Connect with us

Opinion

The day that shook Thai politics

Tim Newton

Published 

 on 

The day that shook Thai politics | The Thaiger
  • follow us in feedly

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.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



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 3,900 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.

Politics

Leaked memo shows Thai police preparing to arrest protesters

The Thaiger

Published

on

Leaked memo shows Thai police preparing to arrest protesters | The Thaiger
PHOTO: bbc.com

A leaked internal memo shows riot police have been ordered to mobilise and prepare detention facilities to accommodate arrested student protesters. The police memo, dated Friday, orders the heavily armed Border Patrol Police to be “on standby” for student-led anti-government protests in Bangkok. Although a provision of the Emergency Decree banning public gatherings was removed last week, police say it remains in force until the beginning of the decree’s extension which kicks in at the start of August.

The regional border patrol police commander, who signed the order, confirmed the letter is genuine, but says it’s only routine procedure.

“No, we’re not going to arrest them. It’s the normal thing we do. We have to be prepared for orders. The accommodations are mainly for reinforcements from other provinces. But I admit that some of the spaces are spared for protesters in case there’s an order to arrest them.”

According to the order, 2 companies of riot police will be housed at the regional Border Patrol Police headquarters in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district just north of Bangkok, while about 100 protesters would be held at a separate building inside the base.

A “guest house” is also to be prepared to accommodate 5 protest leaders.

The authorities insist the ongoing protests held by student activists violate the Emergency Decree and could be met with legal action, though no one has been arrested so far, and the rallies have been peaceful.

The leader of the Free Youth Movement, one of the groups behind the July 18 protest at Bangkok’s Democracy monument, suggested the memo might have been intentionally leaked by police as part of their psychological operations.

“They just want to threaten protesters. Our movement is not against the law or causing harm to anyone.”

The group is calling for the government to call a new election and draft a new Constitution, with a deadline set for this Saturday. A spokesman says more intense rallies will follow if the demands are not met.

Leaked memo shows Thai police preparing to arrest protesters | News by The ThaigerLeaked memo shows Thai police preparing to arrest protesters | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Khaosod English

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.
Continue Reading

Politics

Thanathorn disqualified as Member of Parliament – Thai Constitutional Court

The Thaiger

Published

on

Thanathorn disqualified as Member of Parliament – Thai Constitutional Court | The Thaiger

Leader of the Future Forward Party, 41 year old Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit, has been disqualified as a Member of Parliament following the handing down of a guilty verdict by the Thai Constitutional Court today.

The Court’s findings say Thanathorn was still holding shares in a media company when he registered to run in the March 24 national election. Thanathorn presented evidence during hearings into case declaring that he’d divested himself of any company shares before the calling of the election.

Constitutional pundits say the ruling now paves the way for Thanathorn to be charged under Article 151 of the Elections Act which specifies a jail term of up to 10 years and a political ban for 20 years for anyone found guilty of registering to run in MP elections while knowing that he or she is not qualified.

Thanathorn was originally accused by the Election Commission of still holding 675,000 shares in his family-owned V Luck Media Company when he registered to run in the general election in March this year.

During his defence Thanathorn insisted that the company was not a mass media entity in the general sense as it published only an in-flight magazine and a glossy franchised lifestyle magazine. He also presented evidence that he had transferred all the shares in question to his mother prior to registering to run in the election.

Article 98 of the Constitution prohibits proprietors or share-holders of media companies to run in elections out of fear they would have undue political influence, according to Thai PBS World.

The court dismissed Thanathorn’s defence on both points and revoked his status as an elected MP effective as of May 23 when he was suspended from active duty as MP after the Election Commission made the charges.

Hundreds of supporters of Future Forward Party showed disappointment as they listened to the verdict broadcast on close-circuit TV in the lobby of the Constitutional Court under tight security. Representatives from the US Embassy and EU in Bangkok were also seen attending the session as observers.

Despite his absence from the Parliamentary chamber, and his suspension as an MP at the time, Thanathorn narrowly missed being elected as the Thai PM in the first sitting of the new Parliament.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

Thanathorn disqualified as Member of Parliament - Thai Constitutional Court | News by The Thaiger

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.
Continue Reading

News

School funding challenge for bilingual curriculum

Maya Taylor

Published

on

School funding challenge for bilingual curriculum | The Thaiger

The secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Amnat Wichayanuwat, says plans to introduce a bilingual school curriculum at all grade levels have thrown up an obstacle for meeting funding requirements.

The bilingual curriculum plans were announced by the Education Minister last week in an effort to improve English proficiency among the Thai population. It’s hoped to have the curriculum in place from kindergarten level at more than 2,000 district schools from the beginning of the 2020 academic year.

However, the OBEC secretary-general says one of the conditions under which schools can qualify for Mini English Programme (MEP) funding, is by showing that Ordinary National Educational Test (O-NET) scores have consistently improved for at least three years.

Amnat says it’s simply not possible for schools to meet this requirement.

“This is impossible because these schools haven’t even started with the new lessons. To launch the MEP classrooms efficiently, we will therefore adjust the qualification and submit it to the Provincial Schools Admission Committee for consideration.”

Amnat says OBEC will reinstate provincial English Resource and Instruction Centres to help determine the curriculum. He draws attention to the need to examine English language proficiency in both teachers and students and work on areas that need improvement.

“And there will be an English proficiency assessment using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages standard. This will expand the opportunities for education and create equality among educational institutes.”

Thailand was recently ranked 74 out of 100 on the English language proficiency index, with its ranking continuing to drop for three years in a row.

See earlier story HERE.

SOURCE:nationthailand.com

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.
Continue Reading
Thailand News Today | Protest update, Samui wants cheap flights, Isaan croc hunters | October 19 | The Thaiger
Thailand22 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Protest update, Samui wants cheap flights, Isaan croc hunters | October 19

Thailand News Today | Bangkok protests, Special Tourist Visa, Prisoners slippery escape | October 16 | The Thaiger
Thailand4 days ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok protests, Special Tourist Visa, Prisoners slippery escape | October 16

Thailand News Today | State of Emergency, Pattaya ‘online’, Veggie Festival plea | October 15 | The Thaiger
Thailand5 days ago

Thailand News Today | State of Emergency, Pattaya ‘online’, Veggie Festival plea | October 15

Thailand News Today | BKK protest update, Chiang Mai ‘quiet’, Baby klong crocs | October 14 | The Thaiger
Thailand6 days ago

Thailand News Today | BKK protest update, Chiang Mai ‘quiet’, Baby klong crocs | October 14

Thailand News Today | No STV tourists, Boss in Dubai, border fears in Tak | October 13 | The Thaiger
Thailand7 days ago

Thailand News Today | No STV tourists, Boss in Dubai, border fears in Tak | October 13

Thailand News Today | Land bridge project, “Thai Bridge”, Chaing Mai black widow | October 12 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | Land bridge project, “Thai Bridge”, Chaing Mai black widow | October 12

Thailand News Today | Army v Twitter, Tourism interrupted, Thailand World’s #6 | October 9 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Army v Twitter, Tourism interrupted, Thailand World’s #6 | October 9

Thailand News Today | Tourist arrivals postponed, Will Boss return?, deadly centipede | October 8 | The Thaiger
Video & Podcasts2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Tourist arrivals postponed, Will Boss return?, deadly centipede | October 8

Thailand News Today | Poll-Keep borders closed, quarantine exemption, heavy rain | October 7 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Poll-Keep borders closed, quarantine exemption, heavy rain | October 7

Thailand News Today | Business people exemptions, road checkpoints, Phuket delay | October 6 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Business people exemptions, road checkpoints, Phuket delay | October 6

Thailand News Today | Live from Thammasat, Sacked teacher sues parents, Pattaya eating contest | October 5, 2020 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Live from Thammasat, Sacked teacher sues parents, Pattaya eating contest | October 5, 2020

Thailand News Today | Prison release?, Pattaya Makeover, 6 new Covid cases | October 2 | The Thaiger
Video & Podcasts3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Prison release?, Pattaya Makeover, 6 new Covid cases | October 2

Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1 | The Thaiger
Video & Podcasts3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1

Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30 | The Thaiger
Video & Podcasts3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30

Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty extended, first STV tourists, teacher sacked | September 29 | The Thaiger
Video & Podcasts3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty extended, first STV tourists, teacher sacked | September 29

Follow The Thaiger by email:

Trending