Southern curfew debate; Amnesty opposed; World expo bid under cloud


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

‘Curfew could worsen things’
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: While the government will determine on Friday whether to declare a curfew in the deep South, the Civil Society Council of the Southern Border Provinces said yesterday that the government’s strategies should stress peaceful processes not combative ones.

Council president Prasit Meksuwan warned a curfew could worsen the situation. It could affect livelihoods and boost insurgents’ plan to make the region a violence zone. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday met with National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr, Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC) chief Tawee Sodsong, army chief-of-staff General Udomdech Seetabutr, and national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew and urged careful deliberation before declaring a curfew.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung said the meeting would come to a conclusion concerning the curfew either this Friday, or else in two weeks. He insisted the curfew would be useful as insurgents planted bombs at night for day-time attacks. Locals could ask officials for permission to leave home during curfew to work or for religious activity.

Army Region 4 commander Lt-General Udomchai Thammasarorat said the Army would carry out a curfew if ordered – but he urged the government to think carefully, as it could worsen the unrest. He said the violence wasn’t as severe as many imagined – and insurgents were taking revenge for the arrest of their leading members.

Army deputy spokesman Winthai Suwari said the interrogation of five teenagers, nabbed after the car bomb on Sunday that killed five soldiers and wounded another in Yala’s Raman district, allegedly found they aided the attack by placing spikes on the road. Winthai urged officials to exercise more caution in their investigations, while at the same time condemning the attacks as cruel and inhumane.

Amnesty for politicians opposed by senators
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Lawmakers are still divided over the amnesty draft proposed by the independent National Rule of Law Commission (NRLC) headed by Dr Ukrit Mongkolnavin.

Appointed Senator Paiboon Nititawan said yesterday he opposed the NRLC’s amnesty draft on the grounds that Prime Minister Yingluck would be accused of supporting people who have committed lese majeste offences – such as Daranee Chanchoengsilapakul or Da Torpedo.

He said the amnesty bill should not pardon political office holders and former political office holders because they had not only joined the rallies but were protest leaders.

Appointed Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn suggested the government take into account suggestions from the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand on the amnesty bill and advice from Nicha Hiranburana, wife of Col Romklao Thuwatham, who was killed during the political rally.

Somchai said 30 suspects who allegedly committed serious crimes and were being detained at Bang Khen prison with special privileges should not be pardoned – such as those accused of firing RPG rockets like Banthit Sithitum and Surachai Thewarak who allegedly killed nine military officers, two police and 10 others.

Pheu Thai party-list MP Korkaew Pikulthong opposed Paiboon’s proposal that political office holders should not be pardoned, saying the idea was a discrimination and unconstitutional. He said no political office holders were protest leaders or pulled strings behind the protest. “They might [have taken] to the rally stage but they did not take part in the rally as protest leaders,” he said.

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Jankomol yesterday met with Pheu Thai leader Charupong Ruangsuwan. He said he had talked to Trairong Suwankiri of the Democrats. Charoen proposed two bills to Charupong.

World Expo bid under a cloud amid cost doubts
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Eleven days after a second inspection, Thailand has lost its patience about knowing if it might win the World Expo 2020. Whether it is being political or not, the government’s decision may hurt the Kingdom’s image.

The Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) Enquiry Mission came to Ayutthaya late last month to inspect the Thai city’s potential as a candidate to host the world’s largest fair.

But yesterday Prime Minister’s Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsong-phaisan said the Yingluck government was assessing the worthiness of investing in a bid to stage the World Expo.

A research team from Kasetsart University had earlier estimated that the government, if selected to host the event, may have to spend 30 billion baht to construct new buildings and infrastructure to link to the expo site in Ayutthaya.

A decision has been in the air for some time. But politics is believed to have come into play, as the bid was announced in 2010, during the Abhisit government.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said what the government had done so far was to discredit the country. Thailand was globally well-known and playing a rising role in international platforms. And if the government announced it would not to proceed with the bid, the country would hurt its image on the international stage.

“The bidding game has not moved ahead fully. [The government] can keep going forward to fight in the competition, not drop out on the way,’ he said.

Nine delegates from the BIE Enquiry Mission also talked with Abhisit during their five-day inspection tour from January 28 to February 1 after meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

He said it was clear at least 10 million tourists would attend, and the venue would make Ayutthaya even better known internationally. He called for the government to declare exactly all details of why it has reconsidered backing the bid, especially figures about investment returns.

Yesterday, Thongchai Sridama, acting president of the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), a public agency leading the bidding, said it was most likely Thailand would not be considered by the BIE as a qualified candidate to win the bidding.

Dubai seemed to have emerged as the potential winner because the cash-rich nation had spent the 100 million baht to organize its bid, as well as building an underground train to better connect with the venue. It also had strong support from China.

He said around 30bn baht would be needed to build accommodation and infrastructure if Ayutthaya was to host the expo, and BIE expected to make a profit of around 62bn, if all plans and projections went as expected.

Other candidates include Brazil, Turkey and Russia. Thailand was the first country to be inspected. The officials will consider 14 issues identified in Thailand’s bidding dossier. One of the key items is the government mechanism for event management and community support.

Thailand is considered weak in some areas, such as a commitment to provide free support to less developed nations exhibiting at the expo. Also, there may be a lack of cohesive effort from state agencies on streamlining visa regulations and custom duties.

There were some irregularities during the visit of the Enquiry Mission to Ayutthaya. The TCEB invited the media to visit the venue, but Thongchai did not appear, claiming illness. On the same day

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News

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