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Final cabinet posts will contribute to frailty of new Thai government

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Final cabinet posts will contribute to frailty of new Thai government | The Thaiger
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Before the ink is even dry on the Cabinet list, and before the newly formed government has even sat, along with its PM, rumours continue to swirl over the viability of the Palang Pracharat Coalition and it’s ability to govern.

Dean of the National Institute of Development Administration’s School of Social and Environmental Development, Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bukhet, is quoted in the Bangkok Post saying the next government will continue to be plagued by public image issues.

He says that some of the people listed for cabinet positions are currently being probed for “alleged irregularities in their dealings, as well as their connections to influential figures”.

He also said that the 20 parties comprising the coalition government will all be fighting to get their policies, promised to their electorates before the election, funded and passed into law. He said that this will impose a massive financial burden to enact. But not pushing their policies ahead will end up with further internal bickering and a loss of confidence from the MPs constituencies.

“Unless the premier keeps them on a tight leash, it will adversely affect the government’s stability,” Phichai told the Bangkok Post.

The most recent cabinet line-up is known to feature familiar names who are close, long-term allies of the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha – Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam and Prawit Wongsuwon – who are currently listed to retain their posts (despite rumours Prawit Wongsuwan may be left out of the new cabinet).

Gen Anupong Paojinda also looks set to retain his position at the Interior Ministry. Captain Thammanat Prompao, who is known to be close to General Prawit, is in line for the post of labour minister.

Former senator, Rosana Tositrakul, said the Energy Ministry has been highly sought despite receiving a relatively modest budget of around 3 billion baht each year. But she pointed out that the energy minister has authority to approve projects involving oil, gas, and power plants which can be worth trillions of baht.

The Palang Pracharat party’s Sam Mitr faction, commanding some 30 MPs within the party, laid claim to key ministerial posts even before the election. They were understandably ‘put out’ when they learned that some of the posts had beed bandied about as bargaining chips to secure votes for Prayut as the new PM. Even as late as last weekend they were publicly bickering with the leadership team of Palang Pracharat over the handing out of ministerial portfolios.

They’ve since closed ranks and thrown their full support behind Prayut’s decisions relating to Cabinet posts.

Suriya Jungrungreangkit, a core member of the Sam Mitr faction, and Chai Nat MP and group member Anucha Nakasai reaffirmed that they respected Gen Prayut’s decision on the line-up.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

House Speaker confirms agreement for special parliamentary session

Maya Taylor

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House Speaker confirms agreement for special parliamentary session | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The Speaker of the lower house of Parliament has confirmed that there is cross-party agreement for an extraordinary parliamentary session to be convened in the wake of the ongoing political unrest in Thailand. Chuan Leekpai has notified PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of the agreement to hold the special session in a bid to seek a resolution to the conflict. Anti-government protests have been taking place all over the country since mid-July and, while all have been peaceful, rallies are increasing in size and frequency. Activists are pitching a 10-point manifesto, with demands including the resignation of the PM, the dissolution of parliament and the holding of fresh elections, as well as a re-drafting of the constitution.

In his letter to the PM, Chuan calls on the cabinet to back the announcement of a Royal Decree, which will declare the opening of the special session. He proposes an initial general debate, with no voting requirement, so that MPs and senators can express their opinions and work to find a solution to the current impasse. The PM has already voiced his support for an extraordinary session of parliament.

Meanwhile, a number of opposition figures are calling for the state of emergency imposed on Bangkok to be lifted, declaring its implementation illegal and unnecessary. They are threatening legal action against the government if this proves to be the case, with the Pheu Thai Party renewing its calls for the PM’s resignation.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Protests

House Speaker proposes extraordinary parliamentary session in wake of political unrest

Maya Taylor

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House Speaker proposes extraordinary parliamentary session in wake of political unrest | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

The speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Chuan Leekpai, is proposing an extraordinary session of parliament as the political protests around the country intensifies, especially around Bangkok. Nation Thailand reports that Speaker Chuan plans to discuss the matter with government and opposition politicians today.

Anti-government protests, which began in mid-July, have grown in intensity and frequency, as activists demand the resignation of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, the dissolution of parliament, and fresh elections. They are also calling for a re-write of the constitution and for reform of the Monarchy.

Most observers see the demands, laid out by protest leaders in a 10-point manifesto, as a “bridge too far”, and that there is little room for compromise in the current political structure. The government’s pro-royalist and conservative agenda, and its support from the Thai Army, is in stark contrast to the protester’s demands for greater democracy, reforms in Parliament and the role of the country’s revered monarchy.

Several protest leaders have already been arrested and the PM has declared a State of Emergency in Bangkok, banning gatherings of more than 5 people. Protesters continued to defy the ban over the weekend, assembling in their thousands, both in the capital and around the country. On Friday, riot police used high powered water cannons to force an end to a peaceful protest in the capital, a decision greeted with widespread criticism from human rights groups, political observers and social media.

In response to Chuan’s proposal, Suthin Klangsaeng from the Pheu Thai Party, says the party is ready for a special parliamentary session, calling on government MPs to prepare themselves too. An extraordinary session of parliament requires the support of a third of parliament, which totals 488 MPs and 250 senators. At least 35 votes are required from government MPs.

The government’s decision last month to postpone a debate on a constitutional re-write, one of the key demands of activists, appears to have added fuel to the fire, escalating political unrest around the country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thailand

So who are these Thai students, and what are the protests about?

The Thaiger

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So who are these Thai students, and what are the protests about? | The Thaiger

What’s behind all the protests in Thailand right now? What are the protesters demanding? Who are they?

Since August, an organic, mostly young Thais, political movement has been building. It’s different from every other protest movement in the past. The people attending the rallies don’t really align themselves, or identify with, the past political factions. They’re not red shirts or yellow shirts. They are new and claim they’re seeking key changes to Thailand’s political system and the role and powers of the Head of State.

What are their demands?

In a 10 point manifesto read out for the first time on August 10, they demanded the standing down of the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, the dissolution of the Thai parliament, a new constitution to replace the 2017 Thai Charter, police to stop “harassing” them, and curbs on the powers of the Thai monarch. They claim the election was “fudged” (our interpretation of their words) and that the selection of the Thai PM by the Thai parliament was invalid.

Are their demands realistic?

It is unlikely that the current government would entertain any of the demands as it would result in their loss of “power”.

Who are the protesters?

They are mostly students with an average age well under 25 years old. The two largest groups call themselves the Free Youth Movement and the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration.

Beyond that, it’s sort of complicated. There are other splinter groups pushing this and that issue including LGBT and women’s rights groups. But they are all united in the main thrust of central demands. The current protest phenomenon has also reached into secondary school classes with the Bad Student movement, which has seen the defiant raising of the 3 finger salute by previously compliant Thai school students during the morning assembly, flag raising and singing of the national anthem.

As a new generation of Thais, they also have little fear in raising “uncomfortable” issues that limited the previous generations of Thais. They’re the first protest movement to publicly utter the “unutterable” and openly criticise the role of the Thai monarch

What are their tactics?

So far the protesters have remained peaceful during the rallies, except for a few minor scuffles with police. Their main advantage is their youth, their weaponising of social media, their consistent, and relentless, demands and their resolve. In the latest round of cat-and-mouse protest games with police, the protesters have shown that are able to keep one step ahead of officials and can switch their tactics and locations in moments.

There’s also lots of them and have no problems in attracting rally crowds of 30,000+

How has the Prayut government responded?

The Thai PM had made it clear that he wanted to avoid violence at all costs in the past few months of student protests. But when a royal motorcade headed into a throng of protesters on Wednesday, the situation changed quickly and a State of Emergency was enacted less than 12 hours later.

How, or why, the motorcade was allowed to take a route straight into the path of an announced protest is up for debate, but the royalist prime minister saw the “interaction” as a bridge too far.

The government imposed a State of Emergency that bans gatherings of more than 5 people anywhere in Bangkok. It also forbids publication of posts, news or online information “that could harm national security”. It also allows police to arrest anyone linked to the protests and secure “any area” it deems necessary. That State of Emergency will last until November 14, unless the proclamation is extended.

Does it have anything to do with the Covid-19 pandemic?

No. The changes demanded by the protesters have been welling up for many years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic happened.

What reforms to the Thai monarchy are the protesters seeking?

Protesters are demanding a reverse in HM the King’s revised constitutional powers, which were put in place in 2017.

The activists say that the newly acquired powers are a wind back of the changes from Siam to Thailand in 1932 when the absolute powers of the monarch were removed by a new constitutional monarchy enshrining representative democracy (the country was formerly renamed on June 23, 1939). The protesters claim the monarchy is now “too close” to the Thai army and argue that this relationship is undermining Thailand’s democracy.

The protesters want HM the King to relinquish the additional controls he reclaimed over the palace fortune estimated to be in the vicinity of 30 billion dollars. He also took direct control over 3 battalions of the Thai army.

They’re also angry because HM the King endorsed PM Prayut and the Palang Pracharat party’s election and stitched-together coalition after the March 24, 2019 election. Opposition figures claim the election was “fudged” by using legal over-reach to cancel the votes of opposition MPs and disband parties.

Finally, protesters say that the Thai King spends most of the year in Bavaria in Germany, and point to his alleged extravagant lifestyle.

What’s the lèse majesté laws?

The lèse majesté laws are a draconian set of laws that prevent criticising or insulting the Thai monarch or royal family. Infringing the laws can result in a 15 year prison sentence. The monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the Thai Penal Code.

Has the palace or monarch made any comment about the current situation?

No

How do the lèse majesté laws work in practice?

In June, PM Prayut announced that the lèse majesté law would no longer be applied on the express wishes of His Majesty. But there has never been an official comment relating to this from the Palace.

But the police have still arrested and charged Thais for anti-monarchy or anti-King comments on social media by applying the Computer Crimes Act and laws relating to Sedition.

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