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Future Forward legal team submits ‘share-gate’ evidence

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PHOTO: Future Forward party secretary-genera, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul

In submitting further evidence and clarification over ‘share-gate’, Future Forward party’s legal team has also asked for Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s MP status to be reinstated.

Thanathorn was suspended from his MP duties when the Constitutional Court decided to accept a case over his alleged media share holdings.

The party’s secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul says, as of March 24 (the date of the Thai election), Thanathorn did not own media shares. Piyabutr said that Thanathorn has not held any media shares since January 8 of this year.

“We asked the court to have a full hearing of evidence and revoke an order that suspends Mr Thanathorn from performing his MP duties. Moreover, the trial should be open and transparent,” he told Bangkok Post.

He said the Election Commission isn’t authorised to consider the case against Thanathorn because as of March 24, the party leader no longer held the shares and that V-Luck Media, the company Thanathorn previously held shares, was simply hired to print an in-flight airline magazine for Nok Air.

“All the content was provided by the airline and therefore free from any political agenda. Moreover, the firm stopped operations on Nov 26 last year.”

Mr Piyabutr also dismissed speculation that Mr Thanathorn has fled overseas and promised he would return as he is still an MP.

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Protests

3 protesters denied bail as 10pm deadline for the PM’s resignation looms

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3 protesters denied bail as 10pm deadline for the PM’s resignation looms | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The arrest of protester Panupong Jardnok, aka. Mike Rayong - Thai PBS World

Whilst 1 protester was freed from the Bangkok Remand Prison last night, 3 of his peers remain in custody after being denied bail this afternoon. Supporters of the group protested last night outside the Bangkok Special Remand Centre, demanding their release and dropping of all charges against them. They disbanded around 5am this morning but have been re-assembling as Saturday goes by.

Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka. Pai Daodin, was released from the Bangkok Remand Prison last evening after a hearing by the Appeals Court. Protesters were waiting outside demanding the release of 3 other key protest leaders, still being held at the prison – Parit Chivarak, Panasaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jardnok, aka. Mike Rayong. Panasaya was the university student who first read out the now-infamous 10 point manifesto listing the protesters persistent list of demands.

The group of protesters continues to call on the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to resign by 10pm this evening. They have not clarified what may be the consequences if their demands are not met.

The 3 protest leaders were deemed by the Court of Appeals as “potential flight risks” as well as likely to break conditions of their bail, eg. participating in, and organising, more anti-government rallies. Charges for the 3 include using a sound amplifier without a permit, assembly of more than 5 people (during the State of Emergency), posting social media deemed to be a threat to national security, and sedition.

As the 10pm deadline passes this evening, earlier being set as Sunday night at 10pm, the situation will be ripe for more protests as we head into the new week. Parliament has been called to a joint emergency parliamentary session on Monday and Tuesday where the protesters demands will be discussed and debated.

Opposition MPs are demanding that motions can be put to a vote whilst the ruling coalition has stated that it does want any votes on debate matters. The opposition is also calling on debate of the most contentious issue, the future role of the Thai monarchy, whilst the government has ruled that out in this emergency session.

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Protests

Preparations for the emergency session of the Thai Parliament

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Preparations for the emergency session of the Thai Parliament | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Protesters display the 3 finger salute in the lead up to next Monday's emergency sessions of parliament - Associate Press

The Thai Parliament is getting ready for an extraordinary session called by the Lower House Speaker to debate the current impasse between the protester’s demands and the PM and government. The session will be held on Monday and Tuesday. But even before the emergency session begins, government and opposition parliamentarians cannot decide on the terms of the debate.

Parliament president and lower house speaker, veteran Chuan Leekpai, hosted a meeting yesterday in preparation for the “extraordinary joint session” which will run over 2 days. He says the session will debate “ways to defuse the ongoing political crisis”. The debates will involve both houses of parliament, constituting the elected MPs of the lower house and the hand-picked, unelected Senators of the upper house. The preparatory meeting included members of cabinet, government coalition parties, opposition and the upper house.

Outside of the unfinished Thai parliamentary building, police and security officials were preparing for expected return of protests and a large turnout for the next round of political rallies. The protesters have already made this Sunday night the deadline for the Thai PM to resign, having already decided to co-operate with the PM after his Wednesday night request for the protesters to “stand down’ pending parliamentary discussions.

It’s unlikely the PM will meet this deadline and will participate in the 2 day emergency session.

The 2-day special session is being held under Section 165 of the 2017 Thai constitution which states “the government can request a joint House-Senate sitting for a general debate”. The next scheduled session of parliament was November 1.

But even the terms of the motion for the emergency session is causing debate before the doors even open for the emergency session. Opposition parties are demanding that their be the opportunity for a substantive vote following the session so that some concrete progress can be made to diffuse the current political crisis.

“We may refuse to be involved in the debates unless there is an opportunity to vote on the motions.”

Sutin Klungsang, opposition whip from the Pheu Thai Party, says unless the topics covered actually address the protesters demands, there is little use in turning up to the sessions.

The Move Forward Party’s (including remnants of the disbanded Future Forward party) Chaithawat Tulathon, says there must be a motion which includes the protesters’ key demands… that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha resign, a new constitution be written and the role of the Tha monarchy be limited and codified.

“Parliament should serve as an example in discussing sensitive issues in an appropriate and mature manner.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Reuters | Nation Thailand

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Economy

Thailand at the crossroads. The anti-government protesters vs Thai establishment – VIDEO

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Thailand at the crossroads. The anti-government protesters vs Thai establishment – VIDEO | The Thaiger

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This video provides some background of the protests and their challenge ahead. They are battling a deeply entrenched “establishment”, including the Army, the government, the Bangkok ‘elite’ and years of conservative traditions protecting the revered Thai monarchy. The protesters are young, educated and motivated. The government controls the levers of power. What will happen?

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Whilst the daily media coverage of the current protests in Thailand might give you the impression that Thailand is in some sort of chaotic mess, it’s really nothing like that.

Yes, there are some protests going on in isolated parts of the city. Yes, they’re disruptive to local traffic and they are getting plenty of media attention. But the vast majority of Thais, whilst many will be keeping abreast of the developments, are just getting on with their life and much of what you’d call Thai life is bubbling along like usual.

On the other hand Thailand is coming to terms with an economy mostly devoid of tourism. People are rearranging their lives and finding new jobs, but again, it’s not as if there are long lines of unemployed, beggars or starving people. In most locations around Thailand, leaving out some of the tourist hot spots, like Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui, life is just plugging on. Even in those locations, once out of the touristy parts, the local economies are adapting and managing.

The people losing their work from tourism have, mostly, headed home to their families and are getting absorbed into family businesses or community life. It’s a cultural resilience that is helping Thailand adapt and survive, even thrive in some sectors, during the worldwide pandemic.
There isn’t even any tangible link between the two issues – the Covid-19 pandemic and the current protest movement. The push for change of the political status quo has been brewing ever since the current government seized power in 2014, firstly as an Army-led coup against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, and then after the March 2019 election, when the coup leaders were able to cobble together a workable, and at least on paper, legitimate government.

But be assured, Covid-19 pandemic or not, this protest movement would have surfaced anyway and is driven by idealism and political evolution, not the pandemic or economy. The protesters are mostly educated students from middle class families and they’ve never once made mention of the lack of tourists or even the broader Thai economy. They’re not disaffected opposition politicians, or even identify with the old red shirt/yellow shirt protests. They are mostly fresh, younger voices.

The protesters’ demands have been unfalteringly consistent. Based on a 10 point manifesto, first read out at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus on August 10 this year.

The demands are that the Thai PM resign, that the parliament is dissolved for a fresh election, that a new constitution is written to replace the 2017 Charter and that officials stop harassing protesters and people speaking out against the government. Most of those would be the sorts of things you may expect from opposition MPs or anti-government protesters. But this time they spiced up their wish list with a controversial demand for changes in the role of the country’s revered monarchy. They have strenuously denied that they want to get rid of the Thai monarchy, instead, they want a new constitution to codify the role of the Thai monarch and limit the powers which they claim, are currently unfettered.

The hurdle for change, however, is that the current system is stacked against just about everything the protesters are demanding, especially the changes to the role of the Thai monarchy.

For any of these changes to take place there will have to be a national consensus, a new constitution and some sort of response, even involvement from the Palace.

The students are demanding change, now, but the reality is that, for a peaceful transition, there will certainly need to be constructive discussions, a desire to change and a passage of time. None of that, given the history of Thai coups and the role of the Army, appears likely at the moment.

Whilst the government is trying to diffuse the situation by calling emergency sessions of parliament, even offers to drops the State of Emergency or release some of the arrested protesters, there is still an enormous political gulf between the demands of the protesters and the government’s preparedness to change.

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