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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Flood scheme talks turn fracas; Pheu Thai vows tit for tat; Typhoon donation scamsters caught

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

Tensions boil over at flood scheme hearing
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A melee occurred at a public hearing yesterday in Samut Songkhram on the effects of the government’s Bt350-billion flood-prevention and water-management programme, after a large number of protesting residents angrily pressured government officials in charge of the scheme.

This prompted a premature end to the event, before local vocational students attempted to prevent the officials from leaving the venue.

More than 10,000 residents in the province’s Mae Klong area, where floodway structures under the programme would replace their homes and vast areas of farmland, attended the session to oppose the project.

Officials from the Water and Flood Management Commission had, however, expected only 800 to attend, with most of them allegedly having been prepared, for Bt800, to show their approval for the construction of the floodway structures.

The Mae Klong area, as the main sea outlet accommodating major rivers east of Bangkok flowing southward, is a key location for the structures, which are part of the flood-prevention and water-management scheme on the west side of the Chao Phraya.

Commission member Apichart Anukularmphai explained the importance of the Mae Klong area, and especially the difference between general floodway structures in other areas and a special structure called a flood-diversion channel, which he said would use less space and entail less land expropriation.

The opposing residents began attacking the floodway projects during a question-and-answer session, saying they would not tolerate the “neck-deep inundation” a so-called new river would bring, after already regularly suffering knee-deep flooding annually.

They also said the entire flood programme was a failure before it had even begun, and the government should not have brought suffering from one area to another – in this case, Mae Klong.

The residents, speaking long after the Q&A session, also accused the commission of bringing in 800 people to the hearing venue – Samut Songkhram Technical College in Muang district – to answer a questionnaire approving the project, in return for Bt800 allegedly promised to each of them.

Questionnaire fails

They said the questionnaire illegally failed to give details on the effects and negative aspects of the floodway structures.

Locals opposed to the structures began making a noise when Apichart and other commission members were unable to answer several questions posed to them.

Samut Songkhram Governor Chonchuen Bunyanusart and Surajit Chirawate, a provincial senator, who brought along 22,434 signatures of the opponents, proposed calling a vote as a final conclusion, which was supported by an overwhelming number of raised hands and led to a premature end to the public hearing and relevant events.

A group of vocational students belonging to the college later formed a human chain to prevent Aphichart and other commission members from leaving the compound, prompting about 50 policemen and 100 civil defence volunteers to escort the commission’s motorcade.

A group of residents attempted to give the list of opponents’ signatures to Apichart, but was stopped by the police from doing so. The confrontation ended when police negotiated with lecturers from the college, who convinced the students to cease their efforts. The motorcade then left the area.

The students later set off ping-pong bombs and lit firecrackers, reportedly out of anger because of the police intervention. There were no immediate details about when the next mandatory public hearing session in the province would be held.

Pheu Thai threatens ‘eye for an eye’ as Democrats head to court
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The opposition Democrat Party will next week file a slew of charges against House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont, deputy Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij, secretary-general Suwichag Nakwatcharachai and 308 parliamentarians for pushing through an amendment to the Constitution that has since been ruled unconstitutional and unlawful.

Democrat MPs will also seek the impeachment of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, along with Somsak, Nikom, Suwichag and the 308 lawmakers who voted the blanket-amnesty through on its third reading.

The decisions were announced by Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva after he chaired a special meeting of opposition MPs.

The meeting came after the ruling Pheu Thai Party lashed out against the Constitutional Court’s decision that the charter amendment bill for a fully elected Senate was unconstitutional.

After being on the defensive for the past week, the Pheu Thai Party is countering Democrat Party moves with legal action on an “eye for an eye” basis, a high-ranking Pheu Thai source said.

Abhisit said his party condemned Pheu Thai’s defiance of the court’s authority, as it undermined the rule of law.

He called for Yingluck and her party to rethink their attack on the Constitutional Court and take responsibility for their actions.

“Prime Minister Yingluck, who has submitted the proposed amendment to His Majesty for endorsement, should report the court’s ruling to the King,” Abhisit said.

The prime minister yesterday responded to the court’s rejection of the Senate-change bill, saying she needed time to study the verdict before charting her next move.

“What happened was unprecedented, hence I have asked the Council of State and the legal team to study [the implications],” Yingluck said.

She defended her decision to submit the change for royal approval, saying she was constitutionally bound to do so by the deadline.

In response, the opposition called for Yingluck to take responsibility for the hasty royal submission and resign.

The prime minister voiced optimism that the legal wrangle over amending the charter would eventually be resolved. However, she refused to comment on Pheu Thai plans to impeach Constitutional Court judges for striking down the charter amendment.

“I just want all sides to heed the opinions of one another and carefully consider the various options,” she said.

Regarding the National Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry on accountability based on the verdict, she said she hoped the justice dispensed would allow everyone to carry on with his or her work.

Commenting on litigation looming over the Bt2-trillion mega-project loan bill, she said she had yet to receive the relevant legislation from Parliament.

Prominent red-shirt political appointee Sangiam Samranrat yesterday filed a police complaint that Constitutional Court judges had offended the monarchy.

Sangiam claimed the judges had violated Article 112 of the Criminal Code in conducting their judicial review of the Senate-change bill during the process to seek royal approval.

Red-shirt lawyer Nuengdin Wimuttinant petitioned the Department of Special Investigation to probe the Constitutional Court judges who ruled against the bill. Nuengdin cited Articles 113 and 112 related to insurrection and lese majeste as the basis for the probe.

Filipino duo caught falsely soliciting donations for typhoon
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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