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NCPO Four Year anniversary – Has Prayut brought happiness back to Thailand?

Tim Newton

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NCPO Four Year anniversary – Has Prayut brought happiness back to Thailand? | The Thaiger
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Today is the fourth anniversary of the NCPO (National Committee of Peace and Order) coup which overthrew the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2014.

At the time it was claimed that the coup was necessary to stop Thai protesters harming each other and ‘to bring happiness back to the people’.

General Prayut rode into the capital, Army in tow, on a wave of nostalgia about ‘Thainess’, traditional values and a promise to tackle corruption and systemic problems head on. He even wrote a theme song that was required to be played for the following year on all radio stations each hour.

Having seized absolute power in a May 22 coup d’état, Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has turned to promoting harmony through harmonies – penning a ballad to foster reconciliation in the embittered Southeast Asian nation.

The 60-year-old career soldier, a notorious curmudgeon, has displayed his softer side by writing the lyrics to “Return Happiness to Thailand,” which features lines such as “we offer to guard and protect you with our hearts” and “we are asking for a little more time,” set to music by the Royal Thai Army band. Time.com

On the night of the coup, May 22 2014, all radio stations received a decree to turn off their transmitters. In the following months stations had to re-apply for their licenses with all sort of compliances and paperwork. It took four months and three days for the radio station I was managing at the time to get back on air. Other Phuket stations took up to a year to return to the airwaves. Some never returned.

At the time the NCPO claimed that amateur FM radio stations had been used by red shirt influencers, particularly in the north east of the country, to spread the word of dissent and promote their politics – principally pushing the Shinawatra band-wagon.

The unexpected by-product of this draconian crackdown on the country’s radio stations was to clean up the broadcasting system and professionalise the national radio station bandwidth that would now have to comply with ‘regulations’ – you know, like the rest of the world.

For the next few months, in between hearing the ‘Happiness Song’ every hour on TV and radio, we were told that there would be sweeping reforms, crackdowns and a new national constitution. Four years down the track the NCPO have largely delivered on their promises although there are still plenty of detractors about the Junta’s heavy hand in relation to free speech, free press and a lack of ‘real’ reform (more, some people suggest, re-arranging the political deck chairs on the Titanic).

From an expat perspective, we haven’t seen tanks rolling down the streets, people dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and ‘disappearing’ or overt displays of Army extravagance or show.

Prayut, more of a grumpy uncle than heavy-handed Junta leader, swapped the military uniform for traditional Thai ‘formal’, held nearly daily media conferences, told lemon-lipped foreign ambassadors to ‘calm down’ in their calls for new elections and oversaw the country’s saddest 12 months, when Thais came to terms with the death of the much-loved and revered King Bhumibol.

The instruments may have been fairly blunt and some of the General’s leadership team made their share of naive political faux pas, but, during the past four years, the economy has continued to grow between 3-4.7% each year and tourism, the economy’s largest contributor to GDP, has soared.

With the current PM positioning himself as a potential ‘outside Prime Minister’ if next year’s elections are inconclusive, and the country’s new Constitution being crafted to keep the military as long-term ‘puppeteers’, if not actually fronting the media or emptying the trash, Thailand can probably look back on the past four years as a time of stability, growth, social change and some well-intentioned attempts to root out corruption – not all entirely successful.

PM General Prayut has, generally, brought happiness back to the people, if not by realising all his lofty intentions, by at least stopping Thais shooting each other on the streets of Bangkok and providing a firm hand on the steering of Good Ship Thailand.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Pattaya

Pattaya men allegedly posed as police officers, extorted $50,000 from a woman

Caitlin Ashworth

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Pattaya men allegedly posed as police officers, extorted $50,000 from a woman | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Line Today

A group of 4 men in Pattaya allegedly posed as police officers and extorted 50,000 baht from a woman. The 20 year old woman says the men claiming to be police officers raided her condominium and a friend visiting had drugs in his possession.

In the report filed with Pattaya City Police, the woman says the men asked both her and her friend for a bribe of 25,000 baht each. If they didn’t pay up, the men said they would arrest them on drug charges, according to the complaint. The woman says she gave the men 50,000 baht.

The men who allegedly posed as police officers were not in uniform and did not show any identification or badges, the woman says. After giving it some thought, the woman became suspicious and decided to file a complaint with police. Police are still investigating.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Crime

Facebook, Twitter may face charges for allegedly allowing lèse majesté content

Caitlin Ashworth

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Facebook, Twitter may face charges for allegedly allowing lèse majesté content | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Standard

Facebook and Twitter could face charges for failing to block so called lèse majesté posts that allegedly violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society says the social media platforms were warned about Thailand’s laws regarding content that insults the Thai Monarchy or threatens national security and peace, but failed to remove all the illegal posts.

Letters were sent out to the operators of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube giving them 15 days to take down the illegal posts or charges would be pressed, according to Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta. Since not all the posts were removed, the ministry has asked the Technology Crime Suppression Police to step in and prosecute the social media platforms.

The Thai government has been using the blunt tool of “shooting the messenger” in its battle against content deemed disrespectful of the Thai Monarchy under its lèse majesté laws.

“It is the first time in Thailand that the (computer crime) law is exercised to prosecute the service providers. Charges will go to the parent company of all the organisations. The police will use Thai laws because the offences happened in Thailand. I believe the police can do it.”

The minister says Facebook was told to take down 661 posts, but they only removed 225. Twitter was told to remove 69 posts, he says, but only took down 5. YouTube was told to remove 289 posts and all of them were blocked. Social media platforms that violate the Computer Crime Act could face an up to 200,000 baht fine per illegal post and a daily fine of up to 5,000 until the content is removed.

Buddhipongse filed the complaint which also cited nearly 1,000 social media posts that allegedly violate the act. They say the posts offending the Thai Monarchy were made during the pro-democracy protest in Bangkok last weekend.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty, sealing Burmese border, Thai airways creditors | September 24

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty, sealing Burmese border, Thai airways creditors | September 24 | The Thaiger

Latest update for September 26 deadline of visa amnesty.

Deadline set for THAI creditors

A date has now been set for creditors to recover their money from Thai Airways. Applications for debt repayment through corporate bonds started yesterday. Applications filed by private individuals are being received at the Securities and Exchange Commission office in Bangkok. The deadline for applications is November 2. It’s ben reported that there are some 10 million creditors. The airline’s total debt stands at 352.4 billion baht.

Thailand seals its 2,000 kilometre border with Myanmar

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control remains on alert, and patrols increased along the Thai/Myanmar border, as Thailand’s western neighbour continues to register a spike in new Covid 19 cases. Between 430 and 670 people each day, over the past 4 days, have tested positive for Covid-19. The DDC’s director-general says that Thai “business operators should stop hiring foreign workers, especially Burmese people, to help prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections in Thailand.” Myanmar’s number of confirmed cases has now reached 7,177 with 129 Burmese succumbing to the virus at this stage. Yesterday the four national papers suspended circulation, waiting out the sudden surge of cases. In some border districts, police have placed barbed wire along the leaky jungle border to deter people from crossing the 2,000 kilometre-long border illegally.

Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful

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” headed up Thailand’s Immigration Bureau until he was unceremoniously side-lined by the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha early 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. 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 the former National Security Council chief, who was transferred under former PM Yingluck Shinawatra in 2011. That transfer was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court. Wissanu doesn’t rule out the possibility of Surachate being re-instated. For his part, Surachate claims his petitions to the PM have fallen on deaf ears.

New army chief declares he’ll protect Thailand’s monarchy and restore peace

Thailand’s new army chief says he pledges to restore peace and protect the country’s monarchy. In a ceremony formerly saying farewell to retiring generals, incoming army chief Narongphan Jitkaewtae (jit-gow-tear) said he would restore peace and be loyal to the Thai Monarchy. His statement comes at a time when many people are speaking out against Thailand’s military-run government, and calling for changes to the constitution (voted for by referendum in 2017). He said… “Protecting the monarchy with absolute loyalty and supporting the government to resolve national problems and working to advance the country are tasks for which the generals deserve the honour.”

Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund

The Social Security Office, a department under the direction of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, is being asked to explain its investment in the trust fund of Phuket’s Sri Panwa Phuket Resort. The demand comes as members of the opposition and political activists call for an investigation into the property’s ownership of the land. The owner of Sri Panwa Phuket, Vorasit Issara, has faced flak online recently, with his property attracting multiple negative reviews as a consequence, after he criticised one of the student anti-government protest leaders. Thai PBS World reports that the Civil Society for State Welfare is calling on the SSO to clarify its investment in the Sri Panwa Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, thought to be worth around 500 million baht. Meanwhile, review site Tripadvisor has had to suspend reviews for the Sri Panwa resort, as the travel review website has been flooded with negative reviews.

Bangkok officials issue advice to motorists to avoid parliament area due to protest

Bangkok motorists have been told avoid the roads around Thailand’s new parliament building today, with a political rally taking place there as we speak. The rally was announced by anti-government protesters at the end of their weekend demonstration. The Metropolitan Police Bureau advise drivers to avoid Kiak Kai Road, in front of the parliament building, as well as a number of other roads in the vicinity. The Thaiger will bring you some of the latest vision from the protest this afternoon which you can watch on our Facebook page with a full report on tomorrow’s Thailand News Today.

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