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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
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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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Politics

Opposition questions ministry’s plan to buy firefighting helicopters

Jack Burton

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Opposition questions ministry’s plan to buy firefighting helicopters | The Thaiger
PHOTO: cm108.com

Thailand’s interior minister yesterday defended his plan to purchase 6 firefighting helicopters, saying the ministry doesn’t have any such helicopters and relies on military choppers to fight wildfires, “which aren’t up to the task”. Anupong Paojinda was responding to an objection raised by the opposition during yesterday’s House debate on the budget bill for the financial year 2021.

“I’m sure those MPs in northern provinces know that the best the military helicopters borrowed for fighting wildfires ever did was carry water to pour on the fires, without sufficient accuracy in target identification.”

Wildfires are common in Thailand’s North, especially during the annual “burning season,” usually February through April, when farmers burn their crop fields in preparation for the next growing season. The minister said up to 6 wildfire-fighting helicopters are needed because they would be used in rotation to allow regular maintenance.

The Pheu Thai Party MP for Chiang Rai said the ministry’s plan to purchase 2 helicopters for fighting wildfires this year, at a cost of 1.8 billion baht, isn’t worth it, as the country already has more than 300 helicopters. The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation plans to buy the 6 helicopters by 2022, an outlay he said is unnecessary and should be scrapped. He says the order was made to help a private company win a lucrative contract at a time when Anupong was serving as the army chief.

Anupong responded that the DDPM is responsible for picking the helicopter supplier via a transparent and accountable bidding process, and that as long as the company that wins the bidding strictly follows the law, there is no problem. He vowed to take legal action against anyone found acting illegally.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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New ‘Progressive Movement’ party plans to take on local elections

Caitlin Ashworth

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New ‘Progressive Movement’ party plans to take on local elections | The Thaiger
PHOTO: time.com

Thailand’s elections may look a bit different as some candidates, who normally campaign in local elections, are banding together to form a new ‘Progressive Movement.’ The move comes despite the Constitutional Court banning its founder, Thanathorn Juangroogruangkit, along with other executives, for 10 years after being involved with the Future Forward Party that was disbanded earlier this year.

The banning hasn’t swayed Thanathorn’s determination to continue the campaign to help Thailand move towards further democratic reform as he is now aligning himself under the new Progressive Movement. He reportedly is planning to field candidates in local elections such as tambon administration organisations and provincial administration organisations. Thanathorn made the announcement in Phuket with many former Future Forward Party members.

“We are in Phuket today to persuade the Phuket people to walk together with us. We will field our candidates in the election of 5,320 TAOs, 76 PAOs, 2,454 municipalities, the BMA and Pattaya City.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post|Nation Thailand

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Redshirt activist acquitted, freed after nearly 4 years

Jack Burton

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Redshirt activist acquitted, freed after nearly 4 years | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Activist Thanet Anantawong has been acquitted of national security and computer crime charges after being detained for almost 4 years. He was charged over 5 Facebook posts made in 2015, criticising the now defunct National Council for Peace and Order, and the army.

The posts were critical of the late Privy Council president and former PM Prem Tinsulanonda, and the army, for the death in custody of Suriyan “Mor Yong” Sucharitpolwong, who was accused of insulting the monarchy. The army claimed he died of a “bloodstream infection.”

Thanet also alleged corruption at the army-run Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin. Some of the posts encouraged people to float kratong (traditional Thai floating offerings) to expel dictatorship, and to wear red shirts to the park as an act of protest. The charges claimed the posts caused people to dislike the government, leading to protests to topple it.

Lawyers for Human Rights, who handled the case, say the court reasoned that while Thanet may have had different views from those in power at the time, he acted constitutionally. Quoting a translation of the verdict, they say…

“The court believes his expression of opinions was not intended to stir up sedition or disobedience among people to the extent it could cause unrest in the kingdom or law violations. It was legitimate free speech. Since the witnesses and evidence of the plaintiff do not carry sufficient weight to warrant a guilty verdict, we’ve dismissed the charges.”

It’s been 4½ years since Thanet was charged, and he was detained for 3 years and 10 months, or 1,396 days, including for the “offence” of boarding a train to the Rajabhak Park in Hua Hin as a symbolic gesture against alleged corruption in the park’s funding by the army. His case was tried in a military court but only 3 witnesses were heard. Since he failed to report when summoned (but changed his mind later), he was denied bail.

The case was then transferred to a civilian court last year, delaying the trial by almost a year. The hearing of all witnesses finally ended in May.

While in custody he lost his father and was not permitted to meet with him before he died.

Now 30, Thanet is from the central Uthai Thani province, north of Bangkok. His mother died when he was 8 and he worked as a labourer for several years like his father. After competing primary school he worked as a motorcycle taxi driverin Bangkok. He joined the red-shirt protests in 2010 and was jailed for a year for breaking the emergency law at the time.

After the 2014 military coup, he continued to join anti-coup movements, especially activities led by the Democracy Study group led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Khaosod English

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