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‘Ministry deals’ in tatters – Palang Pracharat revoke cabinet post promises

The Thaiger & The Nation

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‘Ministry deals’ in tatters – Palang Pracharat revoke cabinet post promises | The Thaiger

“One source, a core leader in Phalang Pracharat, confirmed the previous deals had been revoked.”

Thailand’s hosting of the ASEAN Summit from June 20 to 23 is forcing Palang Pracharat members to stitch together its government and sort out key ministerial posts before the event.

More than two months after the election, and following the election of a PM that saw Prayut Chan-o-cha return to the office, the parties within the pro-military bloc have yet to reach agreement over ministerial positions. Indeed, it is clear now that the the pro-junta Palang Pracharat party is going to renege on its deals to allocate key ministerial positions to coalition partners in return for their support for the PM vote.

Phalang Pracharat has reportedly insisted on controlling economy-related ministries – Agriculture, Commerce and Transport – that it had earlier agreed to allocate to key partners, the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties. The backtracking follows intensive talks before the vote for the PM as Palang Pracharat struggled to get a clear majority of votes in the lower house.

One source, a core leader in Phalang Pracharat, confirmed the previous deals had been revoked. If the Democrats and Bhumjaithai refused to accept the new arrangement, the source said, Prayut would have final say on the issue.

Phalang Pracharat leader Uttama Savanayana said in a press conference yesterday that as the PM, it was traditional that Prayut would make the final decision on the Cabinet.

Sources also said the disagreement stemmed from the election of the PM on Wednesday, in which an absent Prayut was criticised for 12 hours before finally being approved in the vote. In charge of the session was the Democrats’ Chuan Leekpai, who was elected House Speaker with support from the pro-junta bloc.

Phalang Pracharat decided it could not lose the crucial economic positions to its partners without suffering disadvantage, the sources said. It would also make it difficult for Phalang Pracharat to play the leading role in administration, they added.

It has been reported that if Phalang Pracharat does not gain control over the key ministries, economist Somkid Jatusripitak would withdraw from the bloc.

Fresh talks among the partners would be based on the political party system by which party executives lead the negotiations and decisions are made at party meetings, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the anti-junta bloc was preparing to form a united opposition to confront the Prayut administration in Parliament.

The Pheu Thai Party could replace its leader, Viroj Pao-in, with Chiang Mai MP Sompong Amornvivat, as it prepares for parliamentary skirmishes as the leading opposition party.

Its secretary-general, Phumtham Wechayachai, admitted on Friday that Pheu Thai began considering the leadership change after political developments landed it in opposition.

Phumtham said Sompong would be an appropriate choice for the job as an experienced parliamentarian, a good organiser and a respected figure able to lead the seven-party opposition. But the decision would have to be made at a party meeting in July or August, he said.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Politics

Charter court will hand down ruling on Thanathorn share case on November 20

The Thaiger

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Charter court will hand down ruling on Thanathorn share case on November 20 | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The Thai Constitutional Court is set to issue a ruling in Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s media share ownership case on November 20. The court wrapped up its inquiry yesterday with the questioning of ten defence witnesses, including Thanathorn who arrived at the court greeted by well-wishers.

Thanathorn, who held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media, has repeatedly insisted they were sold to his mother on January 8, weeks before he registered to run as a candidate.

As judges fired questions at him during today’s hearing, the usually cool-headed party leader appeared tense, saying he couldn’t recall the legal details of divesting the shares. His supporters say the case has been trumped up to take out Thailand’s most popular politician and deliver a gut punch to the FFP and its radical reform agenda.

Read more about the case HERE.

Both Thanathorn and the Election Commission, which filed the case with the Constitutional Court, were given 15 days from today to submit their closing statements to the court.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

Future Forward’s Thanathorn in court over alleged media share holdings

The Thaiger

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Future Forward’s Thanathorn in court over alleged media share holdings | The Thaiger

The charismatic frontman of Thailand’s anti-military parliamentary bloc appeared in court today accused of breaching election rules by holding media shares. The case could see him barred from politics and jailed for up to 10 years.

40 year old Thai billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has rattled Thailand’s arch-royalist establishment since seizing the political limelight with his caustic take downs of the army’s role in Thai politics and society. His upstart Future Forward Party, formed only 12 months before this year’s March elections, became Thailand’s third largest political group in the poll which ended five years of outright junta rule. They ended up with more votes than the older, more established Democrats, surprising many, particularly the Military-backed Palang Pracharat party.

The party was backed by millions of young people wearied by the dominance of the conservative old guard. But Thanathorn’s electoral success has been matched by a battery of legal woes.

He has been suspended from attending parliament since the Election Commission accused him of breaking polling laws by holding media shares – an offence that carries a long jail term.

Arriving for the first hearing at the Constitutional Court on Friday, Thanathorn again pleaded his “innocence” telling reporters the media company had ceased operations five months before the election.

“We are convinced that there is no evidence.”

Thanathorn, who held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media, has repeatedly insisted they were sold to his mother on January 8, weeks before he registered to run as a candidate.

As judges fired questions at him during today’s hearing, the usually cool-headed party leader appeared tense, saying he couldn’t recall the legal details of divesting the shares. His supporters say the case has been trumped up to take out Thailand’s most popular politician and deliver a gut punch to the FFP and its radical reform agenda.

The party wants to amend the constitution to excise the military’s influence, slash defence spending and end conscription to an army that has carried out a coup at an average of once every seven years since the 1932 establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

“The party is against the military… I support their vision and I absolutely support Mr Thanathorn,” 35 year old Punjarat Wattawongvibul old AFP outside the court.

A ruling is expected to be announced on November 20.

The highly interventionist court disbanded a different anti-military opposition party linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra right before the March elections. Thanathorn has also been singled out by the kingdom’s powerful army chief.

The Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong last week delivered a thinly-veiled warning of the spectre of a communist rebellion in a speech flecked with barely-concealed references to Thanathorn and his party.

Future Forward have been a rare voice of criticism against Thailand’s royalist establishment.

The monarchy remains at the apex of Thailand as the Head of State.

Yesterday 70 Future Forward MPs voted against a royal decree transferring two key army units to the direct control of the Thai King, an unprecedented political objection to a royal command.

The decree still passed parliament with an overwhelming majority.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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