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Thailand News Today | “The Last Supper of the Prime Minister”

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The next political challenge for Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is next month when a censure motion is put to the lower house by opposition MPs. 

The debate is scheduled for July 18 – 22 and there is no certainty how the votes will eventually fall at this time. Renegade MPs, new political factions, the PM’s falling popularity, and a looming general election will all play a factor in the final result for Prayut and the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.

Moving Forward Party MPs will be leading the charge, attacking the performance of the prime minister and 10 of his other leading ministers.

This is the fourth such censure debate against the PM and government since the 2019 general election. They’ve so far survived all votes on the lower house floor, along purely party lines.

The ruling Palang Pracharat coalition has a tenuous majority and relies on the 17 coalition partners to push through any legislation. The largest rumps of support come from the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, the party of deputy PM and public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

The most high-profile dissenters are the 20 MPs that were evicted after an unsuccessful internal coup during the last censure debate, led by Phayao MP, and former deputy agricultural minister, Thammanat Prompau, who also happens to be a convicted heroin trafficker, but Prayut and his party were happy to fraternise with him anyway. 

Both Thammanat and the other renegade MPs have since forged alliances with other conservative parties or started their own. But, after being banished from Palang Pracaharat, and already indicating their lack of the support for the current PM, their votes cannot be counted upon when the censure votes are taken.

During Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, PM Prayut told his ministers that he is “ready to confront the opposition and to respond to their questions”. He has already rallied his supporters and “evidence” he intends to use during the debate sessions next month.

Goading the PM, opposition MPs are already calling the forthcoming censure motions and debate as “The Last Supper of the Prime Minister”.

————

 

Low-budget airline Thai AirAsia X insists it will recover from its bankruptcy petition and promises to honour its commitment to repaying customers who booked flights with the company during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Thai AirAsia X filed for bankruptcy on May 17 to become the third airline in Thailand to do so following the pandemic in 2020. But company director, Tassapon Bi-le-veld, believes that if creditors vote in favour of the bankruptcy petition they presented to the court, the airline will recover from the economic setback by the end of 2023.

Tassapon also added that the 6,500 bookings made before the company’s bankruptcy process, and new bookings from May 17, will not be affected by the court’s process. He says these bookings will be entitled to a cash or credit refund.

Tassapon revealed the airline can continue to operate overseas flights as usual despite dealing with the bankruptcy process, adding Thai AirAsia X plans to resume all destinations to South Korea and Japan this year.

The Bangkok-based airline has faced a challenging 2 years. Not only has it had to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, but rising fuel costs have hit the business hard. Fuel accounts for about 50% of total costs after they doubled from between 75-85 us dollars per barrel last year to 170 dollars per barrel.

Tassapon says the airline could not pass that cost onto passengers. But, following demand from both Thai and Korean passengers this month, Thai AirAsia X is optimistic it can bounce back despite operating at a loss at the moment.

———–

 

Plans to change the uniforms of parliament police, 6 months after they were issued with new ones, have been put on hold after the officers themselves objected, calling it “a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

60 parliament police officers gathered at the parliament building, in Dusit district, yesterday to submit a letter to the President of the National Assembly, Chuan Leekpai, to oppose the plan to change their uniforms.

On June 12, Chuan signed a document to approve new uniforms for the parliament guards, adding the uniforms needed to be changed to suit the present time. The uniforms for the new fashion season are expected to be ready by December 31.

The news became a hot topic on Thai social media. Many netizens agreed with the 60 police officers, saying it is a waste of money, especially during the kingdom’s current economic situation of high inflation, product price hikes, and a wage freeze. Others were just perplexed as officers only received new uniforms just 6 months ago.

Each uniform costs about 5,000 baht, and officers are allocated 2 each, making the total around 2 million baht as there are about 200 parliament police officers.

Chuan added the plan to change the uniforms has been paused for now. He says the plan would be reconsidered after the next house of representatives election.

—————

 

The Royal Thai Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, cautioned people from Thailand against taking the happy plant to Indonesia as they could face the death penalty.

The official Facebook page of the Royal Thai Embassy in Jakarta today uploaded a picture with the warning message, and that people who violate this act will face a tough penalty according to Indonesian laws. An offender could face a fine of at least 1 Indonesian rupiah (about 2.4 million baht), 5 years to life imprisonment, or capital punishment.

The embassy also recommended people refuse to carry anything from others and bring it to Indonesia as someone might be lured into happy plant smuggling.

The warning was launched following Thailand’s decriminalisation of the plant on June 9, which allows Thai nationals to use the plants for MEDICAL purposes. Since then, more and more products have been launched and are available at convenience stores, for medical purposes of course.

The government fears some people might carry their products to neighbouring countries without law awareness.

Media reported Monday that a Malaysian tourist had entered his home country with some drinking water that had happy ingredients. The tourist received a fine equivalent to about 80,000 baht.

————-

 

Although the happy plant has been taken off Thailand’s list of narcotics, extracts with higher than 0.2% THC – the “happy” chemical – are still illegal. The law was designed to discourage recreational use, but no one knew how it could be enforced, until now.

Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences has developed test kits that detect THC levels in just 15 minutes. It can test THC levels in cannabis flowers, oils, food and cosmetics.

Happy plant enthusiasts were confused with the government’s “0.2%” rule, with many not knowing whether it would apply to flowers, which are a pure form, or only to “extracts” such as oils or foods.

The Thai government has clarified that the rule does not apply to flowers. The Department of Corrections even vowed to return 16 tonnes of confiscated happy goods to offenders.

Since June 9, a myriad of dispensaries have opened up all over the country, openly selling flowers with enough THC to make you very happy. The THC in some potent strains exceeds 20%.

So, the testing kits – which cost less than 100 baht to produce – will likely be used to test products, such as drinks, food, oils and cosmetics to ensure they contain less than 0.2% THC. Any products found to have higher levels will be considered an illegal narcotic.

The tests are not yet ready for sale, but the first 15,000 test kits produced will be given to organisations who need them for free.

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