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“The fake university degree is irrelevant if Thammanat has a genuine BA degree” – Wissanu

The Thaiger

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“The fake university degree is irrelevant if Thammanat has a genuine BA degree” – Wissanu | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai PBS World

“Wissanu refused to give a direct answer to a reporter’s question about whether Thammanat would still be considered qualified if the higher-level degrees were proven to be fake.”

Key leaders of the coalition continue to back the embattled deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao despite a week were his drug past has been revealed in a Sydney Morning Herald exposé and his educational credentials have also been brought into question.

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngarm even made the astonishing statement on Friday that, even if Thammanat Prompao’s doctorate degree from a university in California was a fake, it does not disqualify him from being a cabinet minister.

Citing a provision in Constitution, regarding the required qualifications of a minister, he explained that a proposed cabinet member must have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in any field.

In Thammanat’s case, Wissanu said the Office of the Secretary-General of the Cabinet had checked the embattled minister’s educational background and found that he graduated from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy with a diploma equivalent to a BA degree. Wissanu said that whether Thammanat’s Master’s degree or PhD are real or fake, or whether the Office of the Secretary-General of the Cabinet has approved them or not, is irrelevant.

“When the Constitution only requires a Bachelor’s degree, they just authenticate his BA degree and didn’t bother with his MA or doctorate degrees, and that was enough,” said the deputy PM.

Wissanu refused, however, to give a direct answer to a reporter’s question about whether Thammanat would still be considered qualified if the higher-level degrees were proven to be fake.

“Do not mix up the 2-3 issues. If it started with the issue of qualification, it must stick with that issue. When the qualifications requirements are met, it is OK and there is no need for interpretation. If, however, someone told you that you are not honest or your ethical conduct is substandard, this will have to be proven,” said Wissanu.

Thammanat Prompao was revealed last Monday to have spent four years in a Sydney jail after an Australian court sentenced his to six years over heroin trafficking offences. He has also changed his name four times.

When he was jailed in Sydney, Thammanat went by the name of Manat Bophlom. Before that, by his own admission, he had been known as Yutthaphum Bophlom. When deported from Australia, he changed his name to Patchara Prompow. Later, he changed it to Thammanat Prompow.

Apart from the deputy PM Wissanu, the PM Prayut has also given his support to Thammanat, along with government patriarch and staunch Prayut loyalist Prawit Wongsuwan.

Thammanat is now threatening to sue his accusers and the Sydney Morning Herald.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Politics

Charter court will hand down ruling on Thanathorn share case on November 20

The Thaiger

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Charter court will hand down ruling on Thanathorn share case on November 20 | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The Thai Constitutional Court is set to issue a ruling in Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s media share ownership case on November 20. The court wrapped up its inquiry yesterday with the questioning of ten defence witnesses, including Thanathorn who arrived at the court greeted by well-wishers.

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.

Read more about the case HERE.

Both Thanathorn and the Election Commission, which filed the case with the Constitutional Court, were given 15 days from today to submit their closing statements to the court.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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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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