory” – Future Forward’s Thanathorn | The Thaiger

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 40 year old Future Forward leader who was up against Prayut Chan-o-cha for the position of PM yesterday, says that the pro-democracy alliance hasn’t conceded defeat but, he says, were “robbed of their victory”.

He is vowing to work harder outside parliament to prove that to the people.

“This election is just one battle in the long journey to achieve democracy. We fiercely believe that, in the end, our day will come. Dictatorship cannot resist the winds of change, the winds of democracy. The people will cry for freedom, cry for justice.”

Thanathorn was nominated by the Pheu Thai-led alliance as their sole PM candidate for yesterday’s vote, admitted that he had little hope that both the Democrat and the Bhumjaithai parties would make the “right decision”. Without their vote the Pheu Thai alliance wouldn’t have a majority in the lower house to make a stand (even though the Senate’s votes – 250 – would have carried Prayut Chan-o-cha over the finish line anyway). As it was he only missed winning the vote in the lower house by a handful of votes.

Thai PBS reports that, despite the election defeat, the firebrand young politician pleaded with all democracy advocates not to lose hope, but to move forward with him.

“I would like to tell my brothers and sisters that this is not our end, it is just the beginning,” he said, adding that the election result was a proof that they did not work hard enough and must strive harder.

“Future Forward party would divide its work and resources into three main areas; its MPs will undertake legislative work and check the performance of the government, the party will prepare for the forthcoming local elections and strengthen the party.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS

“We were robbed of victory” - Future Forward's Thanathorn | News by The Thaiger

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