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Prawit tipped to become leader of ruling Palang Pracharat party executive

The Thaiger

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Prawit tipped to become leader of ruling Palang Pracharat party executive | The Thaiger

Whilst the attention of the country has been on the CCSA, with the PM at the helm, and their handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, there has been ongoing dissent inside the ruling Palang Pracharat party which boiled over yesterday with the resignation of 18 members of the party’s executive committee. There’s been building conflict within the party whilst the PM has been ‘distracted’.

Under the party’s rules the party will have to elect a new leader and executive committee within 45 days. Paiboon Nititawan, a Palang Pracharat deputy leader, informed embattled party leader Uttama Savanayana about the resignations yesterday and submitted 18 letters of their intentions, one from each MP. Meanwhile, the outgoing committee will remain in place before the election of the new executive committee.

Now all eyes are on the diminutive 74 year old loyal sidekick to the prime minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, who is tipped to become the new leader of the executive committee. Prawit has served throughout the period of the NCPO (National Council of Peace and Order) following the May 2014 army coup, in various capacities. He often serves as Prayut’s ‘fix it’ man and currently serves as one of the deputy prime ministers in the coalition government. He served as defence minister during the period of the NCPO.

The resignations and potential cabinet reshuffle appear to be a response to disagreements within the leading party (a political extension of the NCPO who ran candidates in the March 25 election last year) about the rebooting of Thailand’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and the damage its caused just about every sector of the country’s finances.

Palang Pracharat MP for Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, says that the spill was the result of a deal when the party was formed that the current executive committee members would have one year to prove their value and their performance would “then be assessed”. He said “they now must admit that it is time for a change”.

Current party leader Uttama has found himself embroiled in the crossfire of party infighting with factions pushing stalwart General Prawit, who has been the party’s chief strategist, to take the top job. Asked about the prospects of him becoming the new leader of Palang Pracaharat, General Prawit responded in his usual non-committal manner.

“Let me think about it first because I had no intention to enter politics from the beginning.”

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says he doesn’t want any involvement with the resignation of the party executives or any change in the party’s leadership because he is not a member of the party machine even though he was nominated by them to be their prime ministerial candidate.

Prawit Wongsuwan hit the headlines again over the weekend after a letter of explanation, sent by the country’s anti-corruption commission, listed the reasons Prawit was exonerated over the luxury watch scandal in 2018. The letter says the NACC commissioners “acknowledged that Pattawat Suksriwong was the owner of the watches and had lent them to General Prawit. The letter, sent to a Pheu Thai Party member, also confirmed that Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat’s family after he used them.

Here’s the list of the watches he ‘borrowed’ from his friend, businessman Pattawat Suksriwong who died in 2017.

Prawit tipped to become leader of ruling Palang Pracharat party executive | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Wikipedia

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Thailand

Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report | The Thaiger
October protest at the Asok-Sukhumvit intersection in Bangkok / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute freedom, Thailand scores at 30, a “not free” country, according to the nonprofit Freedom House. Each year, the organisation reviews the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world. According to their recent assessment, Thailand has declined in terms of rights and liberties, dropping on the scale from “partly free” to “not free.”

The main reason for the drop on the freedom scale, the organisation says, is “due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.”

The Future Forward Party was dissolved in February 2020 after the court found that the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had made a large donation to the party that exceeded the legal limit. The party’s leaders were then banned from politics for the next decade.

Youth-led protests started in February, but the demonstrations were put on pause due to Covid-19 restrictions banning large public gatherings. Protesters gathered in July as restrictions lifted, but some leaders then faced charges for holding a public gathering, which was still banned under emergency orders.

In October, the prime minister imposed what Freedom House calls a “severe” State of Emergency order in Bangkok that banned gatherings of more than 5 people. Some protesters were arrested for violating the order nearly immediately after it was imposed.

With activists pushing for monarchy reform and an end to the military’s involvement in government, raising subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society, the Thai government has increased its use of the draconian lèse majesté law. Since November, dozens of activists have faced charges for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

Freedom House scores countries on topics like the electoral process, questioning if politicians and leaders were elected in free and fair elections, as well as freedom of expression and individual rights.

Thailand’s military seized power in 2014 in a bloodless coup. The 2017 constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the military’s National Council for Peace and Order. In 2019, the country transitioned to what Freedom House calls a “military-dominated, semi-elected” government.

The 2019 elections were overseen by the Election Commission of Thailand, whose members were appointed by the military. All 250 senators were appointed by the military in 2019 to serve 5 year terms.

In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

SOURCE: Freedom House

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Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters

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Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters | The Thaiger

A representative to the UN for Myanmar is urging the “strongest action to be used against the military after it has used increasing amounts of violence against anti‐coup protesters. The latest round in violence occurred as riot police violently broke up peaceful protesters, arresting over 100 people in 3 major Myanmar cities.

Kyaw Moe Tun made the appeal to the UN General Assembly in New York asking for the international community to end the junta’s rule in his country, while displaying the 3 finger salute that has been adopted from the Hunger Games as a symbol of resistance from anti‐coup supporters.

“We need… the strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people, and to restore the democracy.”

Former UN ambassador for the US, Samantha Power, also tweeted her support for the movement.

“It’s impossible to overstate the risks that #Myanmar UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun just took in the UN General Assembly.”

UN envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, also agreed saying the use of lethal force against protesters was “unacceptable.”

So far, at least 5 people have been killed since the overthrow, which has seen police open fire on protesters. Thandar Cho, a street food vendor, says she saw police point their guns in a threatening manner towards apartments during the rallies.

“They beat young protesters with rods and cursed them while doing it.”

A Japanese journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, was also allegedly arrested according to a Facebook post by his assistant, Linn Nyan Htun, during the crackdown.

He “was beaten on the head by baton but he was wearing a helmet.”

The military has justified the coup by alleging that the 2020 November democratic elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy elected by landslide, were fraudulent.

Suu Kyi was arrested, along with other leaders, and is now facing 2 charges of illegally posessing walkie-talkies in her home and for breaking Covid-19 rules. But her lawyer, Khing Maung Zaw, is concerned as he has still not made contact with her, saying it is dire to get her permission for him to represent her in court.

“It’s very important to get her signed power of attorney before the hearing starts on March 1 because we won’t be allowed to act as her defence counsels if we cannot file (it).”

“Then Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be rid of her right of fair trial without a legal counsel.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup | The Thaiger

Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to the military coup, which has received major international backlash. As a major donor to Myanmar, Japan joins other advanced nations in condemning the coup which has seen security forces using violence against peaceful protesters.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was quoted as saying in a phone call that “Japan will strongly urge the Myanmar military to release Suu Kyi and other detained individuals, and to swiftly restore democratic government.”

But it may not impose sanctions like the rest of the other developed countries as its longtime ties with the armed forces, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy and investment promoting policy in the country may serve as a barrier in doing so. Britan and the United States have imposed sanctions in recent days which include the US freezing military funds.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official says stopping its support of building projects would give China a chance to move in, increasing its clout in Myanmar. Around 450 Japanese companies operate in Myanmar with Japan being the 5th largest investor in the Southeast nation. Singapore has the most companies, followed by China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The Foreign Ministry says Japan spent about US $1.8 billion in official development assistance in the fiscal year of 2019, making it the largest among the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But it is unknown what China has poured into it as it has refused to disclose its expenditures.

The Japanese government plans to continue coronavirus emergency assistance to Myanmar through international organisations and non-governmental organisations. The World Bank, however, has stopped payments to projects in the nation indefinitely, after the coup on February 1, which disrupted the democratic elections last November and saw the arrest of top leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party, the National League for Democracy, won the elections in a landslide victory.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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