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Thanathorn demands answers over budget increase for Royal office

Jack Burton

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Thanathorn demands answers over budget increase for Royal office | Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English

Progessive movement leader and former head of the now-defunct Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has been banned from politics for 10 years… but he’s still making his voice heard in the halls of power. In his capacity as an advisor to the House committee examining the budget bill, he questioned the justification for the increase in the budget for the Royal Office – the organisation directly under His Majesty the King. Thanathorn called the increase “alarming” given the current economic situation and demanded answers.

The outspoken businessman-turned-politician was disqualified as an MP last year after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of violating the election law by having shares in a media company when applying to run in the last general elections. And in February he saw his Future Forward Party dissolved by the same court, which also banned him along with other party executives from politics for 10 years.

But despite his political setbacks, Thanathorn continues to make his voice heard in the House as an advisor of the House budget committee, representing the opposition Move Forward Party de facto replacement for the Future Forward Party.

Normally, budgets for royal agencies are approved with little or no deliberation out of respect for the Monarchy. Not this time, with Thanathorn’s presence on the budget committee.

Thanathorn is known for his strong stand on the Monarchy which he believes should be “more accountable.” He noted in a Thursday Facebook post that normally, top executives of government agencies are required to be present to defend their budget before the House committee, but traditionally, no administrators of the Royal Office have ever appeared before the committee. And as in the past, the Royal Office was on Thursday represented by officials of the Budget Bureau.

Thanathorn said the budget for the Royal Office for 2021 is 8.9 billion baht, a significant jump of 16.8% from the 7.6 billion baht for this year. He described the increase as “alarming”, considering that the overall national budget for 2021 represents an increase of only 3.1%. He noted that the Budget Bureau spent only 2 minutes presenting the budget and gave no details.

Looking back over the years, the outspoken former politician said, budgets for the Royal Office have increased at startling rates, by far outstripping those of inflation and economic growth.

Thanathorn posted that he questioned the officials of the Budget Bureau whether such increases are appropriate, and whether they in any way diminish the honour of the monarchy.

“As the people are still suffering from economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic, such a sharp increase in the budget for the Royal Office would only have a negative impact on the honour of the monarchy.”

Thanathorn said he recommended the increase for the Royal Office be limited to 3.1% – the same as for the overall national budget.

“My intention is to help make the Royal Institution continue to be held in high esteem by the people.”

He said by agreeing to cut down the budget for the Royal Office, the Royal Institution would be seen as sharing the suffering of the people, further enhancing the honour of the Monarchy.

Among the major agencies within the Royal Office are Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Bureau of the Royal Household and Royal Security.

Despite his suggestion, the House committee endorsed the budget for the Royal Office with no changes.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kevin Skinner

    Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Perhaps making sure the Royal Office’s budget is only spent domestically would help the countries economy.

  2. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    He is right if the British gave the same rise to the Queen there be be outrage.
    16.8!!!
    Even the illiterate peasants of Thailand should object to that, no matter what a God they think he is.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Politics

Myanmar junta leader to attend ASEAN summit, activists appalled

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Myanmar junta leader to attend ASEAN summit, activists appalled | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

Myanmar’s junta or military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, is expected to attend an ASEAN summit in Jakarta where representatives of the bloc are expected to discuss Myanmar’s situation. Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tanee Sangrat, made the announcement.

“I can confirm that the Brunei Chair has proposed the date April 24 with the venue at the Secretariat in Jakarta. Several leaders have confirmed their attendance including Myanmar’s MAH [Senior General Min Aung Hlaing]. Some leaders have yet to confirm.”

The military has consistently justified the putsch by alleging widespread fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

The country’s New Year started yesterday, but it was a somber scene as activists traded celebrations for more protests. According to an AFP-verified video filmed by a resident, the New Year holiday saw soldiers crouched on a street as their commanding officer shouted that he wanted “deaths.” A rescue worker told AFP at least 1 person had died.

“He was shot in the stomach.”

The junta has also issued nightly arrest warrants on state-run media, targetting celebrities, influencers, journalists and prominent activists with large social media followings. Doctors refusing to work under the regime — leaving hospitals unstaffed in a pandemic — have also drawn the wrath of the junta. By last night, the arrest warrants totalled 420.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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New NGO law could target anti-governemnt activists

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New NGO law could target anti-governemnt activists | Thaiger
PHOTO: The Office of the Council of State drafted the controversial law.

A controversial new NGO law was drafted with critics arguing it targets activists and the Thai government saying it ensures transparency. The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations was written by the Office of the Council of State in February and debated in the second half of March, but could be passed into law soon. Human rights groups claim the law has provisions that would allow the Thai government to harass civil society groups and activism leaders by qualifying them as non-government organisations, or NGOs. The new law would require NGOs to re-register following new guidelines the government claims will cut down on dubious organisations claiming money but not working for the public interest.

The problem arises because the protests that have plagued the Thai government for that last year often receives backing from foreign groups. A statement from 3 UN Special Rapporteurs worried that the broad language of the law could restrict non-profits working for human rights, with a vague definition of what qualifies as an NGO potentially including any group and enforcing strict NGO regulations on them. Section 1 of the draft states a sweeping goal for the bill.

“[…]to regulate the operation of not-for-profit organizations in the Kingdom to ensure propriety, morality, openness, transparency, and the genuine serving of public and national interest without any hidden and fraudulent agenda.”

This broadness could be used to classify anti-government groups as NGOs and then punish them with little legal recourse. Another section allows authorities to circumvent warrants and advance notice to enter organisations’ offices and copy their emails or other sensitive documents. Equally worrisome are the harsh penalties of up to 100,000 baht in fines and 5 years in jail for those who break the law.

The Union for Civil Liberty stressed that the heavy-handed punishments could dissuade organisations that benefit society by stifling non-profit organisations and prosecuting those that do not sufficiently meet the government’s demands. The Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation noted that the NGO law had become much more extreme than the original drafted version. The Bangkok Post suspected the bill is intended to intimidate protest groups calling for democratic reform and rallying against the lese majeste laws.

“The bill will clip the wings of civic agencies that challenge unjust laws and law enforcement. The government must be open to scrutiny. If it practises good governance, there is no reason for concern and the new law should not be used in a dubious way.”

The law has not been enacted yet but is expected to go to parliament later this month after a cabinet review.

SOURCE: Global Voices

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN | Thaiger
Stock photo of UN via Jurist.org

A top UN official is warning that Myanmar could follow that of Syria in terms of descending into a bloody civil war, unless the violence subsides. Michele Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights is calling on all countries with influence to apply concerted pressure on the ruling military junta to end its campaign of repression and the slaughtering of its people. Bachelet says neighbouring countries are especially being called upon.

She says the military has committed, what amounts to, crimes against humanity, and the human rights violations must be stopped. Ravina Shamdasani, who is Bachelet’s spokeswoman, says the high commissioner feels that a continuation of such crimes could lead to a civil war.

“The high commissioner states that there are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The state’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country.”

Shamdasani said the country’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, attacked civilians last weekend with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire, killing at least 82 people. She said credible reports also indicate that people are fighting back by using makeshift or primitive weapons with clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups in Kayn, Shan, and Kachin states are picking up steam.

“As arrests continue, with at least 3,080 people currently detained, there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials — including 4 protesters and 19 others who were accused of political and criminal offenses. The mass arrests have forced hundreds of people to go into hiding.”

She added that the country’s economic, education and health infrastructure are at the point of collapse, making the situation untenable. She said nations must cut off the supply of arms and finances to the military leadership that allow it to kill and seriously violate its people’s human rights.

Myanmar’s military took over in a coup on February 1, arresting the democratically-elected leader of National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then, other top leaders have been arrested over what the junta says is fraudulent election results, without giving any evidence.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since her arrest, and is now facing even more charges that could see her barred from political office or worse. The junta military has been accused of killing innocent civilians and peaceful protesters since the coup began, censoring the media, and shutting down the internet.

The US, UK, and other nations have imposed sanctions against the military, but to no avail. Neighbouring countries, including Thailand, are expecting an influx of refugees to cross the border, but conflicting reports point towards Thailand turning away such asylum-seekers.

SOURCE: VOA News

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