Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Suthep sets D-Day Monday; Referendum proposed; Baht falls; Fears over New Year gouging; Floods in South

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

Suthep sets December 9 as D-day against Thaksin Regime
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Anti-government rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday night set December 9 as the D-Day for what he called “people’s uprising” against the Thaksin Regime and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Speaking at the rally site at the Government Complex, Suthep, who is charged with sedition, said that on the morning of December 9, he would lead protesters on a march to the Government House despite the time this would take. Protesters from other rally sites at Rajdamnoen and Makkawan would also start to march simultaneously at 9.39am.

Once when they arrive at the Government House, they will not force entry into the premises with the intention of occupying it. Instead, they will conduct the protest outside the venue.

He called for people to leave their offices and homes to join the demonstrations and show their desire to uproot the Thaksin Regime as well as the corrupt and illegitimate government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He challenged people those who preferred to stay home or did not want to join, saying “you can do that if you want to let the Thaksin Regime control you for the rest of your life.”

He reiterated that once he leaves the rally site, he will not go back. “I will not turn back. I will fight until the end. I will accept the results of the December 9 battle. If we don’t win, I will turn myself in to face the charges against me,” he told the cheering crowds. He once again underlined that there would be no violence as the protesters are not armed.

He also warned people of heavy traffic that day because of the march by protesters from the rally sites.

Referendum proposed on setting up people’s council
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, yesterday proposed that Article 165 of the Constitution be invoked to hold a public referendum on the proposal to establish a people’s council.

Ukrit raised the proposal during a discussion with House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranon and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij at Parliament.

Ukrit said the referendum would end disputes between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the government over the issue.

“Under the democratic system, the voice of the people is the most important. If we want a real solution, we should invoke Article 165 for all people to have a say. All 60 million Thais should be asked instead of having just 200,000 decide what should be done,” Ukrit said.

Political science students from 14 universities yesterday called on the government and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to hold transparent talks to achieve a constitutional solution for the country.

The two-point proposal was submitted in the morning by 20 student representatives to Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana at Government House, who promised it would be considered by the government along with other proposals. The universities include Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.

The student representatives told Phongthep political science students from the 14 universities came up with the proposal during a recent seminar. They called on the government and the Suthep-led People’s Democratic Reform Committee to urgently and transparently negotiate a solution that is possible under the charter.

Their second proposal was that political reform should be carried out via charter amendments that provide a level playing field for all groups to express their opinions.

Phongthep replied that the government was gathering opinions on a solution and that the students’ proposal would be considered along with other proposals put forward by academics.

He said he would later invite people with interesting ideas to discuss them. Permanent Secretary for Justice Kittipong Kityarak had been assigned to gather all the opinions and proposals, he added.

The deputy prime minister said the government would give its full attention to the opinions put forward as soon as possible.

But he said Suthep’s proposal to seek a royally-granted prime minister, by invoking Article 7 of the charter, was impossible. It had been achieved in 1973, he said, because the charter at that time allowed it.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday it was unconstitutional to invoke Article 3 and 7 to set up a people’s council and seek to have a prime minister appointed by His Majesty. He said Article 291 needed to be amended first to make Suthep’s proposals possible.

“But someone must sponsor this charter amendment bill. The protesters are refusing to propose a charter amendment bill and instead are resorting to intimidating and creating turmoil,” Chaturon said.

Internal, external factors combine to drag down baht
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The protests that have rocked Bangkok, and uncertainties over US intentions on its quantitative easing (QE) programme have put pressure on the baht, which continues to depreciate.

Benjarong Suwankiri, head of TMB Analytics at TMB Bank, said the depreciating baht and the stock market’s slump resulted from a mix of internal and external causes.

Externally, the United States is expected to taper its asset purchases soon, while locally, the protests against the government have been prolonged, prompting foreign capital to flee Thailand consistently. If the political protests, which started on November 1, drag on much longer, more foreign capital would move out, which would pull the Thai currency down further, Benjarong said.

The baht softened to 32.359 per US dollar yesterday, the weakest level since September 6, according to Bloomberg. It has declined 3.7 per cent since the demonstrations began.

The baht has weakened faster than expected, he said. The earlier estimate was 32.50 per dollar by mid-December. However, the currency weakened early in the month, reflecting consistent foreign-capital outflows, while the Thai capital markets have seen shorter foreign investors’ equity holdings on expectations of QE tapering in the near term.

The local protests, which have continued for more than a month, have been affecting the Thai economy and investor confidence at a certain level and could affect next year’s growth, Benjarong said. Foreign tourists have recently changed their behaviour, spending less time in Bangkok and more in other provinces.

Gross domestic product expanded by 2.7 per cent in the third quarter year on year, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2012. The Bank of Thailand and the Fiscal Policy Office have lowered their 2013 growth estimates to about 3 per cent, while Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has conceded that the actual figure could be even lower.

Benjarong said the markets had been waiting for the government’s measures to stimulate growth next year.

The SET Index has dropped 16 per cent since the US Federal Reserve said on May 22 it might reduce its US$85 billion (Bt2.7 trillion) of monthly bond purchases, according to Bloomberg. The index yesterday slumped by 15.06 points to 1,361.57.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittirat Na Rano

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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