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Accusations, working off-script and walk-outs. Day one in the new Thai parliament

The Thaiger

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Accusations, working off-script and walk-outs. Day one in the new Thai parliament | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: The Nation

One day down, another today. Thailand’s PM had his first day in a parliamentary setting and, despite taunts and barbs being thrown at him in true Parliamentary style, he stood firm.

Sometimes working off-script and at other times visibly annoyed, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha barrelled through the formalities with a few “settle downs” coming from his right-hand man, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan.

The Thai Prime Minister delivered the new government’s policy statement as the opening event on the first day’s sitting of Parliament. He readily admitted he was new to a parliamentary setting and barged through tempers and emotional responses coming from the opposition benches. He was fierce and determined in his first display heading up Thailand’s first elected government since the coup in 2014.

Here’s a few of the highlights…

• PM Prayut started off-script, stressing what he considered to be important in his first speech. He told parliament that his government was considering implementing the policies that both the coalition and opposition parties had proposed and urged patience for the roll out.

• Opposition MPs took turns raising objections, demanding that parliamentary regulations required the premier to read out the policy statement word for word. House Speaker Chuan Leekpai agreed with the objections and asked the PM to stick to the script.

• Prachachart Party leader Wan Muhamad Noor Matha called the policies a “bundle of wishlists” lacking practicality and implementation.

“There’s nothing in the policies. It’s vague. It’s lacking in clear vision.”

• Wan, during part of the debate time, made a colourful outburst claiming that Prayut had revealed to him on the day of the military take-over in 2014 that he had been plotting the coup for three years. Wan quoted Prayuth as saying in a meeting with him and other government officials moments after the general announced the takeover on May 22, 2014. Wan said couldn’t have faith in Prayut’s pledge at the parliament today to uphold democracy.

“How can a coup maker uphold democracy? You tore the constitution to pieces. That’s definitely treason.”

• On the issue of the Government stocking up on arms and military weaponry, PM Prayut said it is necessary to buy weapons that can be used efficiently.

“As for graft allegations, go find evidence and sue. Several committees were set up to oversee purchases.”

• Future Forward Party secretary-general, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, said that the party upholds the royal institution as much as anyone else, fending off some accusations that FFP have been undermining the constitutional monarchy.

“It is wrong to accuse those who hold different views of being disloyal to the country.”

But the PM finally ran out of patience late in the evening when the leader of Seri Ruam Thai Party, questioned his qualifications for the office of premier.

Prayut walked out of the house, forcing a 10 minute break.

Day Two in the first sitting of the parliament today.

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Bangkok

Royalists rally at US Embassy, call on Americans to stop “interfering” with Thai politics

Caitlin Ashworth

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Royalists rally at US Embassy, call on Americans to stop “interfering” with Thai politics | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Twitter: @justin_th_th

Royalists gathered this morning at the United States Embassy in Bangkok and called on Americans to stop a so-called “hybrid war,” implying that the US government is interfering with Thailand politics during a time of ongoing pro-democracy protests.

Dressed in yellow, the colour symbolising the Thai Monarch, the protesters held signs calling on an end to an alleged hybrid war. Some waved the Thailand national flag and some held up photos of the Royal family. One sign read “Stop hybrid war. Please return peace to the world.”

A large sign was directed at Ambassador Michael George DeSombre, who also served on the board Hong Kong forum which, according to the US government, “seeks to promote the exchange of ideas between scholars and policymakers worldwide and to foster communication between the US and China.”

The sign read “Mr. DeSombre! Your job in Hong Kong was good, but it doesn’t work for Thailand.”

Former singer and member of the Thai Pakdee royalist group, Hurethai Muangboonsri, led the rally and accused the US government of creating divide in Thailand, without providing any details or evidence.

“Don’t make Thais fight among each other or our nation will collapse. Remember that! Stop the conflict and stop the interference. This is Thailand, not Hong Kong.”

It’s unclear how many people showed up at the rally, but Nation Thailand says 20 police officers from Lumpini Station were deployed to secure the area around the embassy.

Whether or not the US is meddling with Thai politics, a pro-democracy activist told The Thaiger in a previous interview that political protests in America have influenced and motivated some in Thailand to rally and speak up for change.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand| US Government

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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Protests

Thai PM: Do you know what will happen if I resign?

Maya Taylor

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Thai PM: Do you know what will happen if I resign? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.thailandnews.co

The Thai PM has asked opposition MPs if they know what would happen if he resigns – then proceeded to tell them. Speaking in Parliament yesterday, prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called on members of the opposition to clarify whether they want him to resign or to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Thai PBS World reports that his comment was in response to Pheu Thai MP Chulapant Amornvivat urging him to do the responsible thing and step down. The PM replied by asking if MPs knew what that would entail. He then went on to explain that if he resigns, Cabinet would technically be dissolved too, but be required to remain on in an acting capacity until there is a replacement Cabinet.

He added that a new PM would be elected by Parliament (under the current 2017 charter), but the winning candidate would need half of MP and Senators’ votes. He then pointed out that if he opts to dissolve the House of Representatives, all MPs lose their parliamentary status and a general election will be called.

Anti-government protests have been taking place since mid-July and show no sign of stopping. Indeed the royalist factions are now mounting counter-protests in support of the government and ‘status quo’ as regards the Thai monarchy. The primarily student-led movement is calling for the PM’s resignation, the dissolution of Parliament, fresh elections, and a Charter (constitution) re-write, among other demands. So far, the PM has held fast despite growing calls for him to go.

Protesters handed over a letter at the German Embassy last night.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

Thanathorn, other former Future Forward Party officials, are facing criminal charges

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thanathorn, other former Future Forward Party officials, are facing criminal charges | The Thaiger
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16 people from the dissolved Future Forward Party, including the former leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, could face criminal charges pressed by the Election Commission for a large donation that exceeds the maximum allowed under the Political Parties Act. The timing of the politically-charged legal action coincides with a peak of anti-government protest activity.

The 191 million baht loan, which exceeds the limit of 10 million baht per donor per year, led the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party back in February. The Court also ordered the party’s executive MPs be stripped of their parliamentary status and banned from politics for 10 years.

Thanathorn, who is accused of making the large donation to the party, could face a charge under Section 66 of the Political Parties Act which limits donations to 10 million baht per donor per year, a source told the Bangkok Post. If he’s found guilty, Thanathorn could spend up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht. He could also be banned from political activity for another 5 years.

15 other former members of the Future Forward Party, including former secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and spokesperson Pannika Wanich, could face charges for dealing with funds from illegitimate sources, the source told the Bangkok Post. The violation holds a maximum penalty of 3 years in jail and a fine of 1 million baht.

The 191 million baht loan could also be seized and there has been talk that it could be given to the Political Party Development Fund.

The Future Forward Party had gained a large following, especially among young voters who were attracted to the progressive political policies. The party garnered the third highest number of votes in the March 2019 election, after less than a year in existence. Thanathorn says he supports the recent pro-democracy movement which is calling on government and monarchy reform as well as a rewrite of the 2017 Constitution. Activists are also pushing PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign.

Thanathorn, also a staunch critic of Thailand’s military, ran for prime minster against Prayut last year. Prayut, a former army general who led the 2014 military coup, beat Thanathorn with 500 to 244 parliament votes. Half of Prayut’s votes came from senators who were appointed by the military junta National Council for Peace and Order, or NCPO.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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