Thai dictator Prayuth says he ‘won’t quit’

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted Tuesday he will not resign and will remain in power until a new government is sworn in.

His comments followed the resignation of four cabinet ministers who are executives of the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

Following their resignation, Gen Prayut said he would not resign as prime minister or as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He was responding to other politicians’ calls for his resignation as premier ahead of the general election.

“I won’t quit. If I quit, who can take my place?” he said when reporters asked whether he would step down if he became a prime ministerial candidate on any party’s ticket.

There is not a law requiring him to step down as prime minister and as for the NCPO, he would remain its chief because the council would remain in power until a new government was established, Gen Prayut said.

Speaking about the four ministers who resigned, Gen Prayut said their deputies and other ministers could take over their responsibilities.

The four ministers — Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, and PM’s Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool — tendered their resignation letters to Gen Prayut at Government House Tuesday morning. Their resignations are effective Wednesday.

Gen Prayut also hinted that he would become a prime ministerial candidate if he is invited by a party to be on its ticket. However, he ruled out the option of returning to power as an “outsider” premier following the March 24 general election.

Continue reading Bangkok Post: PM says he ‘won’t quit’

Ekkachai’s car torched in front of his house; Thai activists to hold demonstration

Activist Ekkachai Hongkangwan’s car has been torched in front of his house. There will be a demonstration on 3rd February to condemn the intimidation.

Surveillance camera footage from 3.00 a.m. on 26 January 2019 shows a man with a jacket and a cap walking out of the soi where Ekkachai lives holding a bottle of petrol that was used to burn the car. Ekkachai went to file a report at Lat Phrao Police Station and a forensic unit arrived at the scene.

On 28 January 2019, he posted on his Facebook page that months ago, a scratch and traces of a collision appeared on his car despite his clean driving record, followed by a nail driven into his car tire. He did not bring the matter to the police because he had not installed the security camera.

After 2 years and 8 months in imprison from 2012 to 2015 under Article 112 for selling CDs of an ABC documentary, Ekkachai became a political activist famous for his direct nonviolent actions. One of them is protesting against Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan’s impunity against corruption allegations for owning 25 luxury watches.

Tortured while being taken to a military camp, having fish sauce thrown at him, and having his finger broken in an assault in front of his own house, he has persisted through years of struggle despite 5 physical assaults. Recently, he also fought against the election delay.

Continue reading Prachatai English: Ekkachai’s car torched in front of his house; activists to hold demonstration

Transparency International: Thailand Slips Further in Latest Corruption Index

Thailand dropped three positions in the latest corruption index released Tuesday by a Berlin-based transparency watchdog.

Transparency International ranked Thailand 99th out of 180 countries in its annual index, which saw the kingdom fall two points to score 35. Zero represents complete corruption and 100 is complete transparency. The watchdog did not cite specific factors in Thailand’s decline.

However, Thailand’s ranking has wavered since the 2014 military coup that brought junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to power, improving to 76 in 2015 and dropping as far as 102 the year after.

Ranked jointly with Thailand were Albania, Bahrain, Colombia, Tanzania and the Philippines.

 

Continue reading Khaosod English: Thailand Slips Further in Latest Corruption Index

Young people tire of army rule and seek to reshape Thailand’s politics themselves

Standing atop the stairs outside his university auditorium, 20-year-old activist Parit Chiwarak led a protest hundreds strong calling for an end to Thailand’s ruling military junta.

“The military is supposed to protect the country, not fight the people,” he told students gathered at Thammasat, one of Thailand’s most prestigious universities.

“We want elections,” they chanted, many of them waving fans emblazoned with hearts reading “Love Democracy”.

Within two months, Thailand is expected to hold its first election since the army seized power in a 2014 coup.

The March 24 vote could be swayed by young people, many of them newly politicised and active in a way that has rarely been seen since state forces crushed student pro-democracy movements in the 1970s. Voters aged 18-35 now make up just over a quarter of the electorate of about 50 million.

Of those, 7 million are eligible to vote for the first time.

While it is not clear which way youngsters will vote, many say they do not favour the junta and the military-backed parties that have been formed to contest the election.

 

Continue reading South China Morning Post: Thai election: youth tire of army rule and seek to reshape their country’s politics themselves

Bahrain govt closer to extradition of Australian refugee footballer held in Thailand

Bahrain’s government has submitted documents for the extradition of Hakeem Al Araibi, a Bahraini refugee footballer held in prison in Thailand, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia and is a vocal critic of Bahrain’s government, was convicted of vandalising a police station in 2014. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia and has denied wrongdoing.

Araibi was arrested in November in Bangkok, where he had travelled for his honeymoon, on an Interpol notice issued at the Gulf Arab state’s request. Under the Thai legal system, Bahrain must submit the documents for his extradition by Feb 8 or apply for an extension for another 30 days.

Thai authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne had urged Thai authorities to release Araibi while rights groups have said he was persecuted for political reasons.

Bahraini Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said in a statement to Reuters that proceedings to extradite him to Bahrain are ongoing and criticised what he described as “external interference” in Manama’s internal affairs.

“Those who speak now of Al Araibi having been mistreated and those who question the integrity of Bahrain’s courts ignore the fact that Al Araibi was released on bail of 100 dinars by the courts,” the statement added.

Bahraini authorities have said Araibi can return to appeal against the sentence, noting that others arrested with Araibi who have done so have been acquitted.

The minister said Araibi, who was allowed to travel with the national soccer team while on bail, had fled to Iran from Qatar “never to return”.

Araibi was granted asylum in Australia, where he now plays, in 2017 after fleeing Bahrain three years earlier.

He was a critic of Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family and cousin of the king, when he contested the Fifa presidential election in 2015. Sheikh Salman is president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

The AFC said last week that the president had been recused from all matters relating to West Asia and AFC vice-president Praful Patel was working with global governing body Fifa “to find a solution” to the matter of Araibi’s detention.

Human Rights Watch said Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities because of his brother’s political activities during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. Bahraini authorities deny allegations of torture.

Source Bangkok Post: Bahrain closer to extradition of footballer held in Thailand

Thai South: border patrol policeman killed in Yala ambush

A border patrol policeman was killed by insurgents waiting for a target while he was out to inspect a suspicious object in Than To district on Monday.

Than To police said Pol Sen Sgt Maj Pirunrat Putthisiri rode his motorcycle from his station at Ban Sri Tha Nam School to check a cooking gas cylinder left by the roadside after an alert from local residents.

An unknown number of insurgents who were waiting there killed him, they added.

Police found his vehicle at the scene but did not see his M16 rifle, pistol and bulletproof vest. They were believed to have been taken by the assailants.

The cylinder was found not far from the area. It was filled with sand.

Police believed it was used as a decoy to lure authorities into the ambush.

Source Bangkok Post: Border patrol policeman killed in Yala ambush

Thai community activists rally regime over water projects

A group of residents protesting against the government’s four water projects in the South Sunday insisted on rallying at Government House today, despite the government’s assurance that it won’t press ahead with these projects without public consensus on them.

Calling itself a network protecting Nakhon Si Thammarat-Phatthalung land, water and forest, the group said they are determined to submit its calls regarding the four projects to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House.

The group’s stance is the government will have to have the projects revised.

The projects are the construction of dams at Khlong Sang and Wang Heeb, a water diversion canal at Muang Nakhon, and a water gate at Pak Pra.

Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Grisada Boonrach conceded the government is willing to listen to what the protesting group has to say about the projects and is looking forward to seeing the affected villagers agree to work together with the government.

The government would not press ahead with these projects without the affected parties agreeing on them, he said.

Source Bangkok Post: Activists rally govt over water projects