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Election

Can the Princess be PM?

The Thaiger

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Can the Princess be PM? | The Thaiger

Analysis

The Princess was nominated. Her brother, HM Thai King, objected. Thai Raksa Chart postponed their campaign launch on Saturday morning. The PM and Election Commission have stayed silent.

With the weekend allowing cooler heads to sift through yesterday’s events, next week it is hoped some clarity will emerge about the Princess’ nomination as a prime ministerial candidate that threw the election campaign a curved ball yesterday morning.

Princess Ubolratana’s position within the Thai Royal Family doesn’t preclude her from running for a political position, although to defy The King’s wishes, after his strongly worded statement on Friday night, would place the country in an unprecedented constitutional conundrum.

That she was nominated by a political party with strong ties to the former disgraced and fugitive PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, also places an additionally complex spin on the Princess’ decision to accept the nomination.

For her to run as a candidate for the role of PM would put all other candidates in a very difficult position, including the current PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also was nominated as a PM candidate yesterday.

With her clear connections to the royal family it would make questioning her, or even running against her, untenable or even impossible within the dynamic of Thai society. Would any candidate dare to run against the King’s sister?

The Election Commission, by law, has the final say on the acceptance of candidates. But, to be sure, the batteries on the smartphones of politicians and palace officials will be running low this weekend.

At this stage, the man who has the most to lose, the current PM, has made no comment about the nomination.

Can the Princess be PM? | News by The Thaiger

Princess Ubolratana is the eldest child of Rama 9, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016, and Queen Sirikit. According to some analysts, royal family members of her ‘rank’ are not barred from politics but have opted to stay neutral in the past, a long-standing protocol in most modern constitutional monarchies.

Ubolratana was close to her father – the two won a gold medal in sailing at the 1967 Southeast Asian Games. She relinquished her royal title when she married her American husband Peter Ladd Jensen in 1972 and settled in the US, where she studied biochemistry.

The couple had three children but their second, Khun Bhumi Jensen – known as Khun Poom – died in the 2004 tsunami that ravaged southern Thailand.

Following her divorce in 1998, she returned to Thailand permanently in 2001 and became active in royal life. She has been working as a representative for the Thai tourism authority for more than 10 years. He also set up several charities, including the Khun Poom Foundation, named after her son, that assists children with autism and other learning disabilities, and headed a campaign that helps young people stay off drugs.

She is regularly featured in the daily TV coverage of the royal family going about their duties in the Kingdom and is generally treated with the same respect as the other leading members of the family.

She is also well known and loved in Thailand as a keen singer and actor, appearing in several films, and is active on social media, where posts of her singing and dancing have gone viral on her Instagram page.

On March 24, Thais will vote for the 500 seat lower house of parliament. The 250 member upper house, the National Legislative Council, will be chosen entirely by the military.

Can the Princess be PM? | News by The Thaiger



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Bangkok

Junta warned to be careful targeting rivals with petty litigation

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Junta warned to be careful targeting rivals with petty litigation | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Piyabutr Sangkanokkul reports to police yesterday using the, now popular, anti-government three-finger salute – The Nation

by Kai Chanwanpen

While members of pro-democracy parties continue to be targeted with politically-motivated lawsuits, a political scientist is warning this tactic of eliminating political rivals through trivial matters of law could backfire and lead to a legitimacy crisis down the track.

In the latest case, the Future Forward Party secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul yesterday acknowledged the charges pressed against him by the ruling NCPO, whose chief is a prime ministerial candidate after the March 24 election.

“Seeking advantage over rivals is common in politics. But this cannot be without consequences. They could face questions of legitimacy even if they successfully conspire to attain their goal,” said Attasit Pankaew, a political expert from Thammasat University.

“All the unfairness that can be seen right now will lead people to question if Piyabutr would have been hit with a lawsuit if he were not so popular in the election.”

The pro- and anti-junta blocs have been going after each other since the election with politically motivated, and mostly relatively petty, lawsuits.

But when the court was petitioned to seek the disqualification of junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha as a prime ministerial candidate because he was a public servant, the ruling went in favour of the incumbent.

While these kinds of political challenges are common around the world, Attasit said that public sentiment could play a major role in making any change.

“It’s how the public responds to the treatment that could improve this culture,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the authority has to provide an explanation and ensure that the due process of law is followed without victimising political rivals.”

Piyabutr has been charged with contempt of court and breaching the computer crime law for reading out a statement in relation to the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart Party in February.

Piyabutr, a former law lecturer at Thammasat University, yesterday denied the charges. He insisted on his innocence, saying as a law scholar the criticism was meant as an academic comment and that he believed in the justice system.

“The chief of the NCPO is the PM candidate of a political party, which was a rival of Future Forward Party in the election and he has assigned an official to prosecute me for contempt of court,” he said.

“Let me make an observation: the judicial branch is a part of the sovereign state and cannot escape criticism, especially the Constitutional Court which rules on political conflicts and whose judgement is likely to be scrutinised,” Piyabutr told reporters.

“Disagreement with a court judgement is not a crime.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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Election

Pro-democracy coalition remains positive following weekend glitch

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Pro-democracy coalition remains positive following weekend glitch | The Thaiger

by Kai Chanwanpen

The see-saw continues as the anti and pro-junta groups continue to tussle to form a coalition government. Meanwhile the Election Commission (EC) is no closer to announcing the allocation of Lower House seats… three weeks after the vote! They maintain that May 9 is the day they will announce the results although this deadline has been muddied by the EC’s own announcement that they seek clarification from the Constitutional Court over the allocation of votes to lower house seats.

Following a war of words over the weekend amid rumours that the minor New Economics Party had been won over by Phalang Pracharat (who support the return of General Prayut Chan-o-cha as premier), Pheu Thai Party leaders were quick to reiterate that the six-MP party remained firmly with the pro-democracy camp.

Pheu Thai’s de facto leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan posted on Facebook over the weekend that she believed New Economics leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan would not break his word to voters that he would not side with the junta.

Her colleague, party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, delivered a similar message via Facebook, stressing he believed Mingkwan was a man of his word.

“I never believed the rumours that Phalang Pracharat is forming a coalition with support from parties that campaigned against the junta. I never did,” he wrote.

News was swirling on Saturday that Phalang Pracharat had managed to gather over 250 MPs to set up a coalition government with the help of the New Economics Party, which had defected from the pro-democracy front.

Mingkwan issued a statement in the evening dismissing the news, saying he had never entered into any political negotiations with Phalang Pracharat.

Though Mingkwan had said on several occasions before and after the election that he was opposed to a military-led regime and would join the pro-democracy camp, public distrust grew after the New Economics Party failed to turn up at the democratic front’s press conference, held to claim victory and to sign a pact to collaborate in opposing the junta.

Though the election results are yet to be confirmed by the poll agency, it is estimated that the pro-democracy league led by Pheu Thai and Future Forward has 247 to 255 seats – placing it in a grey area to claim legitimacy to form a government.

Hence, the camp’s coalition must rely on MPs from smaller parties such as New Economics. Though New Economics may have only six MPs, its decision could make or break the Pheu Thai-led coalition.

There are other grey areas too: parties such as Democrat and Bhumjaithai, which have won over 30 and 50 seats respectively, have yet to commit to either side.

It might be unthinkable for the Democrats to join hands with old foes Pheu Thai but this does not necessarily mean it would side with Phalang Pracharat to support a Prayut-led government. The country’s oldest and most established party is now divided into two factions: one backs support for Prayut to deter Pheu Thai while the other group wants the party to sit in opposition. The Democrats could remain on the backbenches as an independent voice in the new Parliament.

Bhumjaithai, meanwhile, remains non-committal while also being pressured by the Pheu Thai coalition interests.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Bangkok

US Embassy responds to Don’s rebuke over Thanathorn case

The Thaiger & The Nation

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US Embassy responds to Don’s rebuke over Thanathorn case | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Nation

The Thai Foreign Minister yesterday formerly summoned foreign diplomats yesterday afternoon, one by one, in a diplomatic dressing down about their appearance at a police station last Saturday morning.

The official ministry memo objected to the presence of envoys at the Pathumwan Police Station on Saturday when the Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit reported in to hear charges against him.

But the US Embassy has responded, telling The Nation that attendance at legal prosecutions is standard practice.

“Regardless of the intention, the presence of embassies’ representatives at the police station, with such visibility and with the publicity it generated, was clearly an act of political significance, seen by the Thai public largely as a show of moral support for Mr Thanathorn,” read the aide memoir, a copy of which has been seen by The Nation.

“The Thai government respects the rights of foreign embassies to monitor political developments and observe events of significance for the benefit of their analysis and assessment and for promoting friendly relations. But the incident at the police station while police were carrying out their duty “was clearly not consistent with international practice and obligation.”

Representatives of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, the EU, the United States, the UK, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands were present at the police station on Saturday when Thanathorn arrived to hear sedition and other criminal charges.

The charges referred to his presence at an anti-junta protest in 2015 and alleged that he had provided a vehicle for a protester to escape detention.

The billionaire-turned-politician accused the junta of harbouring a political motive for prosecuting him after his party did far better than expected in the March 24 election, capturing more than 80 seats in the House of Representatives and soundly beating the Democrat party,

Future Forward then joined the pro-democracy and anti-junta camp that includes the Pheu Thai Party, bidding to attempt to form a coalition against the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat and form government after the election.

The international community and local rights groups have criticised the junta for its plan to try Thanathorn in a military court.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai on Tuesday slammed the envoys who showed up on Saturday, saying their presence was diplomatically inappropriate.

“Foreign representatives could get involved in the Thai judicial process only when their own citizens were prosecuted.”

However, deputy National Police chief Srivara Rangsibhramanakul said the diplomats were invited to a briefing after Thanathorn’s interrogation at Pathum Wan Police station had finished.

“They did not join the interrogation session.”

The US Embassy, whose political counsellor was at the police station on Saturday, said having representatives attend such prosecution proceedings is standard diplomatic practice.

US Charge d’Affaires Peter Haymond was among the diplomats who met separately with a senior official at the foreign ministry yesterday to take the aide memoir.

SOURCE: The Nation

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