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More delays for next February’s election?

The Thaiger

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More delays for next February’s election? | The Thaiger

PHOTO: On the lookout for next year’s election – The Nation

February 2019 is just six months away, the deadline for the long-awaited, and must postponed, Thai general election.

Although the junta have ‘promised’ that THIS will be the date for Thailand’s return to democracy, an increasing amount of politicians are starting to wonder if the deadline will be met.

In recent months the Thai PM has been spending a lot more time in Thailand’s north-east – the hot bed of red shirt dissent with many in the agriculture-heavy Isan region still remembering the ‘good old days’ of the Thaksin administrations.

Thaksin Sinawatra, then his sister Yingluck, played the numbers game using by ‘pork-barreling‘ the population-heavy centres in the north-east to sway any election.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, happy to be seen as the ‘uncle’ who swept the elected Yingluck government away and installing a military government, now seems to me manoeuvring himself into a position where he could continue his premiership after the next election, whenever it is held.

The uncertainty about next year’s election stems from a recent move by a group of 36 members of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly to amend the organic law on the Election Commission, specifically regarding the appointment of 616 provincial election inspectors for all provinces, including Bangkok Metropolis. Take a big breath and read on…

The job of these inspectors – an average of eight for each province – is to ensure that the election is conducted freely and fairly. They will have the authority to monitor voting and do spot check at polling stations. The inspectors are also empowered to monitor conduct of poll officials and detect irregularities.

Thai PBS explains that, under the proposed amendments by the 36 NLA members, a selection committee of each province will select the election inspectors. In the case of Bangkok, the selection committee is made up of the city clerk as the panel chairman, chief of the election department of the Supreme Court, a representative from the Attorney-General’s Office, the metropolitan police commissioner and one representative each from the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Bankers Association.

For the other provinces, the selection committee is made up of the provincial governor as the panel chairman, a provincial chief judge, the provincial chief prosecutor, the provincial police chief, chairman of the provincial chamber of commerce and chairman of the provincial industrial association.

In other words, the legislators are not happy with what they see as the arbitrary nature of the appointment process used by the outgoing Election Commission. They see the list of election inspectors already drawn up as people with suspected links one way or another to political parties or interest groups.

What they want is for the incumbent Election Commission to leave the job of appointing election inspectors to the new commission whose appointment is pending royal approval.

But outgoing Election Commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen begs to differ. He argued that his panel is legally bound to nominate the inspectors otherwise they could be faulted for omission of duty. Supachai also said the new Election Commission can always remove any of the inspectors it believes to be unqualified.

Critics see the move by the NLA members as an attempt to delay the election.

More delays for next February's election? | News by The Thaiger

Supachai Somcharoen, outgoing Election Commission chairman

Thai PBS reports that, under the Constitution, the next general election can be held only after all the election-related laws take effect. NLA vice president Surachai Liangboonlertchai has tried to allay such fear, claiming that it would not in any way upset the political roadmap. But he insisted on the right of NLA members to seek amendments to the law. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan also said he believed the political roadmap will not be affected by the proposed amendments.

But former Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema is not convinced. He said he suspected that the attempt to amend the law is a tactic to delay the election out of fears that political parties allied with the military junta would not win the election.

And this is one of the few issues on which the two erstwhile political opponents – Pheu Thai and the Democrats – share an area in common.

Democrat deputy leader Nipit Intharasombat has also raised a red flag. He said he believed the NLA members are acting on behalf of certain groups of people who want to see the election delayed. If the process of appointing the election inspectors is prolonged, the election could be postponed to May, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Somchai Sawaengkarn, the secretary of the NLA’s extraordinary committee or “whips”, said the NLA members are still in the process of gathering opinions and feedbacks from all stake-holders on the proposed amendments which have yet to be formally put on the NLA’s agenda.

He noted that the process of amending such an important organic law could take up to a year, considering the need for public hearings as constitutionally required. And the term of NLA would already have expired by the time the amendments are adopted.

SOURCES: Thai PBS, The Thaiger

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Politics

PM defends the 80 billion baht munition spend

The Thaiger & The Nation

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PM defends the 80 billion baht munition spend | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Nation

Speaking to the House of Representatives’ budget debate for the 2020 financial year yesterday, PM and Minister of Defence Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha defended the expenditure for the Defence Ministry. He claimed they must reserve a budget of 70-80 billion baht for buying munitions and vehicles for defense purposes.

“This money is part of the Ministry of Defense’s allotted budget, nothing to do with the central expenditure budget.”

“Our military personnel are patrolling 5,000 kilometres of border both by land and sea.”

“It’s a dangerous and important duty and they need modern ships for efficient operations.”

The Nation reports that the PM explained to the parliament that the Ministry’s existing fleet is more than 60 years old and most of the ships require urgent repair or replacement.

“All our neighbouring countries have modern ships, and Thailand needs to keep up with the changing world to maintain our negotiating powers, as well as show our potential and capability to protect our resources, especially around naval borders.”

“The Ministry of Defence is trying its best to reduce costs, such as by using smaller ships or even trying to build the ships domestically. However, we cannot let up on naval patrol. As you can see from skirmishes with illegal, unreported and unregulated foreign fishing boats, we need to protect our people and resources as well as prevent matters that might escalate into bigger conflicts.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

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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