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Thailand News: Talks yield no breakthrough; Senators mull a legal PM

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Thailand News: Talks yield no breakthrough; Senators mull a legal PM | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Prayuth pushes for solutions to end impasse
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: In his first meeting with warring parties yesterday, Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha mapped out resolutions to pull the country out of the ongoing political crisis, though they failed to come to a conclusion.

Representatives from the government, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, the opposition Democrat Party, the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the Senate and the Election Commission (EC) all presented their ideas to the Army chief.

The ideas they offered were no different from what they had previously proposed in public, which had failed to end the impasse. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva outlined the very same roadmap that he had proposed earlier, Army deputy spokesperson Winthai Suvaree said.

In the second round of meeting today, the Army chief expects to get answers from all sides on five issues: election, neutral government, reform, protest and security measures, a source close to the meeting said.

Regarding holding an election, Prayuth wants to know how polls can be held in six to nine months.

On the issue of a neutral government, he wants to know if it will be a caretaker government or one that has full mandate.

On reform, he wants to know precisely what reforms each side wants to see and in what form.

On protests, the Army chief wants to know if the protesters could end their rallies and return home soon, acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who was at the meeting, said.

“The commander did not order that the protests be stopped, but said he wanted to see the protesters go home while the negotiation is going on,” he revealed.

A source said Prayuth did not want to use force to crack down on either the pro- or anti-government protesters, but wanted all sides to stop their rallies peacefully.

Prayuth also wants to put measures in place for the safety of people and economic security, the source said.

However, people may not be able to come up with answers to Prayuth’s questions overnight.

Pheu Thai ‘ready to cooperate’

Pheu Thai Party’s executive committee member Wan Muhammad Noor Matha insisted at the meeting that his party was happy to cooperate with the military, provided it was within the Constitutional framework, which did not allow a non-elected prime minister to take office.

At the meeting, Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri said people should be given the right to decide on the country’s future through an election, and the martial law enforced by the military should facilitate a smooth round of balloting.

He said national reform required time and proper lawmakers to implement them. “A fully mandated premier without an election is legally impossible,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting.

Meanwhile, UDD leader Jatuporn Promphan said as the parties present were not able to find common ground, the Army should hold a public referendum to see if the people wanted reform before election or the other way around. He suggested that the referendum be held in September and the election be scheduled for October or November.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban, however, insisted that as the country did not have a prime minister, it was the Senate’s duty to find a non-political individual for the premier’s job and implement reform before the election. He said conducting a public referendum as proposed by Jatuporn would only create new conflicts.

Prayuth told the meeting that he had enforced martial law because he did not wish to see any more bloodshed.

“I want to see every problem settled within this forum before I retire [in September]. I don’t want my juniors to take up this job. If the problem is not solved, I will not retire,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting.

Senators ‘considering appointing new premier’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Senators are considering the appointment of a new prime minister with full authority to run the country, in a bid to find a way out of the political impasse, sources in the upper House said yesterday.

The appointment would be made with reference to the Constitution and the Senate would give reasons explaining the need for its actions, according to the sources.

However, there are some legal problems and obstacles, as the caretaker government has not sought an extraordinary session for the Senate to discuss the matter, the sources said.

The senatorial working group responsible for this matter has assigned acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai to find a solution to the legal problems.

Surachai yesterday said, “I have done homework on the problematic issue. But I will not talk about this in detail. This is a sensitive matter.”

At their meeting on Tuesday, some senators expressed hope that following imposition of martial law, the military would help the Senate pressure the remaining Cabinet members to resign and pave the way for appointment of a new prime minister, according to the sources.

A senator even suggested soldiers should force the Cabinet members at gunpoint to resign, something that was done by coup-makers. However, this proposal was opposed by many other senators who did not want to see the military’s involvement in the appointment of a new PM.

Senator Dej-udom Krairit said he expected a Constitutional Court verdict in a case filed recently by Senator Paiboon Nititawan asking the court to rule whether the remaining Cabinet members could still remain in power.

He expected that verdict in two weeks. “But if we can’t wait, I believe Surachai has a way. He has met many people, both in secret and in the open,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party’s legal expert Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said he would today petition the Constitutional Court to rule whether it is constitutional for Surachai and other senators to attempt to appoint a new prime minister to set up a new government

In a related development, the Election Commission will ask the Council of State whether the acting prime minister has the legal power to jointly schedule the next election with the EC, according to Metha Silaphan, a senior EC official. He expected the EC secretary-general to write the Council of State today about this matter.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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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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