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88 billion baht Covid-19 spending bill, criticised by opposition, passes first reading

Jack Burton

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88 billion baht Covid-19 spending bill, criticised by opposition, passes first reading | The Thaiger
PHOTO: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai - Xinhua
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Thailand’s House of Representatives kicked off a debate this morning on a bill that would transfer about 88 billion baht from the budgets of each government ministry to a central fund, to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and rehabilitate the nation’s economy. The first reading was approved with 264 votes. 4 MPs rejected it, 185 abstained and 1 MP failed to vote.

The Opposition called on fellow MPs to reject the bill, saying it gives no detail about how the money will be spent and approving it would be like “issuing a blank cheque to the PM.” A Sereeruamthai party-list MP criticised PM Prayut Chan-o-cha for revising rules to increase the spending limit from the central fund and urged the House not to allow it, pointing out that the budget transfer would be capped at 16 billion baht under the old rules. He argued it’s improper for the PM to raise the spending amount of funds that he would himself manage, saying it would invite corruption.

A Pheu Thai Party MP for the northern Nan province says the PM revised the regulation to accommodate himself, pointing out the central fund is to be be managed by the PM, and it’s the fourth time the administration has sought budget transfers.

The PM defended the reallocation of budgets, saying the government needs money to implement programs to help cushion the pandemic’s economic blow. He says the central fund will be used for Covid-19 mitigation efforts or the money will be returned.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Politics

Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters

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Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters | The Thaiger

A representative to the UN for Myanmar is urging the “strongest action to be used against the military after it has used increasing amounts of violence against anti‐coup protesters. The latest round in violence occurred as riot police violently broke up peaceful protesters, arresting over 100 people in 3 major Myanmar cities.

Kyaw Moe Tun made the appeal to the UN General Assembly in New York asking for the international community to end the junta’s rule in his country, while displaying the 3 finger salute that has been adopted from the Hunger Games as a symbol of resistance from anti‐coup supporters.

“We need… the strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people, and to restore the democracy.”

Former UN ambassador for the US, Samantha Power, also tweeted her support for the movement.

“It’s impossible to overstate the risks that #Myanmar UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun just took in the UN General Assembly.”

UN envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, also agreed saying the use of lethal force against protesters was “unacceptable.”

So far, at least 5 people have been killed since the overthrow, which has seen police open fire on protesters. Thandar Cho, a street food vendor, says she saw police point their guns in a threatening manner towards apartments during the rallies.

“They beat young protesters with rods and cursed them while doing it.”

A Japanese journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, was also allegedly arrested according to a Facebook post by his assistant, Linn Nyan Htun, during the crackdown.

He “was beaten on the head by baton but he was wearing a helmet.”

The military has justified the coup by alleging that the 2020 November democratic elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy elected by landslide, were fraudulent.

Suu Kyi was arrested, along with other leaders, and is now facing 2 charges of illegally posessing walkie-talkies in her home and for breaking Covid-19 rules. But her lawyer, Khing Maung Zaw, is concerned as he has still not made contact with her, saying it is dire to get her permission for him to represent her in court.

“It’s very important to get her signed power of attorney before the hearing starts on March 1 because we won’t be allowed to act as her defence counsels if we cannot file (it).”

“Then Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be rid of her right of fair trial without a legal counsel.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup | The Thaiger

Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to the military coup, which has received major international backlash. As a major donor to Myanmar, Japan joins other advanced nations in condemning the coup which has seen security forces using violence against peaceful protesters.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was quoted as saying in a phone call that “Japan will strongly urge the Myanmar military to release Suu Kyi and other detained individuals, and to swiftly restore democratic government.”

But it may not impose sanctions like the rest of the other developed countries as its longtime ties with the armed forces, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy and investment promoting policy in the country may serve as a barrier in doing so. Britan and the United States have imposed sanctions in recent days which include the US freezing military funds.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official says stopping its support of building projects would give China a chance to move in, increasing its clout in Myanmar. Around 450 Japanese companies operate in Myanmar with Japan being the 5th largest investor in the Southeast nation. Singapore has the most companies, followed by China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The Foreign Ministry says Japan spent about US $1.8 billion in official development assistance in the fiscal year of 2019, making it the largest among the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But it is unknown what China has poured into it as it has refused to disclose its expenditures.

The Japanese government plans to continue coronavirus emergency assistance to Myanmar through international organisations and non-governmental organisations. The World Bank, however, has stopped payments to projects in the nation indefinitely, after the coup on February 1, which disrupted the democratic elections last November and saw the arrest of top leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party, the National League for Democracy, won the elections in a landslide victory.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Jailed former politicians await outcome of bail hearing

Maya Taylor

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Jailed former politicians await outcome of bail hearing | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Reuters

8 former politicians, now behind bars for their role in protests that toppled the Yingluck Shinawatra administration and led to the 2014 military coup, are waiting for the outcome of their bail hearing. The detainees, all former members of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, are Suthep Thaugsuban, Issara Somchai, Chumpol Julsai, the Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Education Minister, Nataphol Teepsuwan, the Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Suwit Thongprasert and Samdin Lertbutr.

Their legal team is being led by Sawat Charoenphon, who says he’s hopeful the court will respond favourably to the request. The 8 were jailed earlier this week, alongside 18 others for their part in street protests in 2013 and 2014 which toppled the Yingluck Shinawatra government and ended with the 2014 military coup in which Prayut Chan-o-cha was installed as PM. According to the Bangkok Post, they were found guilty on charges of insurrection, criminal association, illegal assembly, and obstructing others from casting votes.

Sawat says he has visited the 8 former PDRC members, reporting that they were all fine after their first night in Bangkok Remand Prison. They were also visited by Warong Dechgitvigrom from the Thai Pakdee Party, who reported that Suthep was constantly smiling.

Rangsima Rodrasamee, a Democrat MP for the central province of Samut Songkhram, herself a co-defendant but acquitted, says she only managed to speak to Buddhipongse and Suwit during her visit, due to the number of visitors waiting. She says Buddhipongse and Suwit appeared to be in good spirits but tired from a lack of sleep.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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