Posts tagged ‘thailand’

July 25, 2014

Thai junta awards itself sweeping amnesty under interim constitution

The Sydney Morning Herald

Thai junta awards itself sweeping amnesty under interim constitution

By Anuchit Nguyen and Suttinee Yuvejwattana

July 24, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/thai-junta-awards-itself-sweeping-amnesty-under-interim-constitution-20140724-zw8qq.html

 

Deputy chief of Thailand's junta General Paiboon Koomchaya, announces the interim constitution.
Deputy chief of Thailand’s junta General Paiboon Koomchaya, announces the interim constitution. Photo: Reuters

Bangkok: Thailand’s junta has announced an interim constitution that gives itself an amnesty for staging the May 22 coup that overthrew the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. The constitution, Thailand’s 18th since 1932, has been approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The document also gives the military power to hand-pick a 220-member legislature, which will appoint a prime minister and 35-strong cabinet, according to a statement in the Royal Gazette.

Coup leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha recieves the interim constitution from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Coup leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha recieves the interim constitution from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The constitution reflects the demands of a protest group led by former opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban that staged a six-month street campaign led by “yellow shirts” to oust the administration of Ms Yingluck, backed by “red shirt” demonstrators. Mr Suthep said he wanted to “reclaim sovereign power” and appoint a reform council to wipe out the influence of Ms Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, whose parties have won the past five elections.

The constitution “will help solve the crisis and return the situation to normal, restore security, unity and solve economic problems,” according to the statement from the National Council for Peace and Order, led by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

The junta will now draft “political rules to prevent and suppress corruption and investigate abuses of power by the state before handing the mission to new representatives and the government”.

Thailand's deposed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Bangkok airport on Tuesday.
Thailand’s deposed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Bangkok airport on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The 48-article constitution, which replaces the one annulled by General Prayuth after the coup, is Thailand’s 18th since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932. The charter also calls for the formation of a 250-member reform committee that will need to approve a permanent constitution to be written by a 36-strong drafting committee before elections can be held.

“The NCPO will be in power until a new constitution is implemented,” junta adviser Wissanu Krea-ngam said at a media briefing in Bangkok, adding that General Prayuth is eligible to be named prime minister.

Article 44 of the charter gives General Prayuth the power to take action against any threats to peace and order, national security or the monarchy, and the charter’s final article protects the coup-makers from prosecution.

“The point of the constitution is to add palace legitimacy to the coup through the king-endorsed enshrinement of new laws,” said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai. “Almost every Thai constitution has included an amnesty for the military. In fact, amnesty for militaries has been a major rationale for most Thai constitutions. This allows and encourages coup after coup after coup.”

People who have held positions with political parties in the past three years will be ineligible to join the legislature or the reform council, according to the charter, which gives the junta power to appoint members to both groups.

King Bhumibol, 86, was enthroned in 1946. Thailand’s constitution says the king “shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated”. His picture is hung in most Thai homes and a royal anthem praising him is played before movies in cinemas across the country.

Thailand’s military has carried out a dozen coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, with three governments overthrown since 2006 by the army or judicial action. The latest putsch came eight years after the army ousted Thaksin, dissolved his party and banned about 200 political allies from holding office for five years. Thaksin later fled abroad to escape a 2008 jail sentence from charges brought by a military-appointed panel.

Washington Post

Tags: , ,
July 25, 2014

Thai Junta Retains Sweeping Power Under Interim Constitution

Bloomberg News

Thai Junta Retains Sweeping Power Under Interim Constitution

By Anuchit Nguyen and Suttinee Yuvejwattana.  Jul 23, 2014 4:22 AM ET

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-22/thailand-junta-retains-sweeping-power-under-interim-constitution.html

Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg. Royal Thai Army soldiers keep watch from a military vehicle while stationed outside the Royal Thai Police headquarters as traffic drives past in central Bangkok, Thailand, on May 20, 2014.

Thailand’s junta announced an interim constitution that gives the military oversight of a hand-picked legislative assembly as well as amnesty for staging their May 22 coup.

The military will choose a 220-member legislature, which will pick a prime minister and 35-strong cabinet, according to a statement in the Royal Gazette. General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, leader of the National Council for Peace and Order, received the endorsed charter from King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday.

The constitution reflects the demands of a protest group led by former opposition lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban that staged a six-month street campaign to oust the administration of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Suthep said he wanted to “reclaim sovereign power” and appoint a reform council to wipe out the influence of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, whose parties have won the last five elections.

The constitution “will help solve the crisis and return the situation to normal, restore security, unity and solve economic problems,” according to the statement. The reform council will draft “political rules to prevent and suppress corruption and investigate abuses of power by the state before handing the mission to new representatives and the government.”

The 48-article constitution, which replaces the one annulled by Prayuth after the coup, is Thailand’s 18th since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932. The charter also calls for the formation of a 250-member reform committee that will need to approve a permanent constitution to be written by a 36-strong drafting committee before elections can be held.

Prayuth’s Power

“The NCPO will be in power until a new constitution is implemented,” junta adviser Wissanu Krea-ngam said today at a media briefing in Bangkok, adding that Prayuth is eligible to be named prime minister.

Article 44 of the charter gives Prayuth the power to take action against any threats to peace and order, national security or the monarchy, and the charter’s final article protects the coup-makers from prosecution.

“The point of the constitution is to add palace legitimacy to the coup through the king-endorsed enshrinement of new laws,” said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai. “Almost every Thai constitution has included an amnesty for the military. In fact, amnesty for militaries has been a major rationale for most Thai constitutions. This allows and encourages coup after coup after coup.”

Reform Council

People who have held positions with political parties in the past three years will be ineligible to join the legislature or the reform council, according to the charter, which gives the NCPO power to appoint members to both groups.

The reform committee will include a representative from each of Thailand’s 77 provinces, with the remaining members chosen by a selection committee and the NCPO from among 11 professional groups, junta adviser Wissanu Krea-ngam said today at a media briefing.

Pornphet Wichitchonchai, another NCPO adviser, said at the same briefing that the charter is longer than previous post-coup constitutions because “we have written a lot on the king’s power.”

“This interim constitution clearly states the king’s power over many issues that we want him to have, such as granting amnesty and appointing people,” Pornphet said. “No matter what constitution we are under, either temporary or permanent, the king is our supreme power. Even though the king is the constitutional monarch under the law, the king is more than that.”

Royal Endorsement

King Bhumibol, 86, took the throne in 1946 and serves as head of state. Thailand’s constitution says the king “shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.” His picture is hung in most Thai homes and a royal anthem praising him is played before movies in theaters across the country.

King Bhumibol granted an audience yesterday to Prayuth at the Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Bangkok, and presented the army chief with the endorsed interim charter, according to a palace statement. He moved to the palace in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in August last year, after leaving the Bangkok hospital that he had lived in since September 2009.

Thailand’s military has carried out a dozen coups since the end of direct rule by kings in 1932, with three governments overthrown since 2006 by the army or judicial action. The latest putsch came eight years after army ousted Thaksin, dissolved his party and banned about 200 political allies from holding office for five years. Thaksin later fled abroad to escape a 2008 jail sentence from charges brought by a military-appointed panel.

Political Divide

Prayuth has said he had no choice other than to seize power after meetings called by the army among key figures from both sides of the political divide failed to find a solution to six months of sometimes violent unrest.

Since taking power on May 22, the NCPO has silenced critics by outlawing protests and threatening the media with sanctions for content critical of the coup. Hundreds of activists, academics, opposition politicians and journalists were summoned and detained by the military in the weeks following the putsch.

Prayuth has restarted payments to rice farmers and vowed to accelerate state spending after gross domestic product fell 0.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter as political turmoil restricted the ability of the previous government to borrow. The junta capped fuel prices and approved handouts to the tourism industry, efforts that it said would “return happiness to the Thai people.”

Prayuth said June 27 that a permanent constitution will be drafted by July 2015 and an election could be held three months after its promulgation. The legislative council is expected to be formed in August, junta adviser Wissanu said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at anguyen@bloomberg.net; Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net Tony Jordan, Dick Schumacher

July 25, 2014

New Thai Constitution ‘clears way for junta general to become PM’

New Thai Constitution ‘clears way for junta general to become PM’

Thailand has adopted a constitution that legitimizes the May coup by granting the military sweeping powers and paving the way for junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to become prime minister, analyst Paul Chambers tells DW.

Author Interview: Gabriel Domínguez

Editor:  Shamil Shams

Date:  24.07.2014

Permalink:  http://dw.de/p/1Ciam

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.dw.de/new-thai-constitution-clears-way-for-junta-general-to-become-pm/a-17807688

On July 22, Thailand’s king endorsed an interim constitution that grants power to the military to intervene in matters it deems “destructive to the peace and safety of the country” without approval of a civilian government. The document, pitched as “the first step toward restoring electoral democracy,” also preserves the military-led government called National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), in the run-up to a planned October 2015 election.

The draft, however, gave no timeframe for an election. The southeast Asian country has been ruled by a junta since the military staged a coup on May 22 following months of anti-government protests.

In a DW interview, Paul Chambers, Director of Research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand, says that as junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha (main picture) is expected to retire as army commander in October, he will probably remain at the helm of the NCPO and also appoint himself the country’s prime minister.

DW: The new temporary constitution is being pitched as the first step towards restoring Thai democracy. What is your view on this?

Paul Chambers: The military and the arch-royalists are pitching the new temporary constitution as a first step toward restoring Thai democracy. This is due to the fact that their perception of democracy centers on not allowing any single elected person or party to dominate politics, something which they view as a threat to the king and vested Thai interests.

Chambers: “Prayuth has worked to design the new interim charter to facilitate his rise to the position of prime minister”

As such, the goal of the temporary charter is to set up an assembly to produce a permanent constitution which will diminish the power of elected Thai civilian governments. It is also meant to dilute the electoral system in such a way that no single party can achieve a majority.

Moreover, it is designed to weaken the power of the executive branch and weaken Thai political parties. Simultaneously, the judiciary and security forces would become more insulated from control by civilian governments and their powers would be enhanced.

What are the key aspects of the document?

Firstly, the temporary constitution has been produced to legitimize the May coup and the current ruling military junta. Secondly, the document legitimizes the process of writing a new permanent constitution. The first key aspect involves the creation of a 220-member national legislative assembly and appointed 36-person cabinet – including the post of prime minister. Importantly, the members of each entity are nominated by the NCPO, and then endorsed by the Thai king.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA, an unelected body similar to parliament appointed by the military) is set to act as legislature to the cabinet. Meanwhile a National Reform Council is to be created and appointed to draft the new permanent constitution. Its members will be appointed by the NCPO and endorsed by the king.

The NCPO will thus be able to veto anything that the NLA, Cabinet or NRC decide, as long as the king endorses such a veto. In other words, the real power remains with the military junta. Such a situation differs from the coup group of 2006-2008, in which the prime minister was actually more powerful than the military junta leader.

Back then, there was much bickering between the junta and the cabinet, and one result was that less policies were effectively implemented, and less laws were enshrined to help ensure that pro-Thaksin political parties could return to power.

Thus, in 2008, a pro-Thaksin party did win the election. This time, the arch-royalists and military want to go the extra mile constitutionally to “fix” the botched anti-Thaksin efforts of the 2006-2008 coup group. As such, General Prayuth, through the NCPO, will be able to have singular power over all institutions, save for the king, who will likely endorse the changes allowed for by the NCPO.

Who drafted the constitution and why was it viewed as necessary by the NCPO?

Actually, it was a group of technocrats who created this interim constitution. Meechai Ruchupan and Wissanu Kruengam are the actual men who put together this document. Meechai has led the writing of Thai constitutions since 1991. He is close to the king. Wissanu was once close to Thaksin. He has moved over to support the arch-royalists.

The constitution was viewed as necessary by the NCPO to firstly legitimize their power seizure and administrative control over Thailand; secondly start the process of “reform,” thirdly grant them complete power over all other administrative, legislative and judicial entities and, last but not least, grant a blanket amnesty to the military for its seizure of power.

The amnesty is perhaps the principal reason for the interim constitution – at least for the military. It constitutionally clears them from any future court action against them. In fact, an amnesty for the Thai military has been a part of 16 of the past 19 constitutions. The need for amnesty can thus explain in part why first, Thailand has had so many constitutions; and second, why Thai soldiers are unafraid about carrying out new coups. It also does not hurt that most of these takeovers have been supported by Thailand’s monarch.

On a higher level, the need for a new interim constitution is needed to prepare for a permanent constitution which is designed to keep the Shinawatra family out of politics, or any future elected civilian politician who might attempt to dominate the political scene and perhaps threaten the political and economic monopoly of the monarchy.

What power does it give the military junta and General Prayuth?

The new temporary constitution has been produced to legitimize the May coup and the current ruling military junta, says Chambers

Article 44 of the constitution grants General Prayuth, as NCPO leader, total power over the rest of Thailand’s political system, though under the king.

I believe that Prayuth has worked to design the new interim charter to facilitate his rise to the position of Prime Minister. AsPrayuth is supposed to retire as Army Commander on October 1, 2014, he will probably remain NCPO head and also appoint himself prime minister, though this is not definite.

He will most likely appoint his loyalist, Deputy Army Commander General Udomdet Sitabutr as army commander. But Prayuth will remain in charge of the military and politics. The interim constitution allows this through Article 44.

Dr. Paul Chambers is Director of Research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

——————-

DW recommends

HRW slams Thai junta’s ‘comprehensive gag order’

Thailand’s military rulers have intensified restrictions on the free speech by threatening to close outlets with critical media coverage, a move that amounts to ‘gag order’ to all of society, HRW’s John Sifton tells DW. (21.07.2014)

July 22, 2014

Thai king endorses military’s interim constitution

Wed Jul 23 2014, 05:10. AAP

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://news.msn.co.nz/worldnews/8878746/thai-king-endorses-juntas-constitution

Thailand’s junta has won approval from the king for an interim constitution mapping out year-long political reforms expected to curb the influence of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

It was the first time the revered but ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, had granted an audience to coup leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha since the military seized power two months ago.

The document, published on the Royal Gazette website, late on Tuesday, offers an amnesty from prosecution to the generals who seized power in the May coup.

It also hands the junta sweeping “national security” powers and allows them to rule in parallel with a national assembly appointed by the king on military advice.

Membership will be strictly controlled, with many of the main players in Thailand’s turbulent politics seemingly barred by a clause prohibiting anyone who held “a position in any political party in the past three years”.

The military will further deepen its grip with a 250-strong council, which it will hand-pick and charge with recommending sweeping reforms.

Prayut has said the overhaul of the political system will be complete once a new, permanent charter is endorsed, opening the way for fresh elections.

But he has ruled out holding elections until around October 2015, despite appeals from the US and the European Union for a return to democracy.

The May coup was the latest chapter in a long-running political crisis broadly pitting Thaksin’s billionaire family and its supporters against a royalist establishment backed by parts of the military and judiciary.

————————
 Reuters_US1

Thai king endorses military’s interim constitution

BANGKOK Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:57am EDT

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/22/us-thailand-politics-constitution-idUSKBN0FR1S320140722

Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej has endorsed an interim constitution (Credit: AFP)

(Reuters) – Thailand’s king endorsed an interim constitution on Tuesday that grants power to the military to intervene in politics for security reasons without approval of a civilian government, due to be elected next year. The constitution, posted online late on Tuesday, preserves the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), or the junta that has ruled Thailand since a coup on May 22, and grants immunity from prosecution to those who led the putsch.

The draft gave no timeframe for when a general election would take place, although junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said it would likely come at the end of next year.

The charter was whittled down from 309 articles to just 48 and allows the NCPO to intervene in matters it deems “destructive to the peace and safety of the country” even if the that meant disrupting the interim government’s work.

The military’s continued role in Thai politics has long been anticipated, although it was unclear whether it would remain involved in economic matters. The NCPO has been scrutinizing state-owned firms and major infrastructure deals, leading to delays in auctions and projects approved by the ousted government, and prompting concerns among investors already jittery about its policymaking clout.

The palace confirmed the endorsement of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, during a routine royal news bulletin late on Tuesday. He met Prayuth at his palace in the seaside town of Hua Hin, to which he returned in August 2013 after a four-year stint in a Bangkok hospital.

CYCLE OF CONFLICT

The military said its coup was to restore order after months of at times violent unrest as protesters tried to topple former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, an ex-premier whose parties have won every election since 2001 on a groundswell of working-class support. Yingluck was forced by a court to step down on May 7 for abuse of power and the remainder of her caretaker cabinet was ousted by the army two weeks later.

The turmoil was the latest chapter in almost a decade of conflict pitting the military-allied royalist establishment and Bangkok’s middle classes against the Shinawatra family, its business allies and its mostly working-class supporters.

The country has been hamstrung by an unrelenting cycle of elections, protests and judicial and military intervention, each backed by feuding families of upstart businessmen allied with Thaksin or influential scions bitterly opposed to him.

Thaksin was also ousted in a 2006 coup, and now chooses to live in exile rather than return home to serve prison time for an abuse of power conviction.

The military re-wrote the constitution back then, but Thaksin’s supporters say it failed to neuter his power and fear a new one would be more drastic in trying to stifle his populist political machine. Yingluck has kept a low profile since being removed from power. Last week the junta gave her permission to travel abroad and she is thought to be heading to France, where Thaksin will celebrate his 65th birthday on Saturday.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

 

Tags:
June 28, 2014

Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

 

Laos takes ‘courteous’ approach to next Mekong dam project, agrees to consult before work starts

Reuters

June 28, 2014

Updated 2 hours 31 minutes ago

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/laos-dam/5557196

Fishing at rapids in the Siphandone area of the Mekong River in Laos

Fishing at rapids in Siphandone area, site of proposed Don Sahong hydro-electric dam.  Photo: International Rivers

Laos has agreed to consult its neighbours before starting construction of a second controversial dam on the Mekong River.

It’s already going ahead with the much bigger Xayaburi dam to supply power to China, despite opposition from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Agreement to allow environmental assessments and for a formal consultation process on the proposed Don Sahong dam was reached at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission in Bangkok.

The commission comprises Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Laos accepted environmental and other studies for the Xayaburi dam after pressure from its neighbours, but went ahead with construction even while they were being conducted.

But this time Vientiane has given an assurance work will not start during the six-month consultation process, describing the move as a “courtesy”.

The Don Sahong project is the second of 11 hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong mainstream, which has raised concerns about the impact on the environment and livelihoods of millions of people.

It will generate 260 megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Thailand and Cambodia compared with Xayaburi’s 1,260 megawatts, around 95 percent of which will go to Thailand.

The environmental group International Rivers is among those to have welcomed the decision.

But it says further action is needed “to ensure that the rapid progress of dam building on the Mekong … does not go unchecked”.

Officials say recommendations resulting from the studies of the Don Sahong project would not be binding on Laos.

—————

Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

Posted on 27 June 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://wwf.panda.org/?224398/Effects-of-Laos-dam-project-to-be-revealed

Two Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins spotted at Tbong Kla deep pool
© WWF- Cambodia/ Gerad Ryan

WWF welcomes the Lao Government’s decision to have the Don Sahong hydropower project undergo a formal consultation process, a decision likely to delay construction of the project.

The consultation process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and the social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

“Laos is now promising to do what they already signed up to under the Mekong agreement, and should have done months ago” said Marc Goichot, WWF-Greater Mekong’s lead on sustainable hydropower. “Their decision to consult on the Don Sahong project, and share critical details about the project’s impacts, comes after intense pressure from neighbouring countries. It is critical that pressure is maintained to ensure Laos delivers on their promise.”

In September last year, Laos announced its decision to proceed with the Don Sahong dam, bypassing the Mekong River Commision’s (MRC) consultation process.

The much-criticised project was discussed at the June 26-27 meeting of the MRC – an inter-governmental agency made up of representatives from the four Lower Mekong nations — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Don Sahong dam threatens the Mekong’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting the world’s largest inland fishery at risk. Close to 200,000 people have signed WWF’s petition calling on the dam builder, Mega First, to pull out of the project.

“We thank people around the world who signed the WWF’s petition to stop the Don Sahong dam,” added Goichot. “Mega First would do well to listen to the growing voices of opposition to this disastrous project and reconsider their engagement.”

The Don Sahong dam is the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstem, following the controversial Xayaburi dam that Laos has begun constructing despite opposition from neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam.

“The Mekong River Commission’s joint decision-making process was effectively broken in 2012 when Laos decided unilaterally to proceed with Xayaburi dam, against the express wishes of Vietnam and Cambodia,” added Goichot.

“There is currently little faith in the MRC’s process to ensure joint decisions are made for the benefit of all Mekong nations. If Laos fails to be held to account, the MRC will soon lose its legitimacy and 60 million people living in the Mekong basin will suffer.”

Crowd of children with Pra or River catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus). River catfish are closely related to the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), a critically endangered Mekong endemic specieis. The Mekong giant catfish migrates from the Tonle Sap Lake to the Mekong River at the end of the rainy season each year and a dam like Don Sahong would block their migration.
© Zeb Hogan / WWF-Canon

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 558 other followers

%d bloggers like this: