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  1. Prayut’s forces double down on Future Forward By The Nation Campaign against pro-democracy faction goes into overdrive with lese majeste law once again being used as political weapon Thailand is moving away from democracy after the election as the military and conservative elite twist laws, regulations, norms and traditions in a bid to eradicate opposition and extend their grip on power. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose military coup ousted an elected civilian government in 2014, has utilised all means to continue his rule. The military-sponsored charter has achieved its main aim – to ease him and his pro-military faction back to top political office. Prayut exploited an opaque process to handpick 250 senators, mostly from military backgrounds, who then voted to return him as the new premier. Nobody knows the identity of the Senate selection committee members, since the list of names was missing from the announcement in the Royal Gazette. After the pro-junta Phalang Prachart Party that proposed Prayut as premier won fewer seats in the House of Representatives than the anti-junta camp led by the Pheu Thai and Future Forward parties, the military has joined with the conservative royalist elite to block the “democratic threat”. But Prayut’s new government will inevitably be unstable due to its slim majority in the lower house. The Phalang Pracharat-led coalition is further weakened by the plethora of parties that agreed to join only if their short-term interests were met. The Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties are driving hard bargains in return for backing Prayut’s new government, but could pull out anytime if their “prices” are not met. With such weak foundations, Prayut and the pro-military faction have mapped out a plan to weaken opposition in the lower house, their chief target being the new face of politics, Future Forward. The party strikes fear into Prayut and the conservative elite since nearly all its MPs are young and vigorous politicians who have a strong faith in democracy. Future Forward is a threat because it represents both the new generation and the push to overthrow the political status quo. The party wants constitutional amendments that would liberate Thai politics from the control of a small conservative clique. To block this move, the military, conservative elite and royalists – both real and fake – are now coordinating to attack Future Forward members. Their latest move came this week when authorities and royalists began bullying the party’s spokesperson, Pannika Wanich, who is also an MP. She was threatened with 15 years in jail under the draconian lese majeste law, after photos and Facebook posts from nearly a decade ago were unearthed over the weekend. For what were described as inappropriate gestures towards the monarchy and HM King Rama IX, the MP and her friends were bombarded with insults by angry netizens. The whipped-up controversy escalated on Monday when Assistant National Police chief Pol Lt-General Piya Uta-yo said he had ordered the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the police legal department and the Special Branch Bureau to look into it. The taskforces will investigate whether or not Pannika and her friends had violated the computer crime law, the criminal law or the security law, he said. Pannika is a leading figure in Future Forward, stepping firmly into the political spotlight at the recent opening of Parliament. Prior to Pannika’s case, her youthful party had already been targeted by multiple lawsuits. Its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanookul have been the prime targets. For now, the party is battling on. But disbandment, and/or jail sentences for its leaders, are now a real threat. These would also threaten prospects for democratic freedoms in Thailand. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30370941 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-06-12 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info
  2. The primary assignment for Prime Minister Prayut opinion June 10, 2019 01:00 By The Nation The Education Ministry has for far too long been a bone thrown to dogs when Cabinets are formed. It is in fact crucial to our future and must be given utmost significance Both sides of the national divide have declared that Thailand is entering an era of “new politics”, but until educational reform is given the utmost priority, we will remain mired in an era of rudimentary, barely functioning democracy. Elevating its status would be an assured means by which Prayut Chan-o-cha, now ready to resume his duties as prime minister, can overcome the cynicism reinvigorated by the self-serving post-election jostling for Cabinet portfolios. The sceptics are discouraged by both Prayut, who seems to support the notion that the major parties must control the major ministries, and his coalition partners seeking slices of the pie befitting not the quality of their nominees but their respective bargaining power. It is this archaic mindset that engenders the greatest flaw in our democracy – the tendency to disregard education’s importance in fostering progress. It is a woeful tradition that, with each fresh distribution of the spoils of electoral victory, the Interior, Agriculture, Transport and Finance portfolios are seen as the most lucrative prizes. The Education Ministry is invariably among the less meaty bones thrown out to the dogs on the perimeter, the grumblers in need of pacifying. No consideration is given to how capable the recipient is to run the ministry. With the ministry thus belittled, it is often over the course of every government’s tenure used as a handy toy to mollify unruly allies. As a result, rather than being an institution of long-term planning and consistency in addressing issues, the Education Ministry has a steady stream of politicians walking in and out of its revolving doors, each carrying his own opinion of what needs to be done until he’s offered a better post. Policies shift annually. Promising reforms are abandoned. The bureaucratic staff is unsure, confused or handcuffed. Nothing actually gets down. Prayut, who gave hints in the years after the coup that he cared about schooling, will now be preoccupied with parliamentary politicking, including slicing up the pie to best secure his administration. The current situation is not encouraging. The scrabble for Cabinet seats easily overrides any thought of improving the quality of teaching or narrowing the rich-poor education gap or making sure underprivileged rural kids can attend class. At no point in the election campaign did Prayut or the Democrats or anyone else ask voters to give them the mandate to improve Thai education. Evidently that is not the goal of the “new politics”, which is skewed instead to stacking the Senate and other such trickery, much the same as the old politics. If there is to be a new thrust in politics, let it be about putting the public interest first. In terms of educational reform, this could mean as radical a move as slashing the military budget so that poor kids get the help they need at school. At the least it means all Cabinet members pooling resources to get the best technology into the classrooms. Tilting Thai politics away from all the pie-sharing brinkmanship and instead lighting a fire under the Education Ministry would be a major challenge for Prayut. But he calls himself a patriot and evidently believes himself to be a strong leader. Let’s see him try. If he succeeds, he would indeed be a hero. If he tries in earnest but fails, he will at least have tried. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30370798 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-06-10 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info
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