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PM holds urgent meetings with Thailand’s economic tsars today

The Thaiger & The Nation

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PM holds urgent meetings with Thailand’s economic tsars today | The Thaiger

The PM has put himself in control of Thailand’s economic matters nominating himself as Chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs. Today the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha holds talks with top officials of four key economic institutions on the budget bill as the economy, which has been a regional leader over the past decade, stutters.

Academics are calling for cuts in military spending as the new government prepares to set the expenditure budget for fiscal 2020, while urging the administration to spend more on economic reform, education and public health.

Prayut is meeting with representatives from Finance Ministry, Budget Bureau, National Economic and Social Development Council and the Bank of Thailand today. He says his priority is to push through the budget bill which is expected to be delayed by about four months from the normal starting date in October.

The new government is expected to set the expenditure target at 3.2-3.3 trillion baht, running a modest deficit of about 450 billion baht, according to The Nation.

The expenditure on military hardware is expected to be closely scrutinised by the opposition and the public. Over the past five years under military rule, critics had blamed the junta-backed government for the rises in military budget under the Defence Ministry, such as the purchase of Chinese-made submarines with tax-payers’ money.

Somchai Sujjapongse, former permanent secretary for finance, said that military spending should be cut and more funding should be allocated in support of the low and middle income groups and education”.

“Cyber-war is here, no need for tanks and other military hardware.”

Nada Chansom, an economist at the School of Development Economics, National Institute of Development Administration NIDA, shared a similar view with Somchai, saying that the budget on national security should be reduced in order to increase spending on education, public health and economic restructuring.

“The global economic slowdown, strengthening of the baht and the slide in Thai exports will pose serious challenges for the new government.”

Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand reports that overall economic activity in the second quarter of 2019 expanded moderately from the same period last year. Merchandise exports continued to contract, consistent with the decline in manufacturing production, while the tourism sector expanded at a slower rate, mainly due to a decline in the number of Chinese tourists.

However, overall domestic demand continued to expand, albeit at a softer pace. Private consumption softened from almost all spending categories, except non-durable goods. Private investment contracted in both investment in machinery and equipment and investment in construction.

SOURCE: The Nation

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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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Politics

70 Future Forward Party MPs vote against ’emergency decree’

The Thaiger

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70 Future Forward Party MPs vote against ’emergency decree’ | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says the MPs voting against the decree was ‘nothing unusual’ – matichon.co.th

70 members of the Future Forward Party have voted against an ’emergency decree’ stating that personnel and operating funds for the Army’s Infantry Division will be put directly under His Majesty the King’s command to provide better security to the Royal Family, Royal residences and the monarch’s VIP guests.

But three Future Forward MPs, namely Ms. Kawinnart Takee of Chon Buri, Mr. Charoek Sri-on of Chanthaburi and Pol Lt-Col Thanapat Kittiwongsa of Chanthaburi, voted in support of the executive decree in defiance against the party’s stand.

The Parliament’s Lower House passed the decree by 374-70 votes.

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said that MPs voting against the emergency decree on the King’s bodyguard units was not unusual. He said the decree had nothing to do with the Royal Family. He went further suggesting that, since the government had proposed this emergency decree, Future Forward’s secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul was correct in suggesting that the government resign or dissolve Parliament if the emergency decree fails to make it through Parliament.

Piyabutr had previously stated that the emergency decree might be in violation of the Constitution and that it was the Army’s job to protect the Royal Family.

Meanwhile, Wattana Muangsook, a core member of the Pheu Thai party, said he supported the party’s MPs voting for the Government’s decree, adding that, whether the transfer of troops and funding was done by means of an executive decree because the issue is urgent, or by means of a bill, did not matter because the issue is not about democracy. He believed the transfer will shorten the chain of command and will improve the efficiency of the Royal Security Command.

Under the decree, some troops of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Ratcha Wallop Royal Guards and the 11th Infantry Regiment of the Ratcha Wallop Roya Guards are to be transferred to the Royal Security Command.

SOURCE: The Nation | Thai PBS World

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Bangkok

Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare

Greeley Pulitzer

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Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare | The Thaiger

A professor of Rangsit University has criticised the previous military government for focusing too much on tourism and not enough on the welfare of the Thai people. The professor was speaking at Chulalongkorn University at a seminar discussing street stalls and urban development.

She questioned the National Council for Peace and Order’s policy of clearing street vendors in all but a few areas such as Yaowarat and Khao San Road that mainly cater to tourists.

She claimed that the NCPO – in power since the coup of 2014 until this year’s election – was more interested in economic development through tourism than in the welfare of the public.

Having affordable street food options was not just about tourism, she said, it was vital for poor workers who have migrated from the countryside, adding that it was part of an informal rather than a formal economy.

“For years people had earned their living from selling goods and services, including food, on the streets.”

This in turn provided an affordable option to eat for workers who came to Bangkok on for large investment projects. The issue, she said, was not just about tourism but the wider economy that might benefit.

The professor noted that CNN had once called Bangkok the best place in the world for street food but this had changed with the sanitized food trucks that have appeared since stalls and vendors were banned from most areas.

The Thaiger notes that banning street vendors has divided the capital. Many are happy that the sidewalks are easier to navigate, but others – including tourists – have said that the lifeblood and character of the city has suffered.

SOURCE: Naew Na | ThaiVisa Forum

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