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Parliament to host a ‘safe zone’ forum for students’ demands on September 22

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Parliament to host a ‘safe zone’ forum for students’ demands on September 22 | The Thaiger
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A ‘dialogue’ is to be held in a Thai parliamentary setting on September 22. A parliamentary committee is responding to the demands from student and opposition protesters, who are calling for reform of the government, a new constitution, and even reform of the Thai Monarchy – the latter previously considered a ‘no go’ zone. The committee describes the upcoming forum as an intimidation-free “safe zone” for the students to voice their opinions and share them directly with the country’s MPs

Padipat Suntiphada, chairman of the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation, says the panel invited students to share their demands on constitutional amendment. Padipat is a Kao Klai (Move Forward) MP from Phitsanulok.

The students have already submitted to the panel their so-called “10-point manifesto” for reform of Thailand’s monarchy. The reforms address the scrapping the controversial lese-majeste law, defunding of the royal family and stop the ‘palace’ from expressing political opinions.

This would be the first time that reform of Thailand’s Head of State was raised as a topic in the Thai Parliament. The significance of the moment, previously a taboo topic for Thais, follows the broaching of the topic during protests in Bangkok early last month. A protest on August 10, was the first time the topic had been raised in a broad public forum and drew both support, and condemnation, from social media. A week later, a rally attracted up to 10,000 people at the Democracy Monument, and was the largest protest ever staged in Thailand since the coup back in 2014.

The proposed parliamentary forum would be only 3 days after this weekend’s next proposed anti-government rally. The demonstration, expected to draw up to 50,000 people, was meant to be held at the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus, although university officials, at this stage, have said the rally cannot take place on the grounds of the institution. Notably, given some of the topics up for discussion at the rally, the Tha Prachan campus is just steps away from the Grand Palace.

The students are adamant on holding the rally on the Tha Prachan campus despite being refused permission from the university’s administration. Their plan is to camp overnight at the campus before marching to Government House the next day, a move university officials say would drag the university into the student’s political quagmire. The university, and the Tha Prachan campus, have an emotional connection with political uprisings in the past.

The Thammasat University massacre was a violent crackdown by Thai police and lynching by right-wing paramilitaries and bystanders against leftist protesters who had occupied Bangkok’s Thammasat University and the adjacent Sanam Luang, on 6 October 1976. Prior to the massacre, thousands of students, workers and other leftists had been holding ongoing demonstrations against the return of former dictator Thanom Kittikachorn to Thailand since mid-September. Official reports state that 46 were killed and 167 were wounded, while unofficial reports state that more than 100 demonstrators were killed.

After the August rallies, Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha warned protesters to “steer clear of criticising the monarchy” saying they crossed the line when their “10-point reform plan” was read out at a rally on August 10. Since then, police have charged more than a dozen activists with offences ranging from sedition to incitement of violence, but released them on bail as the government struggles with how to respond to the rallies.

The parliamentary panel is seen as an olive branch for the students and activists to participate in discussions in an ‘inclusive’ parliamentary setting. Critics say the government are just “buying time’ and that the forum is merely a staged PR stunt. But many MPs have expressed the need for the student’s demands to be broached in a parliamentary setting.

Around 40 representatives and activists from anti-establishment groups like the Free Youth movement and United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, and pro-establishment groups like Vocational Students Protecting the Nation, have been invited to participate in the forum.

“If the forum receives good feedback, Parliament has to respond. If society lifts the ceiling [of discussion], how can MPs be afraid to talk? Personally, I think the safe zone to debate the 10-point manifesto is in Parliament. But I’m not sure when is the right time or whether we have to wait for the launch of a constitution drafting assembly to discuss the monarchy while writing a new draft charter.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    September 14, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    The countries MPs will just nod politely, agree, and then do what they want because they are not subject to the Or Else factor.
    The Or Else factor is: you will be voted out if you do not do what the citizens demand.
    They are just defusing the protest . . .

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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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Politics

Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer

Maya Taylor

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Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.thailandtip.info

The former head of Thai Immigration, Surachet Hakparn, is taking legal action against Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, after the PM had him unceremoniously transferred to an inactive post last year. Surachet, commonly known by the nickname “Big Joke”, (a nickname given to him by Thai media) accuses the PM of transferring him without just cause and has been petitioning for a review of the decision, to no avail.

At the time there was no reason given for the high-profile head of Thailand’s Immigration to be ‘side-lined’ to desk duties at the PM’s office.

Following a complaint lodged with the Central Administrative Court, Surachet’s lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says that in the 1 year and 5 months since his client’s transfer, there has been “no investigation launched against him”. Surachet accuses the PM of an abuse of power in ordering the transfer, pointing to a lack of investigations from either the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, or the Office of the Auditor-General.

Since his fall from official grace Surachet has largely remained silent over the matter.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2018, Surachet’s face was everywhere in daily media reports, often seen with hordes of foreigners his team had ’rounded up’ in immigration crackdowns around the country. If you’d overstayed your visa, or were an international criminal running dodgy dating services, gambling sites or drugs, you knew about Surachet Hakparn and knew it would be no “joke” if he arrived at your door.

But at some point, he appears to have stepped on the wrong toes, calling into question procurement practices at the Immigration Bureau, amid plans to spend billions on smart cars and the much-lauded airports biometrics system (which was since installed at the country’s airports). The upshot was his removal from office, while the purchases went ahead.

Since then, little was heard from the former immigration chief, until his parked car was shot at in January of this year. Although caught on CCTV, the 2 perpetrators, who were riding a motorbike and wearing full-face helmets, could not be identified. In July, Surachet was seen making merit at a temple, where he said he was praying to be allowed return to his former duties. He also took an extended overseas holiday.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2019, he was widely tipped to take up a prominent position at the top of the country’s Royal Thai Police force.

Sitthi points out that most officials who were previously transferred to the PM’s Office have now been re-instated, after investigations cleared them of any offences. He insists that with no grounds to justify his transfer, Surachet must also be re-instated, adding that with the PM unwilling to act, his client will seek justice in the courts.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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