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Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks

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Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks | The Thaiger

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Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: As moves to restore peace in the Deep South go into motion, the Army’s chief adviser Gen Aksara Kerdpol said yesterday that he will speak with facilitators in Malaysia in the middle of this month to get dialogue guidelines. He added that the negotiation team will comprise of no more than 15 members.

Deputy Defence Minister Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, meanwhile, said yesterday that after the Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Malaysia on December 1, it was now Gen Aksara’s responsibility as chief negotiator to start preparing for the peace dialogue, which is in the process of beginning.

On November 26, PM Gen Prayut signed an order to establish a mechanism to kick-start a peace dialogue with insurgents, an informed source said yesterday.

The order specifies the setting up of a Steering Committee for Dialogue, which would be chaired by Gen Prayut and include the Army chief, the Justice Ministry permanent secretary, the National Intelligence Agency director, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) secretary-general and the National Security Council secretary-general.

This committee will be in charge of making policies and setting the direction of the dialogue and its scope to ensure consistency, unity and effectiveness. The order also assigns Gen Aksara as the new chief negotiator for the dialogue.

Another team, namely the Area-based Inter-agency Coordination Working Group, will comprise of the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) Region 4 chief, SBPAC deputy chief, provincial administrative officials, police, military officers, civil society representatives and experts. The working group would create a peace-enabling environment, coordinate with agencies to follow up on developments and open communication channels with insurgents.

In related news, an informed source reported that the government was planning to hold peace talks with 14 insurgent groups starting with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) whose liaison office chief Hassan Taib attended the 2013 dialogue. This time, the talks will be facilitated by Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim, the former chief of Malaysia’s national intelligence agency.

Looking to close loopholes

During Prayut’s visit to Malaysia on Monday, he and Prime Minister Najib Razak discussed issues in the restive South, including the dual-nationality status that is a loophole taken advantage of by insurgents. However, the two leaders did not touch on the BRN’s five-point demand.

This time around, Thailand has come up with a clearer plan of action by setting up six or seven subcommittees for several tasks, including security for local residents, social and cultural work and foreign affairs.

Meanwhile, Sama-ae “Hayisama-ae Thanam” Sa-ah, former chief of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation who is serving a life sentence in Yala Prison since 2011 for leading a separatist mutiny, called on the government to learn from the previous administration’s mistake of talking to just one group of separatists.

“There are many separatist groups active here,” said the man who is known as an ideological fighter with a good insight into the region’s issues.

He said success would come if the separatist groups were also united – possibly like the Palestine Liberation Organisation, a conglomeration of groups opposing Israel – to represent and follow the talks agreement.

Sama-ae also called on both parties to be sincere and learn to keep secrets so information is not leaked to the detriment of the other side.

He added that talks should be kept confidential until an agreement is reached.

“If you want peace, you need to work together to find a way and then a mutual contract between the government and insurgents in the region can be signed before it is revealed to the public,” he said.

He added that he was confident the government under Prayut would succeed because it was in total control.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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