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Thailand Live Tuesday 27 May 2014

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AFTERMATH
Law violators face tough action : Prayuth warns

The Nation

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Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, flanked by other members of the National Council for Peace and Order, holds his first press conference following last week

'Election when situation is right; reforms in all aspects that are causing conflict'

BANGKOK: -- Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday threatened tougher action against law violators, particularly opponents of the military's power seizure, in a move that is in line with the junta's priority of maintaining law and order.


Prayuth, however, did not answer a reporter's question as to whether he would become interim prime minister.

"It's not time yet [to discuss this]. There is a plan already for that. Be patient. There will definitely be a prime minister," Prayuth said, adding that there would also be new Cabinet members.

He said the next election would be held "as soon as possible, when the situation permits" although he could not say when as it would depend on the situation.

Speaking at his first press conference since last Thursday's power seizure, Prayuth said the junta would enact political reforms and focus on solving the country's problems, starting with making overdue payments to rice farmers under the previous government's rice price-pledging scheme. "We will set up new organisations to reform every aspect that causes problems and conflicts," he told the press conference."

He said he would name an interim prime minister and a legislative council to implement electoral reforms and measures aimed at bolstering the economy.

Earlier yesterday, Prayuth and other members of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took part in a ceremony to receive a royal command endorsing him as head of the NCPO.

Prayuth said that to maintain peace and order there would be "a more intense enforcement of the law" against resistance.

"If the situation improves, the different measures will be eased. Do not worry. We don't want to cause problems for you," he said. "We will focus on law violators, use of war weapons, resistance or any action that disrupts peace in the country."

He said a curfew would remain in place from 10pm to 5am, as it was still needed, although people affected could inform the relevant authorities about their problems.

On Sunday, in a stern move to tighten security, the NCPO announced that any offences against the monarchy and national security, as well as violations of its orders, would be tried in a military court.

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters gathered at Victory Monument yesterday while a small group of pro-military demonstrators gathered at Democracy Monument. Another group of about 30 people, led by senior Foreign Ministry official Sasiwat Wongsinsawat, gathered near the ministry on Si Ayutthaya Road to offer moral support to the military.

At his press conference, Prayuth emphasised his full power to rule and called on the public to understand the military's sincerity. He said they would do their best to solve problems as soon as possible.

"I'm not here to fight but to fix. I will do anything [to solve the problems]," he said, explaining the tough measures but stressing they were necessary.

"The less you allow me to speak, the more I'll be able to work. Please be calm and patient, like you have always been. Crisis has plagued the country for nine years now."

The NCPO chief also warned the media against amplifying conflicts. He said if the media used Facebook to create comments that escalated conflicts, the NCPO would summon them and media organisations would not be able to help.

He said he would start monitoring the media, Facebook and websites and would regard the posting of messages that incite conflict as violations against peace and order.

Referring to the summons to political figures, he said none of those asked to report were suffering, though their accommodation demonstrated to them how soldiers lived.

Prayuth said he would urgently form a team of experts to advise the NCPO in running the country.

He said the advisory team would have experts from various fields and would be the top-tier advisory panel. There would be also lower-level advisory teams to advise the NCPO members in charge of various tasks.

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-- The Nation 2014-05-27

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RICE-PLEDGING SCHEME
Rice farmers overjoyed as payments begin

The Nation

BANGKOK: -- RICE FARMERS across the country were delighted as payments under the rice-pledging scheme resumed yesterday under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729396-thai-rice-pledging-scheme-farmers-overjoyed-as-payments-begin/

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ECONOMY
Money for farmers, liquidity for SMEs economic priorities

Erich Parpart
The Nation

BANGKOK: -- The economic chief of the National Council for Peace and Order yesterday promised to help farmers get their dues under the rice-pledging scheme and assured easy access to liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises as its priorities.

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729397-thai-economy-money-for-farmers-liquidity-for-smes-economic-priorities/

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PRESS FREEDOM
The Nation calls for reporter's release

The Nation

The newspaper stands by Pravit's news reports and opinion pieces, saying they are in line with its editorial policies

BANGKOK: -- In a letter addressed to General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday, The Nation called on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to release its senior journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk from military custody as soon as possible.


In the letter, The Nation's managing editor Jintana Panyaarvudh said Pravit's detention was akin to curtailing press freedom. She also asked the junta to provide a public explanation as to why Pravit was taken into custody and to disclose his whereabouts so his family, colleagues and an authorised lawyer can visit him.

The letter also said that if the junta was unable to provide proper justification for his detention, then it "should consider releasing Pravit immediately".

The letter also stressed that The Nation stood in support of Pravit's news reports and opinion pieces that the paper has published, because they were in line with its editorial principles.

The fact that the junta has not offered any justification for Pravit's detention "has raised fears that attempts are being made to curtail media freedom at a time when the public has the greatest need for information", the letter read.

The letter was submitted to the NCPO chief yesterday through Army deputy spokesman Colonel Sirichan Nga-Thong at the Internal Security Operations Command headquarters.

The Nation's editor-in-chief Thepchai Yong had earlier called on the junta to revoke all orders issued in the aftermath of the coup that restrict freedom of expression and the press.

NCPO urged to review detention

Meanwhile, Manop Thiposod, Thai Journalists Association (TJA) vice president for press freedom and media reform, called on the NCPO to ease its measures against the media and review Pravit's detention.

"Though Pravit has different opinions, he has explicitly expressed them in public. He has also performed his duty as a media professional and taken responsibility for his reports. Pravit is only a reporter under The Nation's editorial team. Instead of singling him out, the NCPO should discuss the issue and make the editorial team understand. Perhaps summoning him would have been enough," he said.

"On behalf of the TJA, in charge of press freedom and media reform, I call on the NCPO to take care of Pravit's well-being during detention in accordance with his basic rights.

"If possible, we call on the NCPO to release him before the seven-day deadline."

Also yesterday, the president of the Thailand Development Research Institute called on the NCPO to open up and allow freedom of expression to academics.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich said the junta should lift restrictions and allow the media to interview academics freely and publish their opinions.

'Be open to different opinions'

He said those in power should be open to different opinions, especially when there are no mechanisms in place for checks and balances and when the NCPO's measures have an impact on the public. He also said opening the road to free expression would help the NCPO acquire a lot of useful recommendations.

As for the fear of outrageous comments by academics, he said the NCPO could take legal action against the wrongdoers in line with the normal legal process.

"Reform dealing with structural problems will have a wide impact. Therefore, it should happen in an atmosphere where everybody can discuss issues equally and freely," he said.

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-- The Nation 2014-05-27

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CRIME
Police make weapons link in probe of deadly attack on PDRC

The Nation

BANGKOK: -- The spent cartridges fired from automatic weapons in a deadly attack on anti-government protesters in Trat in February were from the same weapon found in a cache of arms seized in a raid last week by police and military officers in Samut Sakhon, police said.

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729398-thai-police-make-weapons-link-in-probe-of-deadly-attack-on-pdrc/

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SAMUI REGATTA
HiFi gives opening blast

Agencies

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Bill Bremner and his crew on Foxy Lady VI in IRC One.

KOH SAMUI: -- The 13th Samui Regatta got underway yesterday with a 23-strong fleet of mainly international boats competing in what has become known as the Tropical Island Regatta. With an impressive IRC fleet lining up to battle it out over five days, the first day proved to be both challenging and satisfying for fans.

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729399-samui-regatta-hifi-gives-opening-blast/

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Several high-profile businesspeople report to junta
BUSINESS REPORTERS
THE NATION

BANGKOK: -- SEVERAL LEADING businesspeople reported themselves to the National Council for Peace and Order yesterday, following the order issued on Sunday night.

Srettha Thavisin, president of Sansiri - a listed property development company, was the first among them to be at the NCPO centre. He was known as a long-time friend to Kittiratt Na-Ranong, former deputy prime minister and finance minister. When Kittiratt managed the national football team, Srettha unofficially provided assistance. He also met former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, when she was the CEO at SC Asset, another listed property development firm.

Following him was Anant Asavabhokhin, president and chief executive of Land & Houses. As a majority shareholder and chief of the country's largest property firm, he has also been acquainted with Yingluck while she served SC Asset.

The order also summoned other businessmen, including Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development, one of Thailand's largest construction firms.

Premchai has a major stake in the firm. ITD is one of the construction companies that set up a joint-venture firm with a Chinese company to bid for a project under the Bt350-billion water-management programme planned by the Yingluck government. The JV is one of five groups awarded contracts worth up to Bt100 billion to develop the mega-project.

Others are Watchai Vilailuck, president of Samart Corp, and Apichart Chansakulporn is a former owner and managing director of President Agri Trading.

Samart businesses include mobile retail distribution and bidding for state information and communications technology projects. As of March, subsidiary Samart I-Mobile owned a 4.63-per-cent stake in M-Link Asia Corp, which is supervised by Yingluck's elder sister Monthathip. Watchai had secured a 2.2-per-cent stake in M-Link.

Meanwhile, Apichart allegedly has a close relationship with Wattana Muangsuk, a former Pheu Thai Party MP, and Yingluck's brother, Thaksin. During Wattana's stint as commerce minister, President Agri won the bid for 1.79 million tonnes of rice from the government's stocks for export to Indonesia. It is one of biggest amounts sold by the Commerce Ministry to private rice exporters. Later, President Agri Trading went bankrupt. He was allegedly associated with Siam Indica, a company that won some rice deals from the Yingluck government.

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-- The Nation 2014-05-27

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Finance seeks Bt50-bn term loans to pay off rice farmers
PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE NATION

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BANGKOK: -- THE FINANCE MINISTRY has invited 32 state and private banks to bid for the first phase of a three-year programme of bridge loans totalling Bt50 billion to pay rice farmers still owed under the pledging programme. The first Bt30-billion tender will be called early next month.

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729400-finance-seeks-bt50-bn-term-loans-to-pay-off-thai-rice-farmers/

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Thai coup won't restore GDP growth, confidence: Moody's
THE NATION

BANGKOK: -- THE MILITARY COUP will neither restore investor confidence in Thailand nor help its economy to avoid a cut in its growth forecast this year of 2-3 percentage points from its pre-crisis 4.5 per cent if the political impasse persists for the rest of the year, according to Moody's Investors Service.

Moody's said in its updated "Credit Outlook" publication yesterday that last Thursday, the Army suspended the Constitution and ousted the government, two days after declaring martial law.

Moody's currently assigns Thailand a sovereign rating of "Baa1", with "stable" outlook. However, the coup is credit-negative, underscores the country's perilous politics and will not restore investor confidence nor ease downward pressure on the gross domestic product, as reflected by real GDP trending far below its potential growth rate this year.

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) also recently cut its view for full-year 2014 GDP growth to 1.5-2.5 per cent from 3-4 per cent estimated last November, when the anti-government political turmoil first surfaced.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha in a statement said the coup was necessary to forge a way out of the country's political crisis. The military's decision to abrogate the 2007 Constitution, which had reaffirmed the country as a democracy with the rights of free speech and assembly, marks the country's second coup since 2006, when the military ousted then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

However, because the military lacks electoral legitimacy, it faces the Herculean task of resolving intractable divisions between the anti- and pro-democratic forces.

The period immediately following the 2006 coup was marked by policy drift. Although the country's economic and financial fundamentals held up relatively well, political turmoil and uncertainty stymied more dynamic development of the economy. Consequently, Thailand's sovereign credit quality has remained static, as indicated by Moody's "Baa1" rating both during military rule and since.

First contraction since 2011

The prolonged stand-off between pro- and anti-government forces is taking its toll on the economy. Official data, released on May 19, showed that real first-quarter GDP on a seasonally adjusted basis shrank 2.1 per cent quarter on quarter or 0.6 per cent year on year. This marks Thailand's first yearly contraction since late 2011, and is a result of consumers and investors holding back on spending because of the political turmoil.

Even if the chaos subsides, there is no assurance that the military government can remove uncertainty from the investment environment. The NESDB in its economic outlook for this month said a decline in Board of Investment applications and approvals since the second half of last year threaten GDP growth.

The administration of Yingluck Shinawatra had formulated a multi-year infrastructure program worth Bt2 trillion, or 15 per cent of GDP, which the Constitutional Court declared invalid in March. Even if that programme were reinstated, public infrastructure expenditure without an increase in private-sector investment may not be able to sustain investment levels sufficient enough to ensure significant economic growth.

The depth of the political divide prompted the Army to take over governing quickly after imposing an ostensibly more limited martial law. The political divide is reflected in repeated court-ordered delays of national elections, the unchanged intention of the main opposition Democrat Party to boycott a future poll, and the unwavering desire of the major anti-government group to dismantle democratic governance.

Since late last year, government bond yields have been immune to the political events, as has the baht, although Thailand's high international reserves have declined somewhat in the past year.

"Nonetheless, we see the coup as further weighing on Thailand's economic performance, with the risk that political uncertainty will continue to dim the investment climate and dampen growth performance," Moody's said.

The credit profiles of other regional sovereigns have improved and Moody's upgraded its ratings by multiple notches from 2006-14 - notably China to "Aa3" from "A2", South Korea to "Aa3" from "A3" and Indonesia and the Philippines to "Baa3" from "B1".

The coup is also credit-negative for banks because it adds pressure to already weakened investor and consumer confidence and risks stalling loan growth and undermining asset quality.

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-- The Nation 2014-05-27

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Pattani bombs hit families hardest
The Nation

Blasts kill five-year-old boy, leave father too badly injured to work

PATTANI: -- AMONG THE many victims of simultaneous bomb attacks in Pattani last Saturday were the Sideh family. They lost a son, Isfan, and their bread-winning father was hurt too badly to continue working as a taxi motorcyclist.

Full story: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/729404-pattani-bombs-hit-families-hardest-thailands-deep-south/

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Military courts empowered for 'abnormal situation'
The Nation

BANGKOK: -- The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) made a surprise move on Sunday, issuing order No 37 that empowered military courts to try cases against civilians suspected of committing lese majeste and internal security offences.

Military courts ordinarily only have the power to try cases involving soldiers, but under martial law, the NCPO has invoked Article 36 of the Military Courts Charter Act (1995) to empower military courts to try cases against civilians.

Offences under order No 37 are violations of Articles 107-112 of the Criminal Code - lese majeste, offences against their Majesties and offences against members of the Royal Family and their regents.

The order also covers internal security violations under Articles 113-118 of the Criminal Code - violations of NCPO orders, insurrection, accumulating renegade forces and arms, conspiring to commit sedition and persuading military and police officials to escape service.

It also includes instigating riots and disturbing the peace, instigating work stoppages and insulting the state through disrespecting national flags and other national emblems.

Order No 37 stipulates that offences committed in the country while the order is in force will be tried in military courts.

Ordinarily, Article 13 of the Military Courts Charter Act 1955 stipulates that military courts can only try cases involving offences under military laws or criminal laws and when offenders are under the jurisdiction of military while committing the offence.

Military courts also have the power to punish offenders on charges of contempt of court as stipulated in civil code procedures.

In simple terms, military courts ordinarily have the power over military personnel, except in cases involving a soldier and a civilian, cases that must be tried in juvenile courts or cases that involve the authority of civilian courts.

Article 36 of the Military Courts Charter Act stipulates that during an "abnormal situation" or during war or during a period in which martial law is declared, military courts have the power to try any criminal cases on the orders of the Supreme Commander or the person who declared martial law.

After the war is over or martial law is lifted, military courts have the power to try the cases that have yet to be completed or that have yet to be filed.

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-- The Nation 2014-05-27

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