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Bangkok sees biggest anti-government rally in months

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PHOTOS: Nation Thailand

In the largest political rally in months, over 1,000 people turned out to protest the government of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument last night. The protest was led by The Student Union of Thailand and the Free Youth group, who called for the gathering through social media. It was the largest political rally since before the Covid-19 crisis and the Emergency Decree, which essentially banned mass gatherings. Although the Emergency Decree remains in effect until at least the end of July, government and police officials stated yesterday afternoon they did not intend to interfere with the protest.

The protest made 3 key demands:

  • Dissolve Parliament immediately
  • Rewrite the constitution
  • Stop threatening activists and government opposition, both unofficially and officially with laws, including the Emergency Decree

Protesters told reporters if the government doesn’t respond to the demands within 2 weeks, they will intensify the movement.

The demonstrators, many of them in black shirts, began streaming to the Democracy Monument at about 4:30pm. Some of them held posters reading “Get Out Prayut” and “The Longer the Government Stays On, the More the Damage.”

One of the protest leaders, Thammasat University student activist, Prit Chivarak, better known as “Penquin”, accused the government of incompetence in administering the country and voiced his objection to the extension of the state of emergency.

Tatthep “Ford” Ruangprapaiserikit, of the Free Youth group, asked whether anyone in the government would be held accountable for the Egyptian military debacle in Rayong province, accusing the administration of “lowering its own guard” while repeatedly urging the people maintain theirs.

Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Union of Students of Thailand, asked the protesters to turn the torch lights of their smart phones on and aim them at the monument, as a symbolic gesture showing that “Thai democracy is now in darkness.” She said protesters would maintain the vigil at the monument “to prevent democracy from vanishing from the country.”

Police arrived at the scene and, using a bullhorn, warned protesters that they might face a 2-year prison term and/or a fine of 40,000 baht for not observing social distancing. The warning was ignored.

Leaders initially planned for the rally to continue overnight and end at 8am today with demonstrators singing the national anthem. The demonstration ended at about midnight, when the secretary-general of the Free Youth group and the chairwoman of the Student Union of Thailand read a joint statement announcing the end of the rally.

Bangkok sees biggest anti-government rally in months | News by Thaiger Bangkok sees biggest anti-government rally in months | News by Thaiger Bangkok sees biggest anti-government rally in months | News by Thaiger

SOURCES: The Pattaya News | The Phuket News | Nation Thailand

 

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1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    Somchai

    Monday, July 20, 2020 at 12:23 am

    “Huge anti-government protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument” Well I see that The Thaiger has the same reporting style as CNN! What is your definition of “huge”, as I hardly call 1,000 at a protest being “huge”. It equates to 0.001% of the population (1000/69,799,978). So for 2021 all staff at The Thaiger will get a “huge” salary increase of 0.001%!!

    Keep to the facts and stop exaggerating.

    May peace and happiness be in our hearts and minds and the love for Thailand and our King guide us all through this COVID-19 crisis. Please don’t be so quick to point the finger of blame, no one is perfect and we must stay calm and practice social distancing and wear mask. This is all new to us, the Thai Government and the world.

    The world is applauding Thailand for such a good handling of the COVID-19 crisis, as Thailand has handled it very well up to present date. So we should thank ourselves and our neighbours, and thank the PM and the government for implementing measures that have protected all of us. Thank you PM for all you have done to protect us at this dangerous time and unique situation. You are doing great job, despite the “huge” protest!

    You only need look and see USA how virus spread as uneducated and educated people fight about wearing mask. What about the people the endanger by their thoughtless behaviour in refusing to wear mask? Police should arrest them same as China does.

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Politics

Deputy PM declares Thammanat Prompow controversy finished

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's Deputy Agriculture Minister Prompao talks to reporters after a government cabinet meeting in Bangkok (via Reuters)

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says that the debate is over regarding Thammanat Prompow, the controversial Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and influential Palang Pracharath Party ‘fixer’.

The Constitutional court has already ruled that he is qualified to hold office under Thai law and will keep his position, though a huge backlash followed the ruling, and the public wondered how his 1993 heroin trafficking conviction in Australia. Then using the name ‘Manat Bophlom’, he was convicted of conspiring to import a traffic able amount of heroin, serving 4 years of a 6 year sentence.

According to Wikipedia, Thammanat parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed “2 wives, 7 children, and a net worth of about $42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.”

Thai law says that no one who has been convicted of an indictable offence is eligible to hold public office, but the new decision seems to imply that anything that happens outside of Thailand’s border does not qualify. A legal expert, the Deputy PM says that this ruling is not in opposition to the rules about convicts holding office.

He says that a conviction by Australia’s New South Wales Court is not legally binding in Thailand and therefore does not disqualify Thammanat. Only a jail sentence from a Thai court would be considered a roadblock to a candidate being confirmed to hold government office.

Thai immigration law, however, determines that convictions in home countries will bar people from entry into Thailand. The decision also calls into question the legitimacy of the Australian/Thailand extradition treaty which saw Thammanat deported back to Thailand after serving 4 years of his 6 year sentence.

But the Council of State had declared that someone in jail for 2 years cannot hold office within 5 years of release, regardless of whether the jailing was in Thailand or in another country. The 4 year jail term Thammanat served in Australia ended in 1997 so the 5-year grace period has already passed.

The Deputy PM says that this ruling by the Constitutional Court does set a new precedent for future issues of possible MP candidates that may have been in trouble with the law outside of Thailand. But he stopped short of supporting Thammanat’s prior conduct unconditionally, declining to comment.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been under pressure to investigate Thammanat and whether his conduct has been ethical. The Deputy PM said that the Constitutional Court ruling does not whitewash any other issues Thammanat may face.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Politics

Confirmation of Deputy Minister Thammanat, despite drug conviction, draws derision

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: The decision to reaffirm Thammanat Prompow has drawn frustrated criticism.

Though not unexpected, the decision on Tuesday to allow Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow to keep his status in spite of an Australian drug conviction in the 1990s still drew plenty of outrage and backlash. In what some called Thailand’s lowest point, allowing the minister to keep his post may set a damning precedent regarding Thailand’s international obligations such as extradition and recognising the laws of other countries.

(Mr. Thammanat was deported from Australia after serving 4 years for a 6 year heroin trafficking conviction.)

Many argue that allowing a convicted drug criminal abroad to hold public office in Thailand may damage Thailand’s international reputation. Political scientists point to the verdict of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday as undermining Thailand’s legal system and validating loopholes available to the rich and powerful, especially in government.

The controversial deputy minister has been under scrutiny before his conviction, with a no-confidence motion failing last year in Parliament, but his infamy has not seemed to hamper his popularity. He has managed to maintain popularity amongst voters, even being put to work campaigning in the north of Thailand for the Palang Pracharat Party of whom he is a member (after defecting from the Pheu Thai Party in 2016). With success in that region, he was put to work by Palang Pracharat (the political party representing the conservative and ‘military’ views in Thailand) in the south, helping to secure a victory in March in Nakorn Sri Thammarat.

Still, controversy persists, and online Thai people raged and mocked the lack of justice. The deputy minister had defended the heroin smuggling conviction by claiming “it was flour” and the online community turned that phrase into a viral hashtag. Online commentators posited that his confirmation opens the floodgates for all sorts of convicted criminals abroad to run for public office in Thailand as if what is done outside of the country doesn’t count domestically.

Foreigners, coming to Thailand, are expected to hold to a different standard – a foreign drug conviction would prevent you from being able to enter the Kingdom.

One commenter even mentioned this corruption as a reason that a new Facebook group for Thai people interested in moving abroad saw over 850,000 members join when it was launched.

The ridicule of the decision to allow confirmation of the MP, despite his conviction and served 4 year sentence, comes with melancholy, however, as the Thai population employ dark humour to cope with the feeling that nothing can be done about the corruption of those in power.

Changing anti-drug campaign slogan “let’s fight against drugs” to say “let’s sell drugs”, making references to the “say my name” phrase on TV’s Breaking Bad, and political cartoons paraphrasing the tourism slogan of Las Vegas to “what happens in Australia, stays in Australia” have been popularly shared online.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Politics

Diplomatic spat between China and Australia, Chinese suspend economic dialogue

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Stock photo via Flickr

A diplomatic spat between China and Australia has the Communist State suspending all economic dialogue “indefinitely” between the 2 countries as of today. A statement by China’s National Development and Reform Commission detailed some of the reasoning behind the move, which is under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue.

“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination.”

But the statement didn’t elaborate on what specific actions prompted the suspension, however, it most definitely signifies the growing tensions between the 2 countries. Back in 2018, Australia became the first country to ban the Chinese tech giant of Huawei from its 5G network. And, as Covid-19 ravaged the world, Australia called for an independent investigation into its origins. China responded by restricting trade between the nations.

Last December, Australia’s federal parliament granted veto power over foreign deals by states amid worsening diplomatic relations with China, which has handed down trade sanctions on Australian exports.

Australia, has also refused to sign agreements on directly participating in China’s new foreign policy initiative, which previously was agreed upon by Australia’s trade minister to cooperate with third-party countries in Belt and Road projects. In April, Canberra cancelled 2 of those projects struck by the state of Victoria, which prompted a warning from the Chinese embassy that bilateral ties would get worse. Just this week, Reuters reported that Australia was reviewing a 99 year lease of a northern port to a Chinese firm.

But Atilla Widnell, the managing director of Navigate Commodities says trade won’t be affected.

“We believe the iron ore trading relationship between Australia and China will remain ring-fenced in relation to current political tensions between the two nations. This is a co-dependent relationship whereby either party cannot survive without the other.”

Today has seen the Australian dollar nosedive, reaching as low as $ .7701 to the US dollar, compared to yesterday’s $.7747.

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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