Ukraine’s crumbling strategic position

Quantitative and qualitative polarization trends David Woo and David Goldman take stock of polarization trends across economic, market, and political arenas, including how Ukraine is running short of men and materiel and is facing steadily increasing Russian pressure across the frontlines. Military conflict risks: Is Beijing resigned to another DPP victory? David Woo analyses the […]

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Panel to review feedback on charter change

Panel to review feedback on charter change
A replica of the charter in the form of an accordion-style parchment sits on a golden tray under a spotlight at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Findings from public hearings on amending the charter in all four regions of the country are ready for review by parliamentarians.

Most who attended the hearings pointed to the need for the drafting assembly to draw up a new charter that could tackle problems, said Nikorn Chamnong, chairman of a sub-committee gathering opinions on the government’s proposal to amend the 2017 constitution.

Some 240 people from across the country had taken part in the hearings, said deputy government spokeswoman Rudklao Suwankiri.

They were asked whether they agreed in principle with three key aspects of the proposal, including whether to leave Sections 1 and 2 of the charter — which contain general principles and royal provisions — unchanged, and if they thought a referendum would be necessary, she said.

The findings will be discussed at a meeting of the government’s main charter amendment committee after opinions from all 500 MPs and 250 senators are received later this month, said Mr Nikorn.

Opinions from senators in particular will give a strong indication as to how the vote in parliament will fare as the current constitution requires one-third of senators, or 84, to vote in favour of the bill for it to be passed, said Mr Nikorn.

Failure to secure the required number of votes from the Senate would result in the bill being dropped, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, in his capacity as chairman of the main committee, meanwhile said he expects the group will reach a conclusion at a meeting on Dec 25.

Wuttisan Tanchai, chairman of another sub-committee studying legal matters, said the panel will on Monday meet Switzerland’s ambassador to Thailand to discuss ways of bringing down the cost of organising a referendum.

Thailand could learn from Switzerland’s experience in gathering public opinion on various matters through holding referendums, said Mr Wuttisan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin marked Constitution Day on Sunday by urging all sides to join the government’s push for a new constitution.

It is the government’s responsibility to bring in a new constitution to represent the people, but it can’t succeed without participation from all sides, he said in a Facebook post.

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Over 80,000 sign up for debt relief scheme

Over 80,000 sign up for debt relief scheme
Members of the public attend a debt mediation fair in Nonthaburi province in November last year. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

More than 82,000 people have signed up to the government’s initiative to help distressed debtors service their obligations to informal lenders since the scheme was launched nine days ago.

According to Suttipong Juljarern, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, as of 3pm on Saturday, 82,753 people with debts totalling 4.3 billion baht had registered for assistance.

Those who are interested in joining the programme have until Feb 29 to sign up. They can register in person at their local district office, through the ThaID mobile application or by calling the Interior Ministry’s Damrongtham Centre’s hotline at 1567.

Bangkokians topped the list of participants, with 5,349 people owing 363.8 million baht having signed up to join the scheme as of yesterday; followed by Nakhon Si Thammarat, with 3,473 owing a total of 183.6 million baht; and Songkhla, which had 3,473 participants who owed a total of 183.6 million baht.

Three provinces with fewer than 300 participants were Mae Hong Son (110 with an accumulated debt of 4.2 million baht, Ranong (169, with debts of 12.5 million baht), and Samut Songkhram (235, with debts worth 7.2 million baht).

Mr Suttipong called on all Thais who are struggling to service their household debts to sign up, so they can start putting their affairs back in order.

On the first day of the scheme’s launch, a total of 22,900 people registered, 21,001 of whom did so online, while 1,089 people walked in to their local district offices to sign up in person. In total, they owed 935.31 million baht, according to the ministry.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who said that informal debt was both the cause and consequence of many social and economic ills, is scheduled to unveil more measures to help debtors on Monday.

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Anti-corruption body plans public hearing on govt's 10k plan

Anti-corruption body plans public hearing on govt's 10k plan
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin elaborates on his digital wallet scheme at Government House on Nov 10. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is planning to hold a public hearing to gauge opinions about the government’s handling of its 10,000-baht digital money handout scheme as part of the NACC’s monitoring of this controversial project.

Opinions of general members of the public and experts in relevant fields recorded during the hearing will be compiled for analysis, said Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general of the NACC.

“Since the government recently said it would submit a loan bill to the House [to fund the scheme], the NACC is prepared to [scrutinise] what the government would do next with the loan,” he said.

Since the formation of a panel aimed at studying and monitoring the government’s implementation of the digital wallet scheme, the NACC has obtained and studied documents pertaining to the available details of the scheme and interviewed many state officials responsible for implementing the project, he said. They included personnel from the Ministry of Finance, the Revenue Department, the Comptroller General’s Department, the Public Debt Management Office and other experts.

So far, it remains unclear whether the government could actually implement the scheme as there are questions over who will provide the 500-million-baht funding and how the money will be distributed to the population, he said.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin admitted the government could not at this point be certain how long it would take the Council of State, the government’s legal arm, to respond to questions submitted to the council asking about a plan to borrow 500 billion baht to fund the digital handout scheme. But Mr Srettha said he was still confident the implementation of the scheme could begin in May as planned.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai earlier said a draft of the 500-billion-baht loan bill had already been submitted by Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat to the council for inspection as well.

If the council doesn’t object to any part of the bill and sends the draft back to the government, it will then proceed with submitting the bill to the House for deliberation and passing into law, he said.

However, if the council advises the government to amend the draft on any minor points, the government do as it was told, he said.

In the event the council advises against a core part in the bill, the government will later have to discuss what should be done afterwards, he said.

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Harmful levels of ultrafine dust in 31 provinces

Harmful levels of ultrafine dust in 31 provinces
People exercise on a jogging track in Nonthaburi province on Sunday morning. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

About 40% of the country was blanketed with thick and harmful levels of ultrafine dust on Sunday afternoon, according to Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda).

The public organisation reported via its website that 31 out of 77 provinces in the country, mostly in the Central Plain, were shrouded with unsafe levels of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres and less in diameter (PM2.5).

The levels ranged from 38.3 to 75.6 microgrammes of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air over the past 24 hours. The safety threshold is at 37.5µg/m³.

At 3pm the worst level, 75.6µg/m³, was recorded in Samut Prakan, followed by 73.3µg/m³ in Ang Thong, 72.9µg/m³ in Bangkok and 72.0µg/m³ in Nonthaburi.

Lower but still unsafe levels of PM2.5 were also reported in Sing Buri, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon, Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Suphan Buri, Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi, Kalasin, Petchaburi, Saraburi, Nakhon Sawan, Uttaradit, Uthai Thani, Chai Nat, Udon Thani, Sukhothai, Nong Khai, Phitsanulok, Roi Et, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chachoengsao, Nakhon Nayok, Phichit, Ubon Ratchathani and Prachin Buri.

People in the 31 provinces were advised to avoid outdoor activities. The Meteorological Department attributed the air pollution to stagnant air.

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Saudi investment minister meets Chinese commerce and industry chiefs

BEIJING: Saudi Arabia’s investment minister met with China’s commerce and industry chiefs in Beijing on Sunday (Dec 10) and discussed expanding cooperation in trade, investment and technology, the Chinese ministries said. China is willing to work with Saudi Arabia to jointly promote China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment program andContinue Reading

Chalermchai vows to turn Democrats into 'strong' opposition

Chalermchai vows to turn Democrats into 'strong' opposition
FILE PHOTO: Chalermchai Sri-on, right, stands next to former Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit in a party meeting in Bangkok in July. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Chalermchai Sri-on, the newly elected leader of the Democrat Party, has vowed to make an all-out effort to transform the party into a strong opposition.

On Sunday, the 9th leader in the 77-year history of the Democrats, Thailand’s oldest political party, posted a video on Facebook with the following message:

“I have both good news and bad news. The good news is I congratulate everyone who has been elected to the party’s executive committee. The bad news is that all of you must work hard, starting from today.

“I would like to give an assurance that this executive committee will adhere to the “ideology” and “principles” of the Democrat Party.

“The Democrat Party will never be ‘a spare part’ for any party.

“It is important for the Democrat Party to start moving immediately. I will make an all-out effort to make the Democrat Party a ‘strong’ and ‘solid’ opposition.”

The Democrat Party had failed twice in a bid to elect a new executive committee, including a new leader, due to the lack of quorum and internal rifts.

However, the party managed to overcome the hurdles in a third bid on Sunday, when Mr Chalermchai was chosen unopposed as the new party leader along with the new executive committee.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former party leader, was nominated by former party leader Chuan Leekpai as a candidate. But Mr Abhisit withdrew his candidacy and announced his resignation as a party member.

Watanya Bunnag, alias Madame Dear, was also nominated as a contender. The meeting was asked to waive the regulation requiring a candidate to be a party for at least five years. But Ms Wantaya failed to get enough votes to support the waiver.

Sathit Pitutecha, a former deputy leader of the party, also announced his resignation as a party member after Mr Chalermchai was elected as the new leader.

It was believed many other leading members of the party would follow suit.

Mr Chuan, a party list MP, said Mr Sathit’s resignation was unexpected. He said Mr Sathit initially said he would not attend the meeting on Sunday, reasoning that the votes had been fixed in Mr Chalermchai’s favour, but did attend after Mr Chuan asked him to.

But Mr Sathit attended the meeting only to announce his resignation, said Mr Chuan.

Mr Chuan said he was concerned about the party’s commitment – in place for 77 years – to adhere to clean politics and honesty.

“The Democrat Party has been recognised as a political institution not because it has long been in existence but because of its principles.

“Since all past leaders of the party adhered to honesty and won acceptance from the people, and the new leader has vowed to follow suit, I would like the new executive committee to watch out as there have been rumours that the Democrat Party would side with the government,” Mr Chuan said.

Mr Chuan said he was not happy when some Democrat MPs voted in support of Srettha Thavisin for prime minister in violation of a party resolution.

Asked whether he would stay with the Democrat Party despite the turbulence, Mr Chuan said: “I am not going anywhere. No matter what, I will stay put. I am indebted to the party. I have got what I have now by being with the party. The party has given me opportunities. It is where I was elected party leader after being considered a person who was good enough for the position. I am obligated to repay this debt in the last chapter of my political career.”

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Thai Airways apologises for burning passenger with hot coffee

Thai Airways International has apologised for an incident where hot coffee was spilled on a passenger, causing serious burns.

The public relations department of the airline said on Sunday it felt truly sorry for the incident and promised compensation for the injured passenger. It also said that the airline management was investigating the issue and would inform the injured passenger of the results.

The airline’s apology followed a complaint from the injured passenger that a flight attendant dropped a cup of hot coffee while reaching across to server another passenger in the same row of seats. The cup was served by hand instead of being placed on a tray as usual, according to the complainant.

The injured passenger on a recent Chiang Mai-bound flight from Bangkok said he suffered severe burns over many areas of his body and had to receive treatment at hospital.

The passenger said that the flight attendant failed to give him first aid in a professional manner or ensure due care from the airline.

The attendant only sent him to a wheelchair pusher at Chiang Mai airport before leaving him. He said the adjacent passenger who ordered the cup of hot coffee apologised to him repeatedly, accompanied him in an ambulance to hospital and waited until he was discharged from an emergency room.

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