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Thailand News: Yingluck corruption indictment; Blasts hit Bangkok; PDRC vows to announce new government today

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Thailand News: Yingluck corruption indictment; Blasts hit Bangkok; PDRC vows to announce new government today | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Deadlock remains despite Yingluck dismissal, indictment
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The political deadlock remains steadfast despite former caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra being dealt a double blow this week, with the Constitutional Court sacking her on Wednesday and the National Anti-Corruption Commission indicting her yesterday – both unanimously.

The legal blows against the government head over the past two days, however, have not created the political vacuum that the anti-government side hoped for. They had eagerly anticipated the entire Cabinet to be thrown out along with its leader by the Constitutional Court.

However, the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which has been running street protests for six months, appears to believe the removal of Yingluck gives them the long-awaited opportunity to set up a reform administration. “Tomorrow [today] we will take steps towards appointing a new government,” PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said.

“After the Constitutional Court’s decision, we decided to move up our schedule. The government has lost legitimacy and any claim it has to govern the country,” he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

It was not clear what legal basis the PDRC’s vow was based on, but Akanat said the Constitution has an article that may allow the appointment of a new executive body by the Senate.

Anti-government protest leaders have vowed a “final fight” today, without giving details of their plans.

Their pledge came a day after the charter court removed Yingluck from office for abusing her power in transferring National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri to an inactive post in 2011. The court found that Yingluck and nine other Cabinet members had helped a relative of Yingluck by removing the NSC chief.

The Senate convenes today to elect its speaker. The protesters want a new speaker in place so he can act as Parliament president in nominating a new prime minister.

The NACC voted 7-0 to indict Yingluck for dereliction of duty and negligence in

connection with the government’s loss-making and graft-plagued rice-pledging scheme, chairman Panthep Klanarongran said.

The judgment was made as scheduled, after the NACC amassed enough evidence to clearly indict Yingluck for allegedly exercising her power in breach of Article 178 of the Constitution concerning the rice price-support scheme, and allegedly intending to employ her power against the government administration regulations under Article 11(1), the NACC said.

“The commission considers there is enough evidence to indict [Yingluck] and refers [the case] to the Senate,” Panthep told a press conference.

The Senate will consider Yingluck’s impeachment. If found guilty, she will be banned from politics for five years.

The anti-graft agency will next investigate to decide whether to pursue criminal action against Yingluck for alleged dereliction of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and negligence under the Commission Act.

NACC member Vicha Mahakun said the commission’s decision was not influenced by the Constitutional Court’s ruling. The guilty judgement was based on witness testimony and documentary evidence, which clearly showed that Yingluck’s alleged negligence while performing her duties had caused the country to suffer huge losses of more than Bt300 billion during the past two years.

The damage was calculated from the market value of rice and the quantity of rice in government stocks after the audit committee finalised the loss figure for the three rounds of the pledging scheme, he said.

Although Yingluck had a chance to correct the mistakes and the rice policy after there were many warnings from other agencies, she refused to halt the project and instead let the losses grow as well as let corruption continue to run rampant, he said.

Meanwhile, the attempt to hold the next election is in a limbo, as the Election Commission told the government that it would be available to discuss the issuing of a Royal Decree next Wednesday.

Charupong Ruangsuwan, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, was pessimistic about the new poll. “I believe there will definitely be no election. They are you-know-who,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly what will happen if there’s no election.”

The red-shirt supporters of Pheu Thai plan to ask Yingluck to join a mass rally tomorrow on Aksa Road, said Jatuporn Promphan, chairman of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship.

Yingluck’s removal is expected to contract the economy this year due to the resulting violence that is likely to break out.

Moody’s Investors Service said the court’s ruling was negative for the country’s sovereign credit rating. The possibility of the absence of a permanent government until the end of the year will slow down new investment in the Kingdom, according to Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand.

However, the Bank of Thailand believes the economy will not contract and there will not be an economic crisis due to its strong fundamentals.

Four attacks hit Bangkok after Yingluck sacking
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Four bomb attacks took place without causing casualties late Wednesday night and early yesterday in Bangkok, in what police described as possibly politically motivated and a potential precursor to increased violence.

The four attacks occurred at the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Siam Commercial Bank headquarters, the home of a Constitutional Court judge, and the Defence Ministry.

They occurred in succession, starting at around 9pm, after a Constitutional Court ruling had earlier ended the term of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Deputy Bangkok police chief Maj Gen Chayut Thanathaweerat said the attacks on medical and financial institutes signified a potential upswing in political violence. More policemen will be deployed in areas at risk and political rally sites, he added.

He said police had a database of potential suspects, but were not sure whether those behind each individual attack was conducted by the same group of people. Police needed time to gather evidence and intelligence before making a conclusion on who had masterminded the attacks, he added.

In the first attack, two M-79 rounds were fired into the Chulabhorn Research Institute compound, located on Vibhavadi Highway, and also hitting the ninth floor of Chulabhorn Hospital. Along with the building, a parked taxi was also damaged.

Within 30 minutes, a lone M-79 round hit the eighth floor of the Siam Commercial Bank complex. Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) police said it was possibly fired from Ratchadaphisek Road at the front of the building.

A ping-pong ball explosion at the Defence Ministry compound near Sanam Luang caused minor damage, said Pol Colonel Kamthorn Uei-charoen, an EOD unit commander.

He said the EOD was not notified of the attack by local police, who deemed it to be a light, non-lethal attack.

As for research-institute attack, Kamthorn said the M-79 rounds were possibly fired from a moving vehicle at a distance of 180-200 metres.

It will be determined later wheth

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

International travel in 2021 is unpredictable – Tourism Authority of Thailand

Caitlin Ashworth

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International travel in 2021 is unpredictable – Tourism Authority of Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Aleksei Zaitcev

The future of Thailand’s travel industry is “opaque”, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn. For once the usually over-optimistic TAT has made a completely honest assessment of the current situation.

“There are unpredictable factors that come into play when trying to determine how 2021 will pan out, like the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine, the number of coronavirus infections and travel restrictions. The tourism sector might not have what’s considered a normal revenue, at least 80% of the pre-pandemic level, until 2022.”

“We set 2021 as a year of adjustment before seeing a leap in 2022. We forecast Thailand will achieve 2.5 trillion baht in tourism revenue in 2022, or 80-90% of 2019, which recorded 3 trillion baht.”

In reality, any large tourism recovery to pre-Covid numbers could take a lot longer.

Yuthasak says he met with an official from the Chinese Embassy and says that large groups of Chinese tourists, who made up around 10 million, or 25%, of foreign arrivals in 2019, will probably not travel to Thailand until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available. It’s unclear how long it will take to commercially produce a vaccine and distribute it across the world.

A rebound in international tourism is expected around the third quarter of 2021 or in 2022, according to the World Tourism Organisation, based on the current situation but, learning from this year’s events, recoveries in any industry are highly speculative.

For Thailand, Yuthasak says the country might see a moderate number of international guests around the second and third quarter of 2021 with more tourists visiting during the summer when the spread of the virus is considered to slow down due to the hot weather.

SOURCE:Bangkok Post

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Protests

Deputy PM refutes claim that using lèse majesté law damages Monarchy

Maya Taylor

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Deputy PM refutes claim that using lèse majesté law damages Monarchy | The Thaiger
PHOTO: VOA News

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has dismissed claims that invoking Thailand’s strict lèse majesté law is damaging to the Monarchy. He insists the law has been in use for years and can be applied in the case of current protesters who violate it through their public speeches.

Wissanu was responding to a claim from renowned academic Sulak Sivaraksa, who has slammed the government for resorting to Section 112 of the Criminal Code. Section 112 forbids insulting, defaming, or threatening the Monarchy, and a violation carries a punishment of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Earlier this week, police confirmed that 12 protesters have been summonsed to face lèse majesté charges, a move which some say is designed to leave protest movements leaderless. Sulak addressed a large rally in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s headquarters in Bangkok on Wednesday, to accuse the government of harming the Monarchy by its use of the law. He has pointed out that the late King Bhumibol described the law as an assault on him and that the current Monarch, His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn, has also asked for it not to be used.

Sulak says the government must stop invoking the law in order to allow for a peaceful debate to take place on the role of the Monarchy. The current anti-government protests, which have been running since mid-July, are calling for reforms that will make Thailand’s highest institution more accountable to the people. The demand is highly controversial, broaching as it does, a topic that has until now been completely taboo. Protesters are also calling for the resignation of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and a re-write of the Constitution, followed by the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai government to sign vaccine contract with Oxford University, AstraZeneca, today

Maya Taylor

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Thai government to sign vaccine contract with Oxford University, AstraZeneca, today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.aseanthai.net

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has confirmed that Thailand will today sign a contract with Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, for the procurement of their Covid-19 vaccine. The PM says the agreement will mean Thais can access the vaccine once it goes into production. This contract is in addition to the agreement signed for the transfer of vaccine technology that will enable it to be manufactured here.

Earlier this week, the team behind the vaccine announced that it was between 70-90% effective, depending on the dosage. The discrepancy raised some questions, as it appeared the vaccine was more effective when administered first as a half-dose, followed by a full dose, rather than when 2 full doses were administered. The team now says it may carry out another global trial to determine why the lower dose appears more effective.

The PM points out that one significant advantage the vaccine has is that it can be stored at temperatures of 2 – 8 degrees Celsius, unlike those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at much lower freezer temperatures (around -70 degrees Celsius, in the case of the Pfizer jab). Such a requirement could create a logistical nightmare for some countries.

The PM says the vaccine is likely to be approved and go into production in Thailand by the middle of 2021, adding that the quicker it’s available, the quicker the tourism sector and the overall economy will recover.

According to a Thai PBS World report, the PM says many other countries have signed similar deals with pharmaceutical companies, in order to guarantee access to effective vaccines for their citizens. Meanwhile, he adds that, until the vaccine is available, people should continue with hygiene measures such as mask-wearing in public spaces, hand-washing and social distancing, in order to avoid the repeat waves of the virus that other countries are having to deal with.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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