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Prayut promises to exercise absolute power ‘constructively’

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

Prayut promises to exercise absolute power ‘constructively’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday promised to exercise his powers under Article 44 of the provisional charter “in a constructive manner” – an apparent bid to allay concerns over a new order he will issue to replace martial law.

PM Prayut said he expected protesters to take to the streets and political leaders to challenge his government after the martial law was lifted. “I will not use Article 44 to persecute or threaten anyone. It will be invoked because there is the need. You should not be afraid of Article 44. In fact, martial law is tougher than Article 44, as it controls everything,” he said.

Under Article 44 of the post-coup provisional charter, PM Prayut, in his capacity as leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has the power to issue an order to disrupt or suppress any threat to public peace and order or national security.

When asked why he did not opt for the state of emergency law or the Internal Security Act, the PM said those legal measures were used by two previous governments and had failed to prevent severe political conflict.

“Do you think I will succeed with those laws?” he asked. “I will use Article 44 constructively and I won’t use it to create more conflict.”

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Prayut had just assigned him to look into legal issues regarding the plan to issue the order to replace martial law with Article 44 and he would explain the matter to the media today.

National Legislative Assembly president Phornphet Wichitcholchai voiced support for PM Prayut’s plan as a mechanism to address security concerns.

Mr Phornphet said Thailand’s image in the eyes of the international community would be improved after martial law was lifted. He also expects the new order to boost unity and help the country achieve reconciliation under the NCPO’s reform roadmap.

Other senior government figures also attempted to allay fears over Article 44.

Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda said the aim was to maintain peace and order.

Deputy PM and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said that by invoking Article 44, the government would be able to prevent “bad people” from “doing bad things to the country”. Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said he did not think PM Prayut would issue any order that went against the moral code.

Martial law vs Article 44

Martial law gives the military widespread powers to conduct searches, make arrests, ban public gatherings or spread information. It clearly states the jurisdiction scope of the military courts, unlike Article 44, which does not state clearly what kind of cases can be heard by a military court or a civilian court.

Article 44 gives the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order control over the administration, legislature and judiciary, although the provisional charter requires him to inform the National Legislative Assembly president and the prime minister after announcing an order under Article 44.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Top epidemiologist warns that vaccination is not a cue to re-open borders

Maya Taylor

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Top epidemiologist warns that vaccination is not a cue to re-open borders | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siamrath

A specialist in infectious diseases at the Faculty of Medicine of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University says the arrival of vaccines does not mean it’s safe to re-open to foreign visitors. Thira Woratanarat says opening the borders too soon will only put Thailand in more danger, pointing to a lack of data on the efficacy of vaccines against transmission.

Thira adds that asymptomatic carriers could still spread the virus and that the arrival of vaccines could cause people to lower their guard. According to a Nation Thailand report, the medic insists that more studies are needed into asymptomatic cases as there is not yet enough information.

“Things are no safe yet, so people should strictly adhere to preventive measures and monitor their health. See the doctor immediately if you have any symptoms.”

Thira has routinely erred on the side of caution when discussing Thailand’s approach to managing the pandemic. He has regularly spoken out against lifting or reducing the mandatory quarantine period, opposed re-opening the borders, and called for a 4-week national lockdown as recently as last month.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Crime

Police raids shut down online network of casinos across 7 provinces

Maya Taylor

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Police raids shut down online network of casinos across 7 provinces | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod

Police have shut down a network of online casinos in raids that took place across 7 provinces, with 19 suspects arrested and cash and other goods seized. In total, 8 online casino networks in 7 provinces have been shut down, with police apprehending 19 out of a total 22 suspects.

Thai PBS World reports that the raids took place in Bangkok, as well as in the central provinces of Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya, Sara Buri, the eastern province of Rayong, the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, and the northern province of Chiang Mai. It’s understood the raids were carried out simultaneously. Officers confiscated 8 vehicles, 2 million baht in cash, and 54 mobile phones.

199 bank accounts are also being investigated, with police saying each one is in the names of the suspects, with transaction records of between 10 and 70 million baht.

The raids are the result of a police investigation into information that an application called “Royal Slot 777”, was being used in the illegal running of online gambling. Thousands of clients were involved in the gambling operations, with more than 1 billion baht circulating.

The networks operated from offices across several provinces, each overseeing a certain territory. Many offices were masquerading as transport or property management companies. According to police, the gambling networks were being run from abroad by Chinese businessmen.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

Behind bars: government ministers among 29 jailed for Yingluck protests

Maya Taylor

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Behind bars: government ministers among 29 jailed for Yingluck protests | The Thaiger
Anti-government protests in Bangkok in 2013. PHOTO: Wikimedia

A number of government ministers have been jailed for their part in protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra that crippled Bangkok and ultimately led to the 2014 military coup. Yesterday, the Criminal Court handed prison sentences to 29 former members of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, some of whom were serving in the current administration.

Former politician and former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, has been sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment for leading the protests against the Yingluck government during 2013 and 2014. Education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan has received a prison sentence of 6 years and 16 months, while the deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam received a 4 year sentence. Buddhipongse Punnakanta, former Digital Economy and Society Minister, has been sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment.

In total, 29 ex-PDRC members have been found guilty of charges including terrorism and insurrection and handed sentences from 4 months to 11 years. They are now barred from holding political office, meaning PM Prayut Chan-o-cha may be looking at a Cabinet reshuffle. He has held the position of PM since seizing power in the 2014 military coup that ended the PDRC protests.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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