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UK heads towards Brexit and Thailand ponders an FTA with Britain

The Thaiger

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UK heads towards Brexit and Thailand ponders an FTA with Britain | The Thaiger
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Thailand is pondering the possibilities of creating a free trade agreement with the UK after British PM Boris Johnson’s historic victory in the UK election last week, which is expected to pave the way for the passage of the ‘Brexit’ separation form the EU soon. The UK will then have to make separate agreements with each individual country. Traditionally these FTA agreements can take up to five years or more to create.

The Thai Director-General of Department of Trade Negotiations, Auramon Supthaweethum, says they now plan to study benefits and impacts from the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union. They will then conduct hearings with all parties involved in order to formulate a strategy on a future FTA with the UK.

On December 12 the British Conservative party won a comfortable majority, winning 364 seats of 650 seats in the House of Commons. PM Boris Johnson is claiming the win as a mandate from the UK voters to go ahead with leaving EU trade bloc by January 31, 2020.

The Conservative Party’s triumph is interpreted as the British voters’ wish to leave the EU in an election that decimated the Labour Party whose Brexit policy was ‘unclear’. The UK government will now have to amend and pass several pieces of law and alter regulations to get the Brexit completed, all in the middle of the holiday ‘silly’ season, as well as speed up the negotiations to start negotiations for an FTA with the EU before the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the Thai government is speeding up the Thai-EU free trade negotiations. Brexit will also prompt Thailand and the EU to renegotiate some trade deals such as the export quota for processed chicken into the EU. Thailand will then have to negotiate a separate chicken export deal with the UK after the UK separation from the EU.

UK is the top 20 trading partners of Thailand, and the second of all EU members after Germany. During the first 10 months of this year, the Thai-UK trade totalled US$5.28 billion. Thailand also exported US$3.28 billion to the UK. Major export items include car and parts, processed chicken, motorcycle and parts, gems and jewelery and integrated circuit board, according to Thai PBS World.

Thailand imported US$2 billion from the UK. Major import items include machinery and parts, crude oil, integrated circuit board, beverages, electrical machinery and parts, medical products and pharmaceuticals.

But the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit and the lacklustre economic performance caused by delays, has dampened Thai trade with the UK over the past year. In the first 10 months of 2019, Thai consignments to the UK contracted by 4.7% compared year on year.

Ms. Auramon says the result of the UK election has sent a positive signal to the market as seen by a rise in pound sterling by almost 2% against the US dollar.

Kasikorn Research Centre says the clearer outlook on Brexit may improve the UK economic sentiment. A more stable UK pound will also ease the inflation pressure because it will reduce the import costs into the UK. Additionally, it will enable the Bank of England to undertake an expansionary monetary policy to boost the economy.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

Court to deliver verdict on PM’s military residence this afternoon

Maya Taylor

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Court to deliver verdict on PM’s military residence this afternoon | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Security is expected to be extremely tight at Bangkok’s Constitutional Court today, as the ruling in the matter of the PM’s residence is delivered. Prayut Chan-o-cha is accused of violating army rules by occupying a military residence rent-free, despite having retired from the army in 2014. Critics say his tenancy represents a conflict of interest. Should the court agree with them, it will spell the end of his premiership, something pro-democracy protesters have been calling for since July.

Thai PBS World reports that the court has issued a statement to confirm that only approved parties will be allowed in the courtroom, including the PM, the complainant, and relevant lawyers and officials. The case was brought earlier this year, following a request from the leader of the Pheu Thai opposition party, Sompong Amornwiwat. The court has confirmed the verdict will be broadcast on its You Tube channel from around 3pm, meaning the public can watch it live.

Bangkok authorities are apprehensive about potential unrest should some parties disagree with the court’s findings. Piya Tavichai from the Metropolitan Police Bureau has confirmed that hundreds of police officers will be on duty, in and around the court buildings, with the front entrance already sealed off. A planned rally by the anti-government protest group, Ratsadon, has now been switched to the Lad Phrao Intersection, in the Chatuchak district of the capital.

We’ll all know the decision around 3pm this afternoon.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

Election Commission to investigate charges that Progressive Movement is run as a political party

Maya Taylor

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Election Commission to investigate charges that Progressive Movement is run as a political party | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Political activist Srisuwan Janya is accusing the Progressive Movement of being run like a political party, with its leaders campaigning for members in local elections, in violation of the Political Party Act. The claim has prompted the Election Commission to launch an investigation into the movement.

The movement was formed by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich, after their former party, the Future Forward Party, was disbanded by the Constitutional Court. The movement was ostensibly created to carry out political campaigning outside of Parliament.

However, Srisuwan says that by campaigning for its members in local mayoral and council elections, the movement is acting like a political party, thereby breaking the law. If found guilty, Thanathorn, Piyabutr, and Pannika could receive a sentence of up to 3 years’ imprisonment and/or a 60,000 baht fine, as well as being banned from politics for 5 years. The movement’s members could also face having their election results cancelled, and their right to stand in future elections suspended.

The leaders of the defunct Future Forward Party have been a thorn in the side of the ruling administration for some time, with several attempts to discredit them eventually leading to a successful dissolution in late 2019, on charges of accepting illegitimate donations. Since then, they have been threatened with potential legal action in relation to donations, with others accusing them of orchestrating the ongoing anti-government protests from behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Janya has already earned the nickname, “Complainer in Chief”, for what many see as a tendency to lodge frequent complaints in his efforts to hold government and others to account.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Protests

Protest planned for courthouse tomorrow as verdict on PM’s residence expected

Maya Taylor

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Protest planned for courthouse tomorrow as verdict on PM’s residence expected | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

The Ratsadon (People’s Party) movement is planning a protest outside the Constitutional Court tomorrow as a verdict is handed down in relation to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s occupancy of a military residence, despite his retirement from the army. The ruling is expected at 3.00pm tomorrow and comes as a result of a petition lodged by opposition MPs in March, in which the PM was accused of a conflict of interest as a result of his residence.

Members of the Pheu Thai Party are leading the charge, claiming the PM should have moved out of the accommodation at the time of his retirement in 2014. For his part, the PM says he’ll move out if the court rules against him, insisting his occupancy of the military residence is not an abuse of power. According to a report in the Bangkok Post today, the military says the property has been re-classified as a “visitor’s house” and says it was provided to the PM for security reasons.

Wirat Ratana­sate from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party says members have not yet discussed a list of potential replacement candidates, should the court’s ruling go against the PM. Were that to happen, it would mean the end of his term as leader and the end of his current cabinet. Wirat remains optimistic however, that the court will find in the PM’s favour.

“We may have to discuss the matter with coalition parties. Still, let’s wait for the court’s ruling. Don’t jump to any conclusion that there will be a political accident. The outcome may turn out to be good.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Bangkok say they’re ready to handle tomorrow’s planned protest outside the courthouse. Pakkapong Pongpetra from the Metropolitan Police Bureau says officers have devised a number of security measures to maintain order during the rally and ensure events inside the courtroom can proceed as normal.

His statement comes as Ramate Rattanachaweng from the Democrat Party issues a warning to anti-government protesters that pressurising the court could lead to charges of contempt of court. He is calling on them to cancel tomorrow’s gathering.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition say they’re confident the court will rule against the PM, with the legal chief of the Pheu Thai Party, Chusak Sirinil, saying the designation of “visitor’s house” does not indicate a permanent residence.

“A visitor’s house is for temporary stays of 7 to 10 days, not forever.”

Prasert Chantararuangthong, also from Pheu Thai, dismisses the army’s explanation that the PM needs to live in a military residence for security reasons, pointing out that the army is not responsible for prime ministerial security. Meanwhile, fellow Pheu Thai MP, Arunee Kasayanont, suggests the PM should pay attention to what the people are demanding and resign immediately, regardless of the verdict.

“General Prayut can make a graceful exit by resigning before December 2 and thus respond to the demand of demonstrators.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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