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Students warned of limits on free speech, told not to threaten monarchy

Jack Burton

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Students warned of limits on free speech, told not to threaten monarchy | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Students rally on a Bangkok campus - Bangok Post
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Deputy national police spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen yesterday issued an ominous warning to students participating in the wave of rallies and demonstrations sweeping school campuses across the Kingdom. He says they are free to exercise their right to assembly but cautions them against “touching the institution,” an apparent reference to the monarchy.

“The young demonstrators have to decide for themselves whether what they are doing is breaching the law”

“There were examples in the past and we don’t want to take legal action [against them] later,” Krisana said, without elabourating. He opined that the protesters should also think about whether their actions are “infringing on other people’s rights.”

“As for which group is behind them, it was clear even before the [Constitutional] Court disbanded the Future Forward Party. People were urged to join the Run Against Dictatorship activity,” he said, referring to parallel running events in several provinces or “Wing Lai Lung” (Run to Oust Uncle), where participants called on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down.

University and high school students have been increasingly rallying on or near their campuses every day since Monday, demanding change. Their demands include a rewrite of the 2017 Constitution and Prayut’s resignation, to pave the way for a competent government and full democracy.

Krisana’s warning comes after Prayut pointed out that some demonstrators were making other demands, some touching on the monarchy, in addition to pressing for more democracy.

During the no-confidence debate on Thursday, Prayut told lawmakers he understood “the good intentions” of the demonstrators and said the government is trying to avoid any impact. But he repeated the view expressed by many conservative elements that young people are being manipulated.

“Any action taken will be by law. In fact, we haven’t taken any action. We’re concerned the students don’t really understand the situation. They might have been swayed or heard only one side of the story.”

“I urge them to listen to the government and decide for themselves what to believe. My concern is … the law is sacred. It doesn’t matter whether it’s today or in the future [the law will catch up with them]. Several people have been prosecuted for their roles in [the events of] 2010 or 2014, regardless of politcal colours. But what happened in 1973 and 1976 was different and we haven’t done anything to create a condition for that”

Th PM was evidently referring to the red-shirt and yellow-shirt protests of the 2000s and the bloody crackdowns during the Cold War when fears of communism and threats to the Royal Family ran high.

“Today, I’m more concerned about the future of the demonstrators. I’m not angry at them. After all, they have been ‘stimulated’.”

“But I have to warn you here that insults to the monarchy are being used to drive the agenda. Are you okay with that? If you are, then I am too. If you think it’s right, then I don’t know what to do and will be forced to act by law.”

“Don’t do it. I plead with you. I believe Parliament respects the institution. I’m confident it does. So don’t do it. If it comes to that, your worst fear may come true.”

On Friday, a group of students who held a rally in Chantha Buri province were fined 5,000 baht for breaking the public assembly law.

Some 800 students of Rambhai Barni Rajabhat University and their supporters gathered in a field near the university after the management did not allow them to use the campus.

The new public assembly law doesn’t apply to assemblies on campuses, but for demonstrations in other public spaces, organisers must inform police first so they can provide them with security and accommodate passers-by. Police initially fined the group 20,000 baht but they bargained it down to 5,000 baht.

In an apparent bit of political manoeuvring, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul today asked students to “think twice” about staging more events in order to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“Big crowds are now very risky. If someone in a crowd [was] infected, we’d have to track down many people. The numbers of patients could be more than we can handle. I don’t want to block your political will, but please think about society.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Thailand

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Protesters gather outside the Thai parliament - Tanaporn Choopanya

Thailand’s MPs and Senators have kicked the constitutional can down the road at least a month after the parliament failed to agree on charter amendments. A panel will be sent up to examine 6 motions that were proposed and debated over the past 2 days. Meanwhile, up to 2,000 protesters were gathered outside the unfinished parliamentary buildings as an act of solidarity for the MPs supporting the changes to the current Thai Constitution.

The reality of the vote, and the setting up of an investigative committee, could push any votes on real reform well into 2021.

The 2 Houses of Parliament voted 431-255 to delay the vote. Opposition Pheu Thai and Move Forward MPs stormed out and missed the opportunity of nominating anyone to the new 45 member parliamentary committee to examine the motions, whilst the remaining members chose members for the committee. Move Forward Party’s, Pita Limjaroenrat, described the vote as “a way to stall for time” complaining that the decision “was moving the country towards a dead end”.

It was not known how the NCPO hand-picked Senators would vote on the bills. Many were thought to side with the idea of constitutional reform but the reality was that, in most scenarios, they’d be voting themselves out of a job if any reforms went ahead. Thailand’s entire upper house is a military-appointed rump of conservative former businesspeople and Army officials, mostly men.

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

The protesters viewed the afternoon’s proceedings as a blunt stalling tactic to keep the current parliament, and its unelected senators, in power. The session ran until 8.30 last night. Rather than face the angry mob of anti-government protesters at the front of the building, most of the senators escaped on boat at the rear of the building, which backs onto Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

The demonstrators, with a consistent theme of reform over 3 months of rallies, are demanding changes to the current constitution because it was drafted by the NCPO who kicked out the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.

The protesters specifically point to the NCPO-appointed senate and the power they wield to elect the country’s prime minister, even though none of them were elected (nor was Prayut Chan-o-cha).

Protesters say they will now organise the next lot of rallies in October. Meanwhile, the Parliament is now is recess.

PROTESTSLive scenes from today’s protest rally to lend their voices, albeit from outside the The Parliament, to the debates inside about amendments to the Thai Constitution. The Thai parliament buildings are unfinished and, so it seems, are the student and anti-government protesters.

Posted by The Thaiger on Thursday, September 24, 2020

 

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Politics

Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful

Maya Taylor

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Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says former immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn, shouldn’t assume his transfer to an inactive post in the PM’s Office was unlawful. Surachate, known by the nickname “Big Joke” (given to him by Thai media) headed up Thailand’s Immigration Bureau until he was unceremoniously side-lined by the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha last year.

It’s understood he is now planning to sue the PM, claiming that the lack of any investigation against him shows there were no grounds for the transfer. His lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says other officers transferred to the PM’s Office have since been re-instated, after being cleared of any wrongdoing. He insists his client deserves the same, pointing out that in the 1 year and 5 months since his transfer, there has been no investigation against him.

For his part, Deputy PM Wissanu says Surachate has the right to sue the PM if he so wishes but shouldn’t assume his transfer is similar to that of former National Security Council chief, Thawil Pliensri, who was transferred under former PM Ying­luck Shinawatra in 2011. The transfer was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Bangkok Post reports that Wissanu doesn’t rule out the possibility of Surachate being re-instated, saying the PM’s Office should submit the issue for the PM’s consideration. For his part, Surachate claims his petitions to the PM have fallen on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes

Caitlin Ashworth

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Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Warong Dechgitvigrom

Just after proposed constitutional amendments, backed by pro-democracy supporters, were submitted to the Thai parliament, the Thai Pakdee royalist group filed a petition with 130,000 signatures saying they are against making changes to the constitution.

Pro-democracy activists have been demanding a rewrite of the Thai constitution at protests over the past few months. The nonprofit organisation Internet Law Reform Dialogue, known as iLaw, drafted amendments including one that would require all senators and local administrators to be elected. Currently Thailand’s entire Senate is hand-picked by the ruling party. More than 100,000 people back the proposed changes.

“There’s no need to make changes”, according to Former Democrat MP and leader of Thai Pakdee Warong Dechgitvigrom. He says the 2017 Constitution was approved by 16.8 million people (Thailand’s population is 69.4 million).

“Redoing the process would cost 15 billion baht in taxpayer money. On top of that, it would require 2 referenda and a general election.”

According to Thai PBS, 84 of the 250 senators need to be on board to move forward with revisions to the constitution. At the moment, around 60 of them are in favour of constitutional amendments while 100 oppose any changes and the rest are undecided. But Senators against the amendments might change their minds, according to Senate whip Sangsit Phiriyarangsan. He says he believes more senators will be in favour of making some amendments after hearing debates in parliament.

SOURCES: Thai PBS

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