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Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe to step down over health

Jack Burton

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Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe to step down over health | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AFP
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Japan’s media today reported that PM Shinzo Abe will resign over health issues, in a shock development that will end a record-setting tenure with no clear successor decided. There was no immediate confirmation, and the reports came just hours before Abe was to hold a press conference about his health. The news sent Tokyo stocks tumbling more than 2%, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index reversing earlier gains.

Rumours of Abe’s resignation intensified after 2 recent surprise hospital visits for unspecified reasons, but more recently senior government officials suggested he would serve out his final year in office. The resignation is a grimly familiar scenario for Abe, who was forced to step down just a year into his first term, in 2007, also over health problems. He was eventually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which upon return to office in 2012 he said was under control, with the help of new medication.

If confirmed, the resignation, will come despite the insistence of government spokesman Yoshihide Suga this morning that Abe remained in good health.

“I see him every day and feel that there is no change in his condition.”

Yesterday, Suga told Bloomberg News that Abe would “of course” be able to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in September 2021.

“He’ll be all right.”

But the health woes seem to have added to the pressure for Abe, who just this week broke the record for the longest uninterrupted tenure in the office in Japanese history. Despite the largely contained impact of the coronavirus in Japan, his government has been harshly criticised for its approach to the crisis, including a U-turn on stimulus payments and a much-ridiculed decision to issue each household 2 cloth facemasks. The PM has also seen his trademark “Abenomics” economic policy come under growing strain, with the country slumping into recession even before the Covid-19 crisis hit.

Still, experts say there’s little appetite within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for Abe to quit early, especially as there is no consensus on a successor. And with Japan’s fragmented opposition thus far unable to capitalise on the government’s falling ratings, there appeared to be little immediate pressure on him to resign. His abrupt resignation now throws open numerous possibilities, including that either deputy prime minister Taro Aso, who also serves as finance minister, or chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga could assume the office in a caretaker capacity. A later election within the party would confirm a full-time successor.

Several former and current cabinet members have also been suggested as potential successors.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | New Straits Times | AFP

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1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    Mike

    August 31, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Good riddance to this scumbag. His attempts to re-write Japanese history have been mildly successful which is a big shame as the Japanese people largely still do not accept what their country did during WWII. To put it simply – they killed twice as many people as the Nazis did. Shinzo Abe and his right-wing nationalist cronies are total scum. How and why the international community allowed it to happen is a mystery. He will not be missed.

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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

Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful

Maya Taylor

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Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says former immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn, shouldn’t assume his transfer to an inactive post in the PM’s Office was unlawful. Surachate, known by the nickname “Big Joke” (given to him by Thai media) headed up Thailand’s Immigration Bureau until he was unceremoniously side-lined by the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha last year.

It’s understood he is now planning to sue the PM, claiming that the lack of any investigation against him shows there were no grounds for the transfer. His lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says other officers transferred to the PM’s Office have since been re-instated, after being cleared of any wrongdoing. He insists his client deserves the same, pointing out that in the 1 year and 5 months since his transfer, there has been no investigation against him.

For his part, Deputy PM Wissanu says Surachate has the right to sue the PM if he so wishes but shouldn’t assume his transfer is similar to that of former National Security Council chief, Thawil Pliensri, who was transferred under former PM Ying­luck Shinawatra in 2011. The transfer was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Bangkok Post reports that Wissanu doesn’t rule out the possibility of Surachate being re-instated, saying the PM’s Office should submit the issue for the PM’s consideration. For his part, Surachate claims his petitions to the PM have fallen on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes

Caitlin Ashworth

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Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Warong Dechgitvigrom

Just after proposed constitutional amendments, backed by pro-democracy supporters, were submitted to the Thai parliament, the Thai Pakdee royalist group filed a petition with 130,000 signatures saying they are against making changes to the constitution.

Pro-democracy activists have been demanding a rewrite of the Thai constitution at protests over the past few months. The nonprofit organisation Internet Law Reform Dialogue, known as iLaw, drafted amendments including one that would require all senators and local administrators to be elected. Currently Thailand’s entire Senate is hand-picked by the ruling party. More than 100,000 people back the proposed changes.

“There’s no need to make changes”, according to Former Democrat MP and leader of Thai Pakdee Warong Dechgitvigrom. He says the 2017 Constitution was approved by 16.8 million people (Thailand’s population is 69.4 million).

“Redoing the process would cost 15 billion baht in taxpayer money. On top of that, it would require 2 referenda and a general election.”

According to Thai PBS, 84 of the 250 senators need to be on board to move forward with revisions to the constitution. At the moment, around 60 of them are in favour of constitutional amendments while 100 oppose any changes and the rest are undecided. But Senators against the amendments might change their minds, according to Senate whip Sangsit Phiriyarangsan. He says he believes more senators will be in favour of making some amendments after hearing debates in parliament.

SOURCES: Thai PBS

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Politics

Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer

Maya Taylor

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Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.thailandtip.info

The former head of Thai Immigration, Surachet Hakparn, is taking legal action against Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, after the PM had him unceremoniously transferred to an inactive post last year. Surachet, commonly known by the nickname “Big Joke”, (a nickname given to him by Thai media) accuses the PM of transferring him without just cause and has been petitioning for a review of the decision, to no avail.

At the time there was no reason given for the high-profile head of Thailand’s Immigration to be ‘side-lined’ to desk duties at the PM’s office.

Following a complaint lodged with the Central Administrative Court, Surachet’s lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says that in the 1 year and 5 months since his client’s transfer, there has been “no investigation launched against him”. Surachet accuses the PM of an abuse of power in ordering the transfer, pointing to a lack of investigations from either the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, or the Office of the Auditor-General.

Since his fall from official grace Surachet has largely remained silent over the matter.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2018, Surachet’s face was everywhere in daily media reports, often seen with hordes of foreigners his team had ’rounded up’ in immigration crackdowns around the country. If you’d overstayed your visa, or were an international criminal running dodgy dating services, gambling sites or drugs, you knew about Surachet Hakparn and knew it would be no “joke” if he arrived at your door.

But at some point, he appears to have stepped on the wrong toes, calling into question procurement practices at the Immigration Bureau, amid plans to spend billions on smart cars and the much-lauded airports biometrics system (which was since installed at the country’s airports). The upshot was his removal from office, while the purchases went ahead.

Since then, little was heard from the former immigration chief, until his parked car was shot at in January of this year. Although caught on CCTV, the 2 perpetrators, who were riding a motorbike and wearing full-face helmets, could not be identified. In July, Surachet was seen making merit at a temple, where he said he was praying to be allowed return to his former duties. He also took an extended overseas holiday.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2019, he was widely tipped to take up a prominent position at the top of the country’s Royal Thai Police force.

Sitthi points out that most officials who were previously transferred to the PM’s Office have now been re-instated, after investigations cleared them of any offences. He insists that with no grounds to justify his transfer, Surachet must also be re-instated, adding that with the PM unwilling to act, his client will seek justice in the courts.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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