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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 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English
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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

    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

    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

Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful

Maya Taylor

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Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says former immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn, shouldn’t assume his transfer to an inactive post in the PM’s Office was unlawful. Surachate, known by the nickname “Big Joke” (given to him by Thai media) headed up Thailand’s Immigration Bureau until he was unceremoniously side-lined by the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha last year.

It’s understood he is now planning to sue the PM, claiming that the lack of any investigation against him shows there were no grounds for the transfer. His lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says other officers transferred to the PM’s Office have since been re-instated, after being cleared of any wrongdoing. He insists his client deserves the same, pointing out that in the 1 year and 5 months since his transfer, there has been no investigation against him.

For his part, Deputy PM Wissanu says Surachate has the right to sue the PM if he so wishes but shouldn’t assume his transfer is similar to that of former National Security Council chief, Thawil Pliensri, who was transferred under former PM Ying­luck Shinawatra in 2011. The transfer was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Bangkok Post reports that Wissanu doesn’t rule out the possibility of Surachate being re-instated, saying the PM’s Office should submit the issue for the PM’s consideration. For his part, Surachate claims his petitions to the PM have fallen on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes

Caitlin Ashworth

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Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Warong Dechgitvigrom

Just after proposed constitutional amendments, backed by pro-democracy supporters, were submitted to the Thai parliament, the Thai Pakdee royalist group filed a petition with 130,000 signatures saying they are against making changes to the constitution.

Pro-democracy activists have been demanding a rewrite of the Thai constitution at protests over the past few months. The nonprofit organisation Internet Law Reform Dialogue, known as iLaw, drafted amendments including one that would require all senators and local administrators to be elected. Currently Thailand’s entire Senate is hand-picked by the ruling party. More than 100,000 people back the proposed changes.

“There’s no need to make changes”, according to Former Democrat MP and leader of Thai Pakdee Warong Dechgitvigrom. He says the 2017 Constitution was approved by 16.8 million people (Thailand’s population is 69.4 million).

“Redoing the process would cost 15 billion baht in taxpayer money. On top of that, it would require 2 referenda and a general election.”

According to Thai PBS, 84 of the 250 senators need to be on board to move forward with revisions to the constitution. At the moment, around 60 of them are in favour of constitutional amendments while 100 oppose any changes and the rest are undecided. But Senators against the amendments might change their minds, according to Senate whip Sangsit Phiriyarangsan. He says he believes more senators will be in favour of making some amendments after hearing debates in parliament.

SOURCES: Thai PBS

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Politics

Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer

Maya Taylor

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Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.thailandtip.info

The former head of Thai Immigration, Surachet Hakparn, is taking legal action against Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, after the PM had him unceremoniously transferred to an inactive post last year. Surachet, commonly known by the nickname “Big Joke”, (a nickname given to him by Thai media) accuses the PM of transferring him without just cause and has been petitioning for a review of the decision, to no avail.

At the time there was no reason given for the high-profile head of Thailand’s Immigration to be ‘side-lined’ to desk duties at the PM’s office.

Following a complaint lodged with the Central Administrative Court, Surachet’s lawyer, Sitthi Ngarmlamyuang, says that in the 1 year and 5 months since his client’s transfer, there has been “no investigation launched against him”. Surachet accuses the PM of an abuse of power in ordering the transfer, pointing to a lack of investigations from either the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, or the Office of the Auditor-General.

Since his fall from official grace Surachet has largely remained silent over the matter.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2018, Surachet’s face was everywhere in daily media reports, often seen with hordes of foreigners his team had ’rounded up’ in immigration crackdowns around the country. If you’d overstayed your visa, or were an international criminal running dodgy dating services, gambling sites or drugs, you knew about Surachet Hakparn and knew it would be no “joke” if he arrived at your door.

But at some point, he appears to have stepped on the wrong toes, calling into question procurement practices at the Immigration Bureau, amid plans to spend billions on smart cars and the much-lauded airports biometrics system (which was since installed at the country’s airports). The upshot was his removal from office, while the purchases went ahead.

Since then, little was heard from the former immigration chief, until his parked car was shot at in January of this year. Although caught on CCTV, the 2 perpetrators, who were riding a motorbike and wearing full-face helmets, could not be identified. In July, Surachet was seen making merit at a temple, where he said he was praying to be allowed return to his former duties. He also took an extended overseas holiday.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2019, he was widely tipped to take up a prominent position at the top of the country’s Royal Thai Police force.

Sitthi points out that most officials who were previously transferred to the PM’s Office have now been re-instated, after investigations cleared them of any offences. He insists that with no grounds to justify his transfer, Surachet must also be re-instated, adding that with the PM unwilling to act, his client will seek justice in the courts.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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