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Army chief’s intervention in election campaign backfires

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Army chief’s intervention in election campaign backfires | The Thaiger

by Jitraporn Sennawong and Nattaphat Phromkaew

The Thai Army chief’s attempt to scare politicians from discussing the Army’s budget and reform by indirectly calling them “enemies of the state” has backfired.

Many Thais have emerged with additional proposals for reforms of the military, and others are protesting the chief’s invocation of the jingoistic military anthem.

Political critics and social media yesterday largely voiced the opinion that the Army, which often intervenes in politics, deserves a budget reduction and reform.

Social activist Veera Somkwamkid wrote on his Facebook page that he agreed with the policy proposal to cut the defence budget.

“It is a source from which high-ranked officers could unlawfully seek benefits.”

“The cut should not affect ordinary military officers because we’re not cutting their salary,” Veera said, adding that the surplus from the cut could be allocated to other areas such as public health and education.

Junta critic and leader of Seree Ruam Thai party Sereepisuth Temeeyaves yesterday said his party also proposed to reduce the size of the Army and would reallocate the funds to improve the quality of people’s life.

“The Army is part of the problem facing the country, especially in the past five years since the coup. If I get a chance to run the country, I will abolish conscription and disband the unnecessary units including their headquarters and the court.”

“We’re not at war. These are not necessary,” he told an election rally in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Army chief’s intervention in election campaign backfires | News by The Thaiger

The criticism follows the Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong instructing politicians to listen to the anthem “Nak Paendin” (“worthless”) if they were planning to reduce the defence budget or nullify conscription.

“Nak Paendin” was part of right-wing Thai propaganda in 1970s aimed at the communist movement in the country.

The lyrics labels leftists as enemies of the state that needed to be eliminated. A favourite of ultra-nationalists, it is viewed by many others as hate-filled and divisive.

Following heavy public criticism concerning both the need for Army reform and the Army’s chief’s aggressive reaction, a military spokesman yesterday came out to defend its controversial budget.

While the public appears sceptical of the relations between the military backed government and the rising defence budget, the spokesman Lt General Kongcheep Tantravanich said the allocation was proportionate.

The budget rise (from 183 billion before the 2014 coup to 227 billion baht this year) was also proportionate to the national budget’s overall increase, he said. In fact, he insisted, it had been reduced by some 5 per cent in relative terms. A budget cut would affect numerous security units and their work, including disaster relief units, he said.

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong has not responded to the criticism or commented about the reaction to his comments on Monday.

Army chief’s intervention in election campaign backfires | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Nation

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Election

Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises

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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

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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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