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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Poll set for Sunday amid fears of further violence; Man shot, gunman caught; Reds to rally nationwide

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Poll set for Sunday amid fears of further violence; Man shot, gunman caught; Reds to rally nationwide | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Poll set for Sunday amid fears of further violence
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The decision to go ahead with the February 2 election would only mount pressure on the caretaker government because it would provide “ammunition” to the protesters, a leader of the People’s Democratic for Reform Committee (PDRC) said yesterday.

The protest leader told The Nation, on condition of anonymity, that this decision would be advantageous for the PDRC as it would give them reason to continue. He said that if the government decided to delay the poll, the PDRC would have no reason to keep rallying.

After failing to reach a consensus yesterday over rescheduling the poll in a meeting with the Election Commission (EC), the government announced that the snap election would go ahead as scheduled – this Sunday.

Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, who was at the meeting, said delaying the poll would not solve problems and could open the door to more trouble.

The government and EC have been at loggerheads over delaying the election. The commission has been saying the poll should not be held due to the anti-government rallies, while the government has been arguing that delaying it would not end the protests either.

The protest leader said that while Pheu Thai Party would most definitely win the poll, its legitimacy would certainly be questioned. And it is feared that clashes may break out, as they did last Sunday, when advance voting was held. There could also be problems such as a delay in the endorsement of the winner and the inability of the House to convene.

Moreover, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – who is again Pheu Thai’s top candidate – is being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission in relation to the rice-pledging scheme. If she is indicted, it might affect her political status.

“The fight between the PDRC and the Yingluck government will become a prolonged battle and not end soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced last night that another 195 prominent individuals were ready to support his reform agenda. They include former Bank of Thailand governor Pridiyathorn Devakula, former commerce minister Krirk-krai Jirapaet and Magsaysay award winner Krisna Kraisintu.

Separately, Nipit Intarasombat, deputy Democrat leader, said he would sue the Cabinet for not postponing the election, which would cost the country Bt3.8 billion.

Earlier, Yingluck met all five EC members and ministers, including Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok, PM’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn and Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

Yingluck proposed that the election should only be postponed in constituencies or at polling stations that have had problems. She wanted constituencies where no candidates have enrolled, or advance voting was blocked, to have a new election date.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said he analysed scenarios for the government to consider. He said there were plenty of problems already and more likely after ballots are cast.

The House would not be able to sit for three to four months, he said, as the number of elected candidates would be below 95 per cent, the legal quorum required.

There were 28 constituencies, mostly in the South, which lack candidates to contest the ballot, he said. The government needed a new decree or the EC needed a new declaration to set a new date, perhaps two to three months for voting in the 28 remaining constituencies.

Without complete results, the EC could not calculate the number of party-list MPs, he said. It would need at least 4 to 6 months.

Somchai said the EC would have to hold new elections for 83 constituencies, where advance voting was blocked last Sunday.

He said some 2.1 million voters who had registered to cast absentee ballots or advance votes were yet to exercise their right. They would have the right to cast ballots by late February, he said.

Somchai and Phongthep briefed the media on the outcome of the meeting but it seemed that they came out to argue against each other. When Phongthep said the delay would not solve any problems because protesters would not stop, Somchai argued that an election this weekend would face all kinds of trouble.

During the conference, three men came to protest. One man showed a placard that said “Respect us”. He said they came from a group called “We are 100 per cent Thai citizens who want the EC to resign.”

Meanwhile, a new problem emerged shortly after all 50 district chiefs have asked to step down en masse as heads of the EC in their areas in Bangkok, citing fears for their safety and huge pressure from both political camps.

Bangkok City Clerk Ninnart Chalitanont said Bang Kapi district chief Sin Nitithadakul had tendered his resignation. The other district chiefs also want to resign but were worried that the EC may not be able to find replacements for them in time.

She said the district chiefs did not want to face the dramas that occurred during advance voting last Sunday.

Ninnart said the EC would have to appoint new committees within 20 days before the election date if the other chiefs resign.

Man shot outside the Army Club; gunman caught
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: An anti-government protester was shot and injured outside the Army Club yesterday, where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Election Commission members were meeting.

The drama occurred as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee tried to break into the venue on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to pressure the Yingluck government to step down.PDRC protesters rounded up the suspect gunman and seized several items as evidence.

The man had to be taken to Rajavithi Hospital after being attacked by angry protesters. The injured protester, 32, shot in the back into his stomach, was admitted to an intensive care unit at Ramathibodi Hospital for surgery.

The incident took place at about 2.30pm. About 15 minutes later, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is also head of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, left the Army Club via another gate.

He had arrived at 1.30pm and voiced his ideas before the PM met Election Commissioners. The Cabinet met at the same venue, but most ministers left before noon after the meeting ended.

The sound of a gunshot was heard near a flyover opposite the Army venue after PDRC protesters lined up in eight rows and stepped towards the club, after guards cut a chain locking the club gate.

The suspect gunman was caught by irate protesters, who beat him and grabbed his gun. Shortly after a PDRC leader took to a truck equipped with loudspeakers and announced that the suspect gunman was a police officer from Suthisan Police Station.

On the man or nearby, PDRC guards allegedly found a 11 mm gun with a fully loaded magazine, a motorcycle taxi jacket (number 35 from Bang Sue), a pair of handcuffs, gloves, a mobile phone, a black T-shirt, a motorcycle (Bangkok licence plate number 387), a camera hidden in front of the motorcycle, bullets and cartridges, two communication radios with the name “POL SR SGT MAJ TI” on them.

The protesters asked police to give them back all the evidence they found as they were not confident that officers would carry out their duty honestly. Th

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Loose electrical wire causes passing motorbike to burst into flames – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Loose electrical wire causes passing motorbike to burst into flames – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Daily News

A hanging electrical wire caused a passing motorbike to burst into flames, injuring a 25 year old and a 15 year old. Pathum Thani locals had put 2 chairs out in the road as a warning for the hanging wire. But the chairs weren’t enough to signal the motorbike driver to change lanes.

The 25 year old teacher drove straight into the loose wire and his bike burst into flames. 30% of his body was burned. The 15 year old passenger was slightly injured, Thai media reports. Apparently, it was the second time the loose wire caused a bike to catch on fire.

A former rescue worker was on his way home when the incident occurred. He had a fire extinguisher in his car and was able to quickly put out the fire. The dash camera on his car recorded the incident, showing the motorbike suddenly bursting into flames.

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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Drugs

240 kilograms of marijuana found in truck after police chase, driver still on the run

Caitlin Ashworth

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240 kilograms of marijuana found in truck after police chase, driver still on the run | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Esan Daily Online

Border patrol officers chased a pickup truck and seized 240 kilograms of marijuana they say was smuggled across the Thai-Laos border. In the chase, the driver allegedly drove into oncoming traffic, hitting another car before ditching his vehicle and running off.

Officers say they believe the marijuana was smuggled across the Mekong River from Laos and then it was piled in the truck at the border province Nong Khai. After receiving a tip about a truck smuggling marijuana in the Nong Khai province, officers caught up with the truck in Mukdahan.

When officers followed the bronze Toyota pickup truck, the truck suddenly swerved across the median and drove against the flow of traffic before colliding with an oncoming car. The driver then got out of the truck and ran off. Police say there were no injuries.

Officers searched the truck and found 240 bars of dried marijuana. Each compressed bar weighed 1 kilogram. The truck was also confiscated by the customs office. Police are still investigating. The driver has not been found.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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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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