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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Election can be delayed – court; Japan cancels all tours to Thailand; Govt scrambles for B130bn to pay rice farmers

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

Poll can be deferred: court
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The February 2 election can only be postponed if the ongoing protests are brought to an end and there is no boycott of the election, a government figure said yesterday following a Constitutional Court ruling that the polls can be rescheduled.

PM’s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn said caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been informed of the ruling, and would discuss the matter with the Election Commission (EC) if she was formally invited by the agency, he said.

“The election should be postponed on condition that the protesters cease their rallies and there is no blockade or boycott of the election,” Varathep said. “If there are still attempts to interrupt the election, there is no use in postponing it.”

Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), said last night that protesters would campaign for national reform before elections at all polling booths in Bangkok during advance voting tomorrow. “It’s every citizen’s right to peacefully express his opinion. If the rally makes it difficult for voters to get into polling stations, please excuse us, as the space is limited,” he said.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who is believed to be pulling the strings behind the scenes, has been made aware of the court ruling, a source close to him said yesterday.

Thaksin reportedly agreed that the push to hold the election on February 2 would only lead to violence as anti-government protesters have threatened to interrupt voting, the source said. By deferring the poll, pressure faced by the government would shift to Suthep, the source quoted Thaksin saying.

The eight Constitutional Court judges present backed the rescheduling of the election yesterday, though most of them said it would be a joint responsibility for the caretaker prime minister and the EC chief to discuss the issue.

The court said the two should decide whether the election should be rescheduled and if so, a new royal decree issued on when it should be held. In the ruling, the court also cited the rescheduling of the 2006 election, when a royal decree was issued to defer the election date.

On Wednesday, the EC had asked the Constitutional Court to consider if the election could be rescheduled and if the government and the EC were authorised to set a new election date.

Charupong Ruangsuwan, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, said the Constitution allows for a snap election to be held within 45 to 60 days after the dissolution of the House of Representatives. Hence, he said, the election could be postponed to no later than May 6.

EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said the commission respected the court’s ruling and would hold an urgent meeting this afternoon before contacting the premier as soon as possible. He said the EC might ask to meet Yingluck either on Monday or Tuesday.

“If there is a new royal decree on the election date, the whole [election] process would go back to square one,” he said.

Issara Boonyoung, an adviser to the Business Housing Association, said the court’s verdict should ease the political tension. He said that it was still up to the caretaker government to decide whether to accept the ruling and discuss it with the EC.

A Pheu Thai Party source said the party expects the election to be postponed by at least six months, adding the party’s strategic panel had come to this conclusion at a meeting on Thursday night.

At the meeting, caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang reportedly warned that independent agencies could take measures against Pheu Thai’s interests, going so far as to dissolve the party, the source, who asked not to be named, said.

Meanwhile, EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said he did not think advance voting would be possible in Surat Thani tomorrow. “There is a lack of volunteers to man poll units in the South. Surat Thani lacks 80 per cent of electoral staff. More importantly, ballot cards heading for Surat Thani have been blocked in Chumphon.”

Once the court ruling was announced, PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva tweeted: “To postpone or not, that is the question?!?”

Issara Boonyoung, an adviser to the Business Housing Association, said the court’s verdict should ease the political tension. He said that it was still up to the caretaker government to decide whether to accept the ruling and discuss it with the EC.

On Wednesday, the EC had asked the Constitutional Court to consider if the election could be rescheduled and if the government and the EC were authorised to set a new election date. A source, who asked not to be named, said the judges voted 7-1 on the second point.

A Pheu Thai Party source said the party expects the election to be postponed by at least six months, adding the party’s strategic committee had come to this conclusion at a meeting on Thursday night.

At the meeting, caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang reportedly warned that independent agencies could take measures against Pheu Thai’s interests, going so far as to dissolve the party, the source, who asked not to be named, said.

Meanwhile, in a surprise move, leaders of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) resolved yesterday not to obstruct the election but let the people decide what is best. PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan announced yesterday that the anti-government protest movement would not stop voters from exercising their rights in advance voting tomorrow or on election day next Sunday.

Akanat said he did not know what was behind the decision, especially after PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban had announced on Thursday that the February 2 election would not be allowed to take place or succeed. He added that Suthep would lead a march from the Ratchaprasong intersection to seek more support.

Meanwhile, as many as 7,000 police officers will be deployed at polling stations nationwide tomorrow to allow advance voting and deter anti-government protesters, Metropolitan Police deputy chief Pol Maj-General Chanthawit Ramasuta said yesterday.

However, police are under strict orders from national police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew to use non-violent means, such as negotiations, to deal with protesters.

Violence could still occur over the weekend as anti-government protesters are expected to engage in various activities to disrupt advance voting.

Chanthawit said extra police personnel had been called in to maintain peace and order at Bangkok-based polling stations and to cope with any possible disruptions by protesters, who might “do whatever it takes” to stop advance voting.

Separately, Bhum Jai Thai Party candidates yesterday issued a statement calling on the government to defer the election until things become peaceful.

The statement was read out at a press conference, which included candidates Boonjong Wongtrairat, Sophon Saram and Prajak Kaewklahan.

Govt plans to seek Bt130 billion to pay angry farmers
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The caretaker government is considering seeking additional funds totalling Bt130 billion to subsidise the rice-pledging scheme through bank loans and the issuing of bonds, following a Council of State decision that this may be legally possible despite restrictions related to the loo

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Pfizer vaccines on the way, Phuket’s July re-opening | May 7

Thaiger

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Disease Control Department back-peddled saying that that foreigners living in Thailand WILL also be vaccinated, governor of Chiang Mai is calling for the ban on dining in at restaurants in the northern city to be lifted and for eateries to be allowed to serve food on-site until 9pm, Tourism and Sports Minister insists the southern island of Phuket must record zero Covid-19 cases if a planned July re-opening is to go ahead, and 150 million baht worth of methamphetamine pills were impounded in Nakhon Phanom yesterday

 

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Economy

Stimulus package gives more back the more you spend

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: A new stimulus package aims to get the middle class spending. (via Flickr - Marco Verch)

A new stimulus package targeting middle and high-income people aims at increasing spending by offering more e-voucher the more you spend. Ying Chai Ying Dai, which translates to “the more you spend the more you get”, will reward those who spend between 46,000 and 70,000 baht with a 7,000 baht e-voucher. This part of the government’s 225 billion baht stimulus package hopes to encourage 4 million qualifying middle- to upper-class people to spend more money by refunding 10-15% back, according to the Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office.

People wishing to participate must register and make their purchases through a government e-wallet system. The system works by refunding 10 to 15% of purchases with a maximum of 7,000 baht. So at 15%, a person who spent 46,000 baht would receive back the full 7,000. On the 10% scheme, 70,000 baht in spending would be necessary to reach 7,000 cashback. No details were available on what determines the percentage level.

An additional 2,000 baht will be available for people participating in the “Section 33 Rao Rak Kan” and “Rao Chana” scheme. The plans are expected to push 85.5 billion Baht back into the economy as recipients must spend the cash by the end of June.

The 50/50 stimulus program that has been popular with the government covering half of what people spend for half for food, drink, and other items up to 150 baht per person per day will also be expanded. That plan began on October 23, and ended at the end of 2020, covering 10 million people with each receiving 3000 baht. The second phase of the popular program added 5 million more people and raised the limit to 3,500 baht per person.

A third phase of the “Khon La Khrueng” stimulus plan is expected to begin in July with participants getting a maximum of 3,500 baht each to spend, and opening the program to 16 million new people. This massive expansion though will stipulate that anyone participating in this program cannot also participate in the Ying Chai Ying Dai scheme.

All of these cash and voucher benefits aimed at supporting vulnerable groups, along with cash handouts for people who have state welfare cards, are part of 245 billion baht the government is spending in an attempt to keep the economy from collapsing. This falls under an emergency loan decree allocating the government 1 trillion baht total to cope with Covid-19.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Thailand

Covid UPDATE: 2,044 new cases and 27 deaths, provincial totals

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Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Natapanu Nopakun / Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Government

2,044 new Covid-19 cases and 27 coronavirus-related deaths were reported today in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s daily briefing. There are now 29,320 active Covid-19 cases. 1,170 Covid patients are in critical condition including 367 on ventilators.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, the CCSA has reported a total of 78,855 Covid-19 infections and 363 virus-related deaths.

Out of 27 new fatalities, patients were ages 30 to 90. Most of the deaths were in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. Several contacted the virus from family members.

Provinces with the highest number of new confirmed cases…

Province New cases Total cases since April 1
Bangkok 869 16,917
Nonthaburi 201 3,032
Samut Prakan 165 2,902
Chon Buri 89 3,128
Samut Sakhon 69 1,299
Surat Thani 60 1,035
Pathum Thani 39 1,099
Chiang Mai 33 3,180
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 32 607
Nakhon Pathom 29 746
Ranong 29 329

 

Districts in Bangkok with the highest number of confirmed cases…

District New cases
Khlong Toei 46
Pathum Wan 24
Bang Khae 24
Lat Phrao 13
Ratchathewi 10
Pom Prap Sattru Phai 9
Bueng Kum 9
Phasi Charoen 8
Bang Khun Thian 8
Din Daeng 8

Covid UPDATE: 2,044 new cases and 27 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

 

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