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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Doubt lingers over poll outcome; Did PM slip-up?; Four dead in Pattani attack

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Doubt lingers over poll outcome; Did PM slip-up?; Four dead in Pattani attack | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Doubt over poll outcomeThe Nation / Phuket GazettePHUKET: Despite the government’s claim of “victory” after voting was conducted in 89 per cent of the country’s 375 constituencies yesterday, many factors point to the high likelihood that this election – marred by boycotts and a long rowdy protest – could end up being declared void.

An unusually low voter turnout was reported in many provinces, even in part of the North and Northeast where the ruling Pheu Thai Party has enjoyed popularity. In southern provinces, voter turnout was estimated at 20 to 30 per cent, much lower than previous elections.

Voter turnout was a little over 40 per cent in Chai Nat, less than 50 per cent in Phichit, about 50 per cent in Ayutthaya, according to local election officials.

There were reports of a high number of “no votes” in many provinces, as eligible voters ticked the box at the bottom of the ballot paper to vote for “none of the above”. No votes were mostly in Bangkok and urban areas of the provinces.

Voting could be held without problems in 59 provinces, at 83,669 out of all 93,952 polling stations, according to EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong. The EC would unveil the voter turnout figure today, he said.

In Bangkok, 516 out of 6,671 polling stations were closed.

EC members will convene a meeting today to discuss ways to solve the election-related problems. EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn also is scheduled to meet this afternoon with Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is in charge of the government’s Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order.

An estimated 12 million people, or 25 per cent of all 48.7 million eligible voters, have failed to cast ballots – two million during advance voting on January 26 and another 10 million yesterday, according to an Election Commission (EC) official.

However, Somchai later said between 8 and 10 million eligible voters have been unable to cast their votes in more than 10,000 polling stations where voting was disrupted.

Traffic Police yesterday reported few cars and no congestion in Bangkok, which was unusual for a voting day.

In Bangkok, voting was successful in about 92 per cent of the polling stations, the EC said.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said after the voting closed yesterday that she was satisfied the election could be completed without violence. She thanked voters for “helping to maintain democracy” and thanked officials involved in holding the election and providing security at polling booths.

Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the ongoing anti-government protest, said yesterday that it was the “first time to have so many eligible voters boycotting an election”. His People’s Democratic Reform Committee campaigned for no voting before political reform.

The EC said an announcement of election results has been postponed because of problems including the blocking of advance voting and the failure to hold voting in many seats.

“Today, we cannot announce the overall results of the election,” EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said in a TV broadcast.

The snap election went off without violence, as many had worried, with voters in 306 of 375 constituencies able to cast ballots.

Supachai said 37 constituencies nationwide could not be opened at all for voting, while in 32 constituencies, only some polling stations could be operated. Of the 93,952 polling stations, only 83,813 or 89 per cent were able to open for voting, he said.

The election was completed in 59 provinces, but it had to be cancelled in nine provinces, and revoked in some areas in another nine provinces.

The EC could not declare the results until “advance voting” is completed. Some of the absentee polling held on January 26 was revoked after the anti-government protesters blocked polling stations. Advance voting has been postponed till February 23, but the EC has yet to schedule new voting.

Results for 125 MP seats in the party-list system of proportional representation will not be available until voting in all constituencies.

Some politicians from the opposition Democrat Party have petitioned the Ombudsman’s Office for the poll to be declared void, citing the fact voting is not organised on the same day, as required by law.

Although the EC could not give results, Chalerm claimed that Pheu Thai Party expected to win 265 to 280 MP seats.

The PDRC will close its Lat Phrao and Victory Monument protest sites and move to Lumpini Park today due to security concerns, following repeated gunfire and blast attacks by unknown assailants.

Most polling stations in South fail to openThe Nation / Phuket GazettePHUKET: Sunday’s election hit a major snag in the southern region, with most polling stations there unable to operate.

Of 12,335 polling stations in the South, only 3,104 were able to open yesterday.

But the election went smoothly in the north and the northeast, the solid political support bases of the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, which called the snap election.

The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which is led by Suthep Thaugsuban, has called on its supporters to press for political reform before an election is held.

A huge number of southern residents have thrown their support behind the PDRC, with many of them turning out in full force to thwart the snap election in their home provinces.

The south is also a stronghold of the Democrat Party, which boycotted yesterday’s election.

“Not a single polling station was able to open in nine southern provinces,” Election Commission (EC) deputy secretary general Thanis Sriprathes said yesterday.

In Songkhla, the PDRC members have surrounded the Hat Yai Post Office for days to block distribution of ballots and ballot boxes. Without these tools, polling stations could not open in many southern provinces yesterday.

In most provinces in the region, no officials turned out to man the polling stations anyway.

All polling stations in Trang, Songkhla, Phatthalung, Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi remained closed.

Thanis added that some polling stations in five other provinces – Prachuap Khiri Khan, Satun, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Yala and Pattani – were also closed.

Some polling stations shut down in the presence of protesting PDRC members, who showed up nearby.

No party-list ballots were cast at any of the southern polling stations that managed to open yesterday, because the papers had been blocked from distribution at the Hat Yai Post Office.

The PDRC members in Surat Thani declared victory after the EC officially announced yesterday that no voting would take place in their hometown.

In Songkhla, many PDRC protesters erupted in joy for the same reason.

In Trang, a local leader of the PDRC vowed to continue pressuring the government. “We will neither stop nor back down,” Saksarit Sriprasart said.

The PDRC has been pushing for the establishment of a “People’s Council” to implement reform in the country. It says this will prevent ill-intentioned politicians from hurting the country. According to the PDRC, the election will be held after the reform.

Yingluck called the House dissolution late last year in the face of massive protests, which have gained momentum since the Lower House’s pre-dawn move to pass the controversial amnesty bill.

Despite continued pressure from the PDRC ever since, her administration has insisted that the general election is a means to

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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