Thammasat Uni massacre remembered on campuses

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Universities honour students who lost their lives protesting dictator’s return.

THE EVENTS surrounding the Thammasat University massacre on October 6, 1976 have never been recounted in detail. But there are signs that stories about the incident are becoming better known as the era of social media broadcasts the details to a wider audience and battles fading memories

Forty years have passed and the incident’s legacies now exist mostly as mere word-of-mouth. Pages of mainstream textbooks have dedicated few paragraphs to record what happened during the massacre.

Thousands of people, mostly university students, gathered inside Thammasat to protest against the return to Thailand from exile of former dictatorial prime minister, Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn.

The university was besieged by security forces and angry mobs as the protesters were accused of being communist sympathisers. According to official figures, 46 people were killed, 167 injured and some 3,000 arrested. But survivors of the massacre put the death toll at 100.

Events are to be held today at various universities to commemorate the incident.

Kasetsart University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Faculty of Social Science yesterday arranged a round-table discussion on what the university suffered during the massacre, how it is presented in textbooks and media, and a comparison with foreign incidents.

“The utmost lesson is how we should share sentiment toward humankind. Different opinions must not be legitimate reasons for killing,” said student organiser Chalermchai Vadjang. “The story was too tragic to many to remember.”

Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science will today hold a discussion titled “The 40 Years of October 6: The New Generation’s Commemoration”. Panel speakers include authors, a TV host, student activist and a scientist who will talk on how they viewed the massacre through their lenses of their professions.

None of guest speakers would have been around in 1976 and student committee member Phichaphob Khempudsa explained that this is intentional.

“It will be easier for people to understand why learning the massacre is important when explained through angles of modern figures,” Phichaphob said. “One takeaway is how clashes of thoughts could expand on a deadly scale. This is what the young generation should be aware of.”

Thammasat University will also hold a series of commemorative events named “40 Years after October 6 massacre, is it all forgotten?” at its Tha Prachan campus, scene of the massacre. Activities, ranging from academic discussion, expressions of condolence, music performances, a movie festival and books will be available to visitors from today until Saturday.

The objective is to remind society that history should be observed from rounded aspects, said the event coordinator Sura Kaewkohsaha. “It’s quite certain that we would face this kind of incident again if we never get to learn about previous struggles,” Sura said.

“We also believe that people are not likely to kill others once they know who they are,” Sura continued. “That’s why we would also put emphasis on the lives of the massacre victims. We want to show that they are, just like us, humans. They are somebody and not nobody.”

Sura said that he continued to been encouraged by public acknowledgment of the massacre while admitting that many students nowadays know merely that “there were a lot of students dying on the day”.

“Social movement is vigorous today thanks to advanced technology,” he said “Especially under this questionable political situation.”

Thammasat University deputy rector Prinya Thaewanarumitkul said that the university has kept traditions of telling what happened in the bloody October incident to its freshmen through commemoration events and documentary and movie screening.

Admitting that memories on the 1976 incident were fading, Prinya pointed that young generations are not to be blamed.

“The pre-coup political crises proved that we all learned almost nothing from previous frictions,” he said “The massacre ended with no prosecution against any perpetrators. We should seriously learn that violence does not solve tangles, but ideologies equipped with an democratic approach do,”

Former Thammasat rector Charnvit Kasetsir said he had high hopes for today’s young people compared to those of former generations.

“Times change and so do people. Eventually, many in bureaucratic system chose to favour predominant sides for their own sakes,” Charnvit said.

“Some of them kept relating their biographies for years without signifying how the people of today can learn from them.”

Charnvit also praised the increasing role of social media as an alternative for curious students and the public to mainstream media.

“Today’s students may not gather in massive movements like those decades ago, due to less suppressing contexts,” he added. “But I’m glad to see a resemblance between the two in terms of ideology.”


The fruit of royal blessings

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Beautifully presented in Bangkok, northern hilltribe fabrics attest to Her Majesty’s foresight

Perhaps more than any product from any initiative launched by Their Majesties the King and Queen to improve people’s lives, the gorgeous fabrics woven by northern hilltribes symbolise the benefits that accrue. Wonderful traditions are preserved, valuable skills are passed on, Thailand’s reputation is enhanced, and the craftspeople are better off financially.

It’s all there to see in the exhibition “Crafts from the Hands of the Hills … To the Hands of the Queen”, continuing at the Queen’s Gallery in Bangkok through October 11.

One of many events commemorating the Queen’s seventh-cycle birthday this month, the show has textiles made by Karen, Lisu, Hmong, Yao, Akha and Lahu artisans, presented in artistic, multidimensional formats with text guides detailing the inspirations drawn from royal support. You can see the brilliant clothing worn daily, the sumptuous patterns woven into the fabric and the ornate embroidery unique to each ethnic group.

The exhibition opens with a segment called “Beauty in the Dark”, reaching back to the original Royal Project in 1969 – promoting alternative crops to opium, which had been a mainstay in the northern mountains.

Curator Nuntapong Sinsawus explains how the large frames of assembled fabrics have their own symbolism. “Mahanatee”, for example, has “droplets from gentle hearts accumulating in an ocean of compassion” that returns fertility to the arid land. Various patterns have been sewn together in a “Yang Yeun” frame to represent the growth rings in a tree, echoing Her Majesty’s belief that people, indigenous art and nature can flourish together, mutually benefiting in terms of quality of life.

On the second and third floors are exhibits about the different hill groups, with members demonstrating how the cloth is woven, sewn, stitched and embroidered. One wall has a huge blow-up of a picture taken by the King from a helicopter, showing mountains stripped bare by loggers.

Another large panel seems at first to be just a collection of sheets of A4 paper, but seen closer is a mass of pages containing the Queen’s hand-written notes on all the hilltribe people who came forward one by one seeking help. Nuntapong says the notes were found, along with many of the cloth samples, in the Support Foundation storehouse.

In the notes, Her Majesty comments on the individual samples she purchased from the tribes and suggests that larger pieces of cloth be embroidered and rendered into clothing other than trousers and blouses.

Benjamas Saefung, a Yao from Kampaeng Petch province, is among the craftspeople demonstrating their skills. Wearing baggy pants with a distinctive embroidered pattern and a long jacket with furry red tassels at the hem, she energetically plaits cloth.

Benjamas sheds genuine tears of appreciation as she describes how meeting the Queen changed her life. Her daughter, then six, was afflicted with heart disease. “She would have died if not for Her Majesty’s kindness,” she says. “She’s 22 now and well educated, and I earn money from my weaving, so I’m very happy.”

The Akha certainly know how to dress up. The classic women’s costume is heavily decorated with silver coins and other silver pieces, and silver necklaces and bangles are typical. The cotton thread is dyed with indigo several times to achieve a deep blue, and the fabric is embroidered with thread of brighter colours and decorated with seashells, Job’s tears and metal.

Lisu clothing is perhaps the most colourful of all the ethnic groups. The women don bright headbands decorated with beads and tassels and their vivid tunic tops are embellished with tiny cloth strips.

Kingkaew Yakae from Mae Hong Son demonstrates her skilful sewing, lacing two cotton strings on a wooden post before stitching – no stitch more than half a centimetre long.

The techniques used by the Hmong are fascinating, using stems of hemp, which are soaked, pounded and turned into yarn. Hemp fibre is sticky but strong, so the cloth lasts a long time. The Green and Blue Hmong can be distinguished in part by their clothing styles, but they share tightly pleated skirts above the knee, decorated with batik patterns and amazing embroidery.

The Lahu, renowned for their sewing talents, use cloth bands to bring out the colour of the fabric. At the Queen’s Gallery, Lahu women show how it’s done while the men demonstrate the age-old methods used to make baskets. These baskets would have been used to present the Queen with fabrics and vegetables when she visited.

Sorba Sansutiwong and his wife Mala joined the Support Foundation more than 20 years ago. “We’re very poor, but we’ve been able to send all three of our children through vocational school thanks to the foundation,” Sorba says. “Without Her Majesty’s help, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. I don’t think I could have continued doing traditional basketwork.”

His words precisely define the Queen’s intention. Preserving local wisdom and cultural heritage by giving the artisans a supplementary income ensures that the younger generation takes an interest in the traditional ways. Key by-products are pride in their individual skills and collective identity, and an enduring harmony among the generations.

The gallery’s fourth floor features Her Majesty’s work table, complete with her notes on the specific problems facing individuals she’d met. Videos are displayed on large monitors of the Queen visiting the northern hills and helping people.

The tribal folk are putting on livelier shows on the fifth floor – dances, singing and instrumental music. Clearly the dances of the Karen are as beautiful as the textiles they weave and the clothes they wear.

Nearby there’s a DIY workshop set up where visitors can try their hand at making handicrafts.

Far from the hills

– The exhibition “Crafts from the Hands of the Hills … To the Hands of the Queen” continues at the Queen’s Gallery near the Phan Fah Leelart Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Klang Road until October 11, daily except Wednesday from 10am to 7pm.

– DIY workshops and performances take place only on weekends, the performances and talks at 2pm.

– Find out more at (02) 2815360-1 or the “SupportFoundationOfHMQ” page on Facebook.


Land official’s death linked to crime network: NACC

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


OFFICIALS CLAIMED at the weekend that evidence showed a powerful crime network was behind the illegal registration of expensive seaside plots in Phuket and Phang-nga

On August 30, Tawatchai Anukul, a former land official in Phuket and Phang-nga, was found hanged inside the detention room at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) headquarters.

The preliminary autopsy result, indicated in a death certificate issued by the Police General Hospital, said Tawatchai died because of a ruptured liver and suffocation.

Emerging details about Tawatchai’s death and other information led to public speculation the man had been murdered.

According to the DSI, Tawatchai had many cases filed against him based on his work registering land deeds for more than 1,000 plots of public land in Phuket alone. The DSI got an arrest warrant issued for him based on charges he had granted the land deeds for plots in Sirinat Marine National Park.

Before he abandoned his post and tried to escape his accusers, he was the land official in Phang-nga’s Thai Muang district.

The DSI claimed that during that time, he allegedly committed one of his biggest crimes by issuing more than 500 illegal land deeds at Khao Na Yak Mountain, worth up to Bt10.5 billion.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Sansern Poljieak also revealed theNACC had probed five cases against Tawatchai. Investigations into three cases were already complete, placing blame on him. The other two cases were still under investigation.

Sansern said that during the probe, it was found Tawatchai was part of a major network of illegal land deeds registration. He allegedly worked in a team with other officials to issue the land deeds to nominees, normally ordinary citizens.

When the land deeds were ready, the nominees would sell the land to investors as a legal property transaction to develop it for tourist destinations and luxury seaside resorts.

“We cannot accurately calculate the profit generated from the overall crime, as the land price usually skyrockets when the land changes hands. [But] this is big crime network we are facing,” Sansern said.

The NACC black case number 47910128 on the illegal land deeds registration in Tambon Karon of Phuket’s Mueng district was seen as clear evidence that Tawatchai did not work alone.

Officials alleged there were three other land officers – Prajim Chanchuai, Supap Saksritawee, and Darunee Lukchan – involved in these cases. They allege the four suspects unlawfully placed land use certificates (Sor Kor 1) from one plot to register land deeds for another plot.

According to a report on illegal land deeds registration in Phuket by the Royal Thai Police’s Crime Suppression Division, issued in 2004, the division found a crime network of local politicians, businessmen and land officials worked together as two teams.

The first team was of land officials and businessmen who illegally registered the land and shared the profit. Meanwhile, the second team was of land officials and politicians who supported the operation and covered up the wrongdoing.

Interestingly, Sansern revealed that most of the disputed lands in these and similar cases were yet to be retrieved by the state.

Cheewapap Cheewatham, Royal Forest Department’s Phayak Prai unit commander and former Sirinat Marine National Park chief, confirmed that Tawatchai had been allegedly involved in many illegal registrations at Sirinat Marine National Park.

Cheewapap said he believed there were more illegal land deeds that Tawatchai had issued, but they were not yet revealed.

Authorities said an interesting aspect to the case was that a person was silenced before he could implicate the mastermind.

A former assistant to the Phuket Provincial Land Office chief Phongsathorn Hiranburana, was shot to death in 2003, allegedly while trying to disclose the criminal network. He had taken over Tawatchai’s position after Tawatchai had been moved and his killer was still at large.

Officials stressed this allegation was just one possible reason behind Tawatchai’s death and the official investigation was continuing.

NGOs up in arms over South power plants, development projects

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


IN the eyes of many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), new coal-fired power plants and infrastructure development will give the Southern Region a new face, but sadly an ugly one.

The NGOs believe that as soon as the new power plant begins operations, large-scale industrialisation will follow and many development projects may affect people’s rights.

Representatives from several NGOs expressed these concerns at a forum held by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Buri Sriphu Hotel in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district. Locals at the same forum also voiced suspicion that the rushed power and infrastructure development projects simply aimed at facilitating large-scale industrial expansion.

Chana Hospital director Dr Supat Hasuwannakit, who is also a social activist based in Songkhla, noted that many big development projects were being pushed forward in the South such as the Thepa and Krabi coal-fired power plants, Pakbara deep-water seaport, a second seaport in Songkhla and the Thai Canal project. He said it was clear that these projects were a move towards major development in the future.

“Songkhla uses around 450 megawatts of electricity at its peak and we already have the 1,500MW Chana power plant. Why would Egat [Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand] want to build another 2,200MW coal-fired power plant in the province? We don’t need that much electricity,” Supat said.

“The Chana power plant can already efficiently feed five provinces in the far South and the Thepa coal-fired power plant will produce up to 80 per cent of the total electricity-generation capacity of the region.” He went on to say that the South does not suffer from electricity shortage as claimed byEgat and it does not need new power plants unless there is going to be large-scale industrialisation there.

According to Egat, provinces in the South had set a new peak record of electricity usage in April this year at 2,619MW, while the total electricity generation capacity in the South was 3,059MW as of the end of 2014.

As per Kasetsart University economics lecturer Decharut Sukkumnoed’s estimation, in 2019 the total electricity generation capacity in the South would be 3,832MW without a new power plant and usage would peak at 3,256MW.

Moreover, Somboon Khamhang, secretary-general of the Non-Government Organisation Committee on Rural Development in the South, stated that the government had also pushed forward the land-bridge project from Pakbara seaport in Satun to a second Songkhla seaport without a firm production base in the area.

“There are still doubts about what will be shipped from the two new seaports, so I wonder if the major infrastructure investment in the region is in preparation for a new industrial estate in the South,” Somboon said.

He pointed out that apart from the proposed Satun-Songkhla land-bridge project, there could also be nuclear power plant projects in the South as well. “This would be a major transformation of the South. Agriculture and tourism will be replaced with heavy and chemical industry, as the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong cannot be expanded. This is the best target for industrial expansion because of its prime location between the two seas,” he said.

“Industry will pollute our land and sea just like what is happening in Map Ta Phut, and this is the critical point for us all to define our future.”

The social workers also gave recommendations to the NHRC to better protect human rights at a time when a new age of development for the South is knocking on its door.

Prasitchai Nu-nuan, coordinator for Protect Andaman from Coal Network, urged the NHRC to take a more active role in promoting more laws.

“The new constitution and relevant laws cannot provide justice and protect people from harmful development. The NHRC should take a more proactive stance to amend laws and ensure that the people can fight to protect their rights with fair rules,” Prasitchai said. NHRC commissioner Prakairatana Thontiravong said that the commission would consider all recommendations and that the agency was doing its best to settle problems between developers and people. He also vowed that the NHRC would protect everyone’s rights.

Prakairatana said the NHRC did not just actively protect human rights, but also encouraged the government and investors to understand and value human-rights principles, so they could achieve sustainable development and prevent the violation of rights in the first place.

‘No justice in military courts’

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Military court trials were wrong from the start: lawyer

Last week, the junta issued Order No 55/2559 to end the Military Court’s power following the coup to hear trials involving civilians. That might sound like a positive step for rights, but an experienced lawyer said the move was wrong from the start.

The international community, from the United Nations human rights body and many NGOs, called for the junta to stop trying civilians in the Military Court due to its partiality and inexperience. But from May 25, 2014 till last Monday, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) expanded the Military Court’s jurisdiction to civilians alleged to have committed crimes against the monarchy and national security.

The public has raised an eyebrow over the move and the NCPO has always had counter-explanations.

The Military Court hears trials just like civilian courts, they said, but was needed to accelerate the justice process for “sensitive cases” during “the country’s abnormal situation”.

Both military and civilian courts rely on the same Criminal Code. Defendants in both can appoint lawyers and suspects can be freed on bail. However, the Military Court comes under the Defence Ministry, which is mainly focused on security, while the Court of Justice is one of three sovereign functions for justice.

While all civilian judges must be at least barristers, those in the Military Court are not required to have legal knowledge, although military judge advocates are. This is reasonable since the Military Court was initially set up to deal only with military offenders.

Admiral Krisda Charoenpanich, the Military Court’s judge advocate-general, said all civilian cases brought to his courts had been heard by judges on legal grounds only. “That was to ensure the public that the Military Court functioned no differently from our civilian counterpart,” he said.

However, Pawinee Chumsi from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights thought differently, according to her experience in both kinds of courts.

There were not only principles and regulations that marked the difference, but also how the Military Court practically dealt with circumstances, which she said affected ways she wished to conduct hearings.

“For unknown reasons, the Military Court takes a long gap between each summons of witnesses. Each gap could last a month a two,” she said. “It means defendants are held in detention a long time, until the court is done with interrogating witnesses. This could take from several months to a year.”

Civilian courts would schedule successive days to summon witnesses so trials could advance to the next step.

The recording of hearings and rulings is normally not allowed in both courts, but in the Military Court, lawyers are sometimes also not allowed to take photocopies of dockets and documents deemed essential to lawyers. They often need to revisit details for hearings in the future.

“I was told that the judges had already read them out loud so I should be aware of the case’s details already But you can imagine it’s impossible to keep every single detail of it just by mere memory,” she said.

During trials, any remark against the NCPO, its leader Prayut or the 2014 coup would also be excluded from the Military Court’s transcripts.

“They just don’t record it in their documents at all. As if the comments never happened at all,” she said.

The Military Court also tended to be extra-sensitive about context, especially political ones, that consequently affected public access to proceedings.

“The Military Court has shut out public access to it when it comes to cases in the spotlight,” she said.

Lese majeste trials are usually conducted completely behind closed doors in both kinds of courts, she said.

Busy lawmaking ahead for legislators

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


FROM November, when Thailand’s 20th constitution is expected to be promulgated, lawmakers will be busy drafting and amending underlying laws before the post-coup government makes way for its elected successor.

They are expected to be mobilised to expedite the laws, especially the most needed ones including the 10 organic laws supporting the general election, which is expected late next year, and a national strategy bill that is expected to pave a new development path for the country in the next 20 years.

The Cabinet will be occupied with getting governmental agencies to revise their laws. Independent agencies will be busy, too.

The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) will play roles as supportive mechanisms. But unmentioned agencies will likely have to review their laws, too, to ensure they do not violate the soon-to-be enacted charter.

Some political observers view these hassles yet necessary procedures as another junta milestone it can use to boast about the worthiness of staging the 2014 coup. It is also, inevitably, a critical reason why the public should pay close attention to them.

The timeline for these laws has been addressed chronologically in the charter draft. Within two months from November, if there is no serious disruption, the Cabinet will appoint an independent committee to study, suggest, and draft education laws with the aim of revising the 1999 education bill to ensure it covers all education aspects – from pre-schooling to selective education. Education is part of the junta’s reform efforts and is addressed in the charter draft.

In the first four months after the charter is promulgated, the national strategy-related bills will be addressed. The Cabinet is expected to enact the national strategy laws. And in a bid to ensure that people from all sectors will contribute in strategy planning, a government-appointed committee will gauge stakeholders’ views before moving ahead with reshaping the country using these bills.

The Council of State will also draft regulations on the plans and processes of the government-driven strategies to ensure all sectors take part at every step. The council will hear the thoughts of the NRSA on the matter.

The Cabinet aims to amend the 2010 National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission Act within six months from November to reconstruct the independent agency in an effort to ensure it will manage frequencies for the benefits of the public.

Within the first eight months after the charter is in place, the Constitution Drafting Commission will critically have to finish drafting the 10 organic laws, with the first four laws principally involving general elections and covering MP elections, the Senate, political parties, and the Election Commission.

Drafting of the remaining six laws will follow that. They cover the ombudsman, anti-corruption, state auditing, the Constitutional Court’s criminal procedural codes against politicians, and the National Human Rights Commission.

Government agencies, as instructed by the Cabinet, will draft three laws on environmental and health impact assessments, the state’s fiscal disciplines, and the promotion of the public to combat corruption in the government and private sectors.

The heads of responsible agencies who fail to draft laws on deadline will be dismissed by the Cabinet. The NLA must complete reviewing the fiscal law draft within 60 days.

Also, within one year of the new Cabinet taking office, it must propose at least two bills relating to the justice system. One involves personnel management in the Justice Court and the Administrative Court, while the other is about personnel and budget management in attorney agencies.

The Constitutional Court and independent agencies will at the same time draft their codes of ethics to be used for politicians, judges, government officers, and others.

It is expected the codes will result in harsh punishments against those found to have wrongfully interfered with governmental officers for their benefit or the benefit of others.

The Cabinet will also touch on police reform laws following loud calls to do so by reformers.

Prayut has the edge in race for PM

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



PM ideally placed to keep top job after poll in a coalition with other parties.

THAI political history since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 has seen military intervention from time to time. Army leaders often had reasons to stage a coup – be it government corruption, uncontrollable unrest, abuse of power, and even disrespect towards the monarchy.

All of the 13 successful coups over the past 84 years left a military legacy and influence on politics.

However, the 13th power seizure – in May 2014 – has more complicated implications on politics than before. The first coup occurred in 1933, just a year after the country abolished the absolute monarchy.

The latest chief coup-maker, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is now prime minister, seems to be very popular and has gained support from political groups to prolong his tenure. Also, thanks to several clauses in the new constitution to be promulgated soon, the military’s influence will remain on politics beyond the next general election, which is expected late next year.

Prayut seems to be so sure of his popularity that he offered late last week to return as prime minister after the next general election.

“Even though the work gets harder and I am not paid for doing the work, I will be pleased to stay. But I will stay through democratic means and in a dignified way, although I don’t know now how that will come,” he said on Friday.

Veteran social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, formerly a visiting professor at Cornell University, expects the military to retain its power beyond the next election.

“The military will still play a role in Parliament, as it has been over 84 years with 13 coups in total,” he said.

Sulak, 83, noted that most coups were staged based on civilian government corruption scandals and parliamentary turmoil. He blamed the frequent coups on a desire by the elite and the middle class to overthrow elected governments that they view as corrupt despite strong backing from grassroots people.

Just days after the military-backed draft constitution sailed through the August 7 referendum, former senator Paiboon Nititawan disclosed a plan to set up a new political party that he said would specifically support General Prayut to become the next premier.

Recent polls point to Prayut being popular among a great number of people because of his impetuous and earnest personality. The general’s supporters will be key to helping him secure the top spot after the next general election.

The next election is viewed as the junta’s attempt to restore democracy. Nevertheless, critics do not expect the next elected government to function efficiently. They suspect the current powers-that-be to continue steering the country behind the scenes through the new Senate, whose 250 members will be appointed by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Wanwichit Boonprong, an expert in security affairs at Rangsit University, said the current situation reminded him of 1979, when then unelected prime minister General Kriangsak Chomanan got his main support from the Senate, which accounted for three-quarters of the Parliament. However, Kriangsak had to resign less than a year after assuming office due to disunity in the coalition government and a lack of support from a majority in the House.

Like the constitution in Kriangsak’s time, the new charter to be promulgated later this year also allows an outsider (non-MP) to be prime minister, Wanwichit noted. The difference this time, he said, was that section 52 in the new charter stipulates that “the armed forces shall be used for the interest of the country’s development. No constitution in the past had empowered the military this way,” he said.

The security expert said that with a new constitution backed by the military, the country could be assured of no coup in the first five years after the next election. This means there will be political stability during that period, when the military will dominate Parliament via their senators, who will also have the power to vote with elected MPs in the selection of new prime ministers for five years.

With his popularity among some elements in society, Prayut is viewed as a strong candidate to become the next premier. But support from 250 Upper House members will not be sufficient to ensure a smooth rule for a non-MP government head. He will also need backing from political parties with seats in the 500-member Lower House.

Political observers are convinced that some small and medium-sized political parties such as Bhum Jai Thai, Chart Thai Pattana, and Chart Pattana are keen to support the military after the election.

A Bhum Jai Thai source said the party positions itself as a “humble party” that would not go against any rival political bloc. He said the party would welcome an opportunity to be part of the next coalition government.

The party has acknowledged the possibility of “an outsider” becoming the next premier and it has prepared itself for that, according to the source, who declined to elaborate how.

Chart Thai Pattana, in contrast, does not strongly believe that Prayut will be the next prime minister, according to the party’s key adviser Somsak Prisanananthakul.

“It is too early to jump to a conclusion who the next prime minister will be. It should be after the election when we will see things clearer and can figure out who is going to take the top seat,” he said.

The veteran politician expressed confidence that political parties would be able to muster a majority in Parliament and unite to nominate a PM candidate who will be a politician rather than an outsider.

One of the two major parties, the Democrats, is also likely to back Prayut if he becomes a PM candidate, although Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the next PM should gain support of the majority of the House of Represent-atives rather than the Senate.

Political analysts said Democrat politicians with healthy relationships with the military could help negotiate for the party to be part of a Prayut-led coalition government. Former Democrat MPs who were part of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee have good ties with the military and could act as a “bridge” to connect the party and the military in the Parliament, they said.

Some Democrat ex-MPs quit the party to lead street protests against the previous government ofYingluck Shinawatra. Almost all want to rejoin the party and contest the next election as Democrat candidates, party leader Abhisit told The Nation recently.

Democrat deputy leader Ongart Klampaiboon said the country’s oldest party aimed to win most seats in the Lower House and wished to be part of the next coalition government rather than the opposition.

The other major political party, Pheu Thai, is likely to see defections in the run-up to the next election as its politicians are split between those who lean towards the military and those who disagree with that, observers said.

The party has been dominated by the Shinawatra family, under the leadership of former premier Thaksin, who has lived in exile overseas since 2008 and recently felt the heat from legal actions taken against people close to him during the post-coup government’s tenure. Many Pheu Thaipoliticians view defections as a good option due to the Thaksin camp’s “gloomy outlook”, the observers said.

A Pheu Thai source, however, said the party was unlikely to back a government leader with a military background due to its stance against dictatorships. “If the next Pheu Thai leader and key members opt to support an outsider from the military to be prime minister, many party members will resign,” the source said.

Former Pheu Thai MP Anudit Nakornthap suggested that the party find a new leader willing to compromise. A flexible leader would be expected to be a balance between elected politicians and the military, he said.

Anudit also said politicians had to avoid conflict that could provide the military with an excuse to overthrow an elected government again.

A long history of military’s flirtation with Thailand’s electoral politics

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



THAI DEMOCRACY has long featured political parties that are either involved with the military or serve as military nominees, so the birth of a new one has not raised any eyebrows.

Former senator Paiboon Nititawan recently announced that he was setting up a party to specifically back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue as the new prime minister.

Paiboon’s move, however, is quite reminiscent of several other parties that were set up and then vanished with the winds of political change.

The very first party with military ties was the Serimanangkasila Party, which was set up in 1955 by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, with Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat as his deputy and Pol General Phao Sriyanond as secretary-general. The party won the general election and became part of the government, which was later brought down by Sarit himself.

In 1957, Sukij Nimmanhaemin established the Sahapoom Party under the auspices of Sarit. The party won the election in the same year and backed Pote Sarasin as premier.

Sarit then merged the Sahapoom Party with Serimanangkasila and turned it into the Chat Sangkom Party. Sarit then became leader of the Chat Sangkom Party, with Lt-General Thanom Kittikachorn and Sukij Nimmanhaemin as his deputies. The party backed Thanom for the premier’s job in 1958, but lost it nine months later when Sarit took over and made him the deputy premier.

Sarit staged a coup against his own government in 1958 and took charge as the PM. Once Sarit died in 1963, Thanom took over as PM again.

In 1968, Thanom set up Saha Pracha Thai led by him and his three deputies: Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien, Pol General Prasert Ruchiwong and Pote Sarasin. When the country suffered political turmoil in 1971, Thanom staged a coup against his own government, scrapped the charter and dissolved all political parties, including Saha Pracha Thai. He was eventually ousted in the October 14, 1973 uprising.

In 1991 the National Peacekeeping Council led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon staged a coup and then the Samakkitham Party was born. Narong Wongwan was the initial leader, but was swiftly removed because the United States had blacklisted him. The party then backed Suchinda as premier, who was behind the infamous quote “Sacrificing honesty for the country”.

Suchinda was overthrown following a pro-democracy uprising known as Black May in 1992.

In 2006, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin led the National Security Council to oust the government ofThaksin Shinawatra. The following year, the Matuphum Party, originally named Rassadon Party, was created and Sonthi was invited to become leader. However, this party lost in the general elections.

Several other parties have been suspected to be military nominees such as Pheu Phandin Party led by Suwit Khunkitti and Matchima Thippathai Party.

When the People Power Party won the election, these parties joined it to form a coalition government.

In 2014, Prayut led the National Council for Peace and Order to stage a coup and two years hence, Paiboon has announced that he will form the People’s Reform Party and back Prayut for a second term as premier.

Political observers believe several medium- and small-sized parties are now hoping to cling to the pro-military sentiment and become part of the next government.

NLA member boost ‘should ease conflicts’

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


The government decision to increase the number of National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members to 250 will probably help to ease conflicts within the NLA while expediting the passage of new laws, according to sources close to the assembly.

These new laws include scores of legislative bills that need to be endorsed by the assembly, in addition to the 10 organic laws that will be written by the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) that the new constitution requires in preparation for the next general election.

The Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) jointly made the decision to appoint more members to help with the NLA’s legislative work.

There are currently 218 NLA members, down from the original 220. Thirty-two more members need to be appointed to reach the 250-member target. Since the 2014 coup, the legislative assembly has deliberated 232 draft laws, 178 of which have been promulgated. More than 180 of the bills were proposed by the Cabinet, 21 by the NCPO and 29 by the NLA itself.

Many NLA members have complained about their workload, as they have been appointed to many subcommittees and have to attend many meetings. As a result, some meetings have failed to muster a quorum and could not proceed with their work.

In addition to approving new laws, the NLA also has the duty to decide whether to impeach holders of political office and whether to endorse political appointees, as well as pose questions for deliberation.

While the assembly was relatively unified when it was appointed two years ago, NLA members have recently been involved in disputes among different factions, according to sources close to the NLA. There has been lobbying and bargaining, and in some cases factions have not been able to reach an accord.

In one high-profile case, the NLA split over the nomination of former Medicine Department director-general Rewat Wisarutwet as a new ombudsman. The NLA voted to reject Rewat’s nomination, but he was re-nominated for another round of voting amid lobbying and dissatisfaction expressed by rival factions.

Finally, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the NCPO chief, issued an order to suspend the appointment of all new members of independent agencies, including for the Office of the Ombudsman. That order in effect ended the simmering conflict.

Many NLA members, including those from the military, bureaucracy and businesses, have expressed frustration about excessive lobbying within the assembly, even during the process of appointing subcommittee members. And they also said they were upset that draft laws were revised too drastically during the vetting process, according to sources familiar with the matter.

All of these issues contributed to a lack of unity within the legislative assembly.

Complaints from upset NLA members were passed on to General Prayut through his aides, and some assembly members met with him in person to air their dissatisfaction, according to sources. If the increasing disappointment is not properly addressed, unexpected problems could explode, sources warned.

Prayut knew about the problems in the NLA and had also voiced concern to his close aides, according to the sources.

By appointing 32 new members to the NLA, he should see the headache be partially addressed by establishing a “balance of power” regarding other colleagues who are considered problematic.

The timing will be just right, some sources said. New NLA members need to be appointed within 30 days, in time for the mandatory retirement of senior bureaucrats and military commanders at the end of September. Many military commanders close to the current government are expected to be appointed to the NLA.

Southerners flock to Bangkok amid slumping incomes at home

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


HISTORICALLY low rubber prices have left rubber tappers in the South reeling under economic difficulties over the past few years and struggling to find alternative jobs to provide for their families.

Many have been forced to stop supporting their eldest child to have an education. Many children are dropping out of school in order to find jobs and help their siblings go to school. Many families are being forced to change their livelihoods and migrate to find jobs elsewhere.

Bangkok is one of their destinations. Previously, young people from the South crossed the border to work at Thai restaurants and or in Malaysia. But after the plunging value of the ringgit, Malaysian security officials have taken drastic action fearing terrorism by the Islamic State group, making it more difficult to cross the border.

These young people, especially Muslims from the three southern-most provinces, have chosen to settle down in Bangkok, in the suburbs and provinces near the capital, such as in Bang Bua Thong district in Nonthaburi.

Usman (last name not identified), a 30-year-old man from Yala, decided to take his wife and two children to Bangkok because of their economic plight amid the falling rubber prices.

“Rubber is very cheap. I have two young children who have not gone to school but I still do not make enough money to feed them. I make less than Bt200 a day by tapping rubber. How can I survive? I have to pay electricity bills, pay for rice and milk and other expenses that cost more than Bt200 a day. I am struggling to survive even though I have my own rubber plantation. Others do not have their own rubber trees and only sell labour to send their children to school. Their children study in high school so they must shoulder higher expenses.”

Usman talked to his wife and decided to find work in Bangkok. After he felt settled in his job at a computer tablet factory, he brought his wife and children to live with him in Bangkok. “Working in Bangkok is better because the value of the Malaysian ringgit has plunged,” he said.

Men seek security guard jobs and women sell labour. Usman chose to become a security guard for Bt450 per day and his wife was hired to put stickers on bottles. Both together make more than Bt500 per day. Their expenses are about Bt300 per day so they are able to save the rest of the income in case they are sick.

“This is much better than living at home [in the South]. We have no debt and that is enough for us. Whenever rubber prices escalate, we will go back home to tap rubber again. I hope they do,” he said.

The language barrier poses a major obstacle for Thai Muslims. “I sent my children to a school close to where we live; but they do not speak Thai so they did not want to go to school. I felt sad so I let them stay at home and taught them Thai. I hope next year they can go to school,” Usman said. Usman said people in the Deep South have faced not only economic difficulty but also the insurgency. Locals do not dare tap rubber in the night. He urged the government to solve the problem of falling rubber prices because the people now are witnessing more robberies than ever before.

Amenah, Usman’s wife, said she did not take a long time to decide to move to Bangkok with her husband. “How can we survive with Bt200 income to feed our family?”

Abduloh Sama, a 25-year-old man from Pattani, said he has worked as a security guard at a factory in Bang Bua Thong for four months so far. Earlier, he worked at a restaurant in Malaysia for many years.

“The falling rubber prices affect a waiter’s job because the restaurant in Malaysia made less sales and gave us a lower salary. We did not have a work permit so we had to commute to work every day and my expenses were high, so I decided to move to Bangkok.”

“I work 12 hours a day and make Bt450. Being a guard is a harder job than being a waiter but I can move around freely, unlike working illegally in Malaysia,” he said.