Connect with us

Election

The day that shook Thai politics

Tim Newton

Published

on

The day that shook Thai politics | The Thaiger

OPINION

It was just another Friday except that it was also the final day that political parties were able to nominate MPs for the March 24 elections. And their proposed candidates for the role of the a Prime Minister following the election.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha would announce his candidacy sometime during the morning, the worst kept secret in Thai politics.

After engineering a new constitution in 2017, with an outward veneer of democracy, the General and the military minders were a shoe-in to regain control following the election. Except this time they would appear to have a mandate through an electoral process.

The country’s upper house of parliament, the National Assembly, would be nominated, entirely, by the Military. But there was plenty of residual negative feeling brewing, both from the factions loyal to former PM Thaksin, still lurking in exile, and a reaction to four years of military rule.

There were plenty of new political parties putting forward MPs vying for a seat in the lower house of the Thai parliament. They realised that they would have an uphill battle. But the sheer numbers of MP candidates, the largest ever in Thai history, was an impressive show of the country’s desire to return to a semblance of democracy, even if the military would continue to pull the strings.

The new charter throws a new electoral system into play. Untested and untried. It’s a modified proportional method of choosing the 500 members of the lower house of parliament in which people vote for one of 350 constituency candidates; those votes are totalled to determine which of the remaining 150 party list seats go to which party.

Under the previous system voters cast two ballots, one for the candidate and one for the party.

The barely disguised aim was to increase the seats held by medium-sized parties, but significantly reduce the seats held by the party of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, which won every election held since 2001.

The Thaksin parties needed to pull a political rabbit out of the hat to maintain their margin – pluck a winning card out of the stacked deck.

First thing last Friday, the Thai Raksa Chart Party, actually dropped their political, and social bombshell. Although rumored in the days before the nomination deadline, they announced that Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s elder sister, as its prime ministerial candidate.

Princess Ubolratana was a famous actress, singer and businesswoman. She had officially relinquished her royal titles in 1972, when she married an American and moved to the United States. At the time she was the eldest child of Rama 9, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a female, so unable to assume the throne under the Thai royal succession guidelines.

But now she was the sister of the current Monarch. And, aghast, she was throwing her hat in the ring with the country’s pro-Thaksin forces.

What did all this mean? Was there some back-room collusion between the Thai monarch and the exiled fugitive former PM Thaksin? Was this some unforeseen coup d’état attempt against the country’s military? Had a deal being brokered between the Shinawatras and the Thai palace following decades of rivalry which had caused so much political turmoil?

Was THIS the move that would break the long-standing stalemate between the Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt factions?

The news of her candidacy sent academics scurrying for their history books. The media were in a frenzy. The current PM’s nomination as prime ministerial candidate almost went unnoticed.

The news would throw Prayuth’s ‘cunning plan’ to put a democratic varnish on his leadership into turmoil.

This was a first. The first time in Thai history that a member of the royal family ran for elected office. Was it legal? Could she do it? Had she spoken to HM The King before agreeing to the invitation from the Thai Raksa Chart party?

If it had gone ahead, Ubolratana’s candidacy would probably have been a walk in the park, all the way to the keys of the PM office in Government House.

Who would run against her, or make statements against a candidate who cannot be legally criticised? Although she had relinquished her Royal title ‘HRH’, she was still very much a part of the ‘Family’.

For Thais, they would be divided between making a political vote or displaying their loyalty to the country’s monarchy – an institution with potent emotional power in the South East Asian nation.

But a mere 13 hours after Princess Ubolratana had been announced as a prime ministerial candidate, her brother HM King Vajiralongkorn issued a strongly worded statement which took the winning card out of the deck.

“Despite the fact that Princess Ubolratana relinquished her titles, in compliance with the Palace Laws, she has been maintaining her status as a member of the Chakri royal family.”

“Any attempt to involve high-ranking members of the royal family in the political process, by whatever means, would be a breach of time-honoured royal traditions, customs and national culture.”

“Such actions must be deemed a transgression and a highly inappropriate act.”

The Princess’ 13 hour political career was over.

The statement from His Majesty, and the Princess’ Instagram response the following day, were both ambiguous enough to allow the Election Commission to make a final decision about her candidacy, although to allow her continuation in the political race, in defiance with The King, would have thrown the country into a constitutional crisis in the weeks leading up to the general election.

But the drama wasn’t entirely over with rumors of a coup underway from another military faction just four days after the events of the tumultuous Friday. The NCPO’s public relations machine, along with the Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, were rolled out to firmly deny the rumors and promised to track down the source of the fake news and punish anyone who shared the news on social media.

Everything was back to normal, although ‘normal’ is never a word that can be used to describe the political situation in Thailand or the complex social links between the Family, the Privy Council, business people and the Army.

The election campaign is forging ahead as planned but March 24 is still a long way off and, really, anything could happen. The NCPO’s 2014 aim to ‘bring the happiness back to Thailand’ will be sorely tested in the next few weeks.



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

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 3,200 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Instagram and Facebook.

Election

Some election results out by 8pm Sunday night

The Thaiger & The Nation

Published

on

Some election results out by 8pm Sunday night | The Thaiger

More than 92,000 polling stations will be operating this Sunday for the national poll to elect a new Government. Seven million new voters, eligible since the last poll in 2011, will make a new impact on the election results making predictions more complex than in the past.

Election results will start dribbling out of smaller polling booths just an hour after voting in this Sunday’s national election.

Voting will close at 5pm on Sunday, according to the Election Commission.

The EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma says results can be expected in less than an hour from smaller polling stations, adding that unofficial results from at least 95 per cent of the polling stations should be ready by 8pm on Sunday.

These results will reveal the number of constituency seats won by each party, but figures on party-list seats will not be released until after the EC has officially endorsed the election results, Jarungvith added.

“The agency will not do the calculations to find out the number of party-list MPs on Sunday. Also, numbers may change, especially if by-elections are required or if ballots need to be recounted in some areas. We can only reveal the results once we have endorsed the votes,” he said.

A private group led by rights watchdog iLaw have launched the vote62.com website to serve as a platform for updates on election results and as a means to prevent fraud during the counting of ballots.

Those participating in ballot counting can take photographs of the counting board and post the pictures on the website, while those keeping track of the vote-count on TV or online platforms can enter tallies or upload photos on the website.

The group said the results displayed on the website will later be compared by the official results released by the EC to ensure transparency.

Meanwhile the Health Department is issuing tips advising voters to get at least six hours sleep before casting their vote.

Voters are being urged to wear light clothes because the temperature on Sunday is expected to rise up to 40C in central and northern parts of the country and up to 35 or 36 in southern areas.

SOURCE: The Nation

Continue Reading

Election

Foreign Affairs denies attempts to extradite Thaksin from Hong Kong

The Thaiger

Published

on

Foreign Affairs denies attempts to extradite Thaksin from Hong Kong | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The happy couple and ‘dad’, in HK for tomorrow’s wedding

The director of the foreign affairs department of the public prosecutor’s office in Thailand says media reports that the Thai officials are trying to extradite former PM and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra in Hong Kong, are wrong.

Daily News reports that Chatchachom Akkhapin says there was no truth in stories of efforts to extradite Thaksin from Hong Kong.

Thaksin is in Hong Kong from tomorrow (Friday) to attend the wedding of his youngest daughter Paetongtarn “Ing” Shinawatra to a commercial pilot.

Chatchachom says no contact had been made with Hong Kong authorities but he concedes that, even  though Thailand and Hong Kong have no formal extradition treaty, it would still be possible to request the return of a wanted fugitive if the evidence presented was sufficient.

In the first instance he says they would need to ascertain the address of Thaksin in Hong Kong and the public prosecutor’s office don’t know where Thaksin is staying.

The denial follows a post on “Thaksinlive” on Instagram earlier this week that indicated Thaksin would be in Hong Kong for “Ing’s” wedding on March 22.

Read The Thaiger’s report, that the Department has now denied, HERE.

SOURCE: Daily News

Continue Reading

Chiang Mai

Man caught masturbating in front of election banner in Lampang

The Thaiger

Published

on

Man caught masturbating in front of election banner in Lampang | The Thaiger

Locals in Lampang in Thailand’s north have complained to the media that an older man had been caught on dash cam masturbating in front of an election banner for a female candidate for this Sunday’s election.

Sanook reports that the woman in the poster was ‘attractive’.

The man, estimated to be between 60 – 70 years old, was shown in Thung Fai sub-district repeatedly rubbing the poster of the female candidate with his left hand before using the same hand to masturbate.

When he realised he was being filmed he abruptly stopped. Locals told Sanook that they caught the man behaving like this before, although The Thaiger notes the last election was back in 2011.

SOURCE: Sanook

Continue Reading

The Thaiger Newsletter

Keep up with all the day’s news. Subscribe here.

The latest news and information from Thailand.

* indicates required

Trending