BURNING ISSUE

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Sad tale of the rubber farmers: plunging prices and deaf politicians

Published มกราคม 13, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Sad-tale-of-the-rubber-farmers-plunging-prices-and-30276751.html

BURNING ISSUE

PARA rubber has been much politicised

The price of a commodity like rubber is supposed to be adjusted in accordance with market mechanisms, based on a world market. But it becomes politicised when farmers call on governments to intervene in the price whenever the level drops. In fact, the rubber sector was regulated by the Rubber Authority of Thailand, a juristic entity under the rubber laws. The Bangkok-based RAOT was authorised to manage the whole system of rubber production and rubber funding, as well as stabilise the rubber price in the domestic market.

By the book, that meant governments did not need to do anything about a plummeting price. It was the duty and responsibility of the RAOT to respond to the problem. It had a fund to help poor farmers who might be in trouble when the price was fell – or production dropped due to bad weather or disaster.

Unfortunately, a free market did not work well and politicians, elected or not, knew better about how to manipulate the commodity for their personal gain.

More than 60 per cent of rubber plantations are in the South. Trading and pricing are mostly determined in the southern markets. The South is also a major stronghold of the Democrat Party. People in the South have been voting solidly for the Democrats for decades. The party exploits this support from southerners’ for its gain, while Democrat politicians remain involved in rubber market and trading.

When Suthep and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee staged a series of political protest in Bangkok aiming to topple the government under Yingluck Shinawata in late 2013 and early 2014, he gained mass support from southerners, mostly rubber farmers.

The average price of rubber during Yingluck’s administration was Bt70-80 per kilogram. Yingluckneeded to do nothing as the price was relatively high due to strong demand from China and the rocketing price of oil — a substitute material for rubber. Indeed, at the beginning of her administration the price for rubber was over Bt100 per kilogram. Suthep and the PDRC then demanded the Yingluck government raise the price to more than Bt100 per kilogram. For political purposes, Yingluck injected funds to subsidise the farmers, but failed to satisfy them, as the objective of the protest was to unseat the PM, not lift the rubber price.

Rubber farmers in those days were in difficulty as the economy was dropping. Rubber plummeted due to its sluggish price in the world market as petroleum was also heading down and the Chinese economy — the main importer of Thai rubber – was slowing.

The average price for rubber these days is just Bt 20-30 per kilogram.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the coup leader who helped Suthep and rubber farmers to toppleYingluck from her position, came to power at a bad time for them. And, there was further bad luck, as Prayut and his crew knew little about economic management and commodity markets. His deputy Prawit Wongsuwan – who probably can’t distinguish between rubber and other trees – promised to raise the price to more than Bt80 per kilogram within one year after taking power. The price has never risen. It has gone down and down while the government’s measures have failed to raise prices by a single baht.

Rubber farmers and tappers cried and cried until their tears came near to blood. Some committed suicide, hanging themselves from rubber trees to send a deadly message to the people in power, notably their beloved Democrat politicians in their constituencies, to find solutions to help them.

Some wanted to stage rallies to push demands on the military government and called on Suthep for help. They failed in their attempts to stage the demonstrations, as the military government threatened to arrest them. Suthep even told them not to come out in protest as the government was working to help them.

But the government has no essential measures to offer them since the rubber farmers and Democrats have apparently lost their political power to pressure the regime. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t seem to realise that fact.

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Reconciliation remains a faint glimmer as more panels are created

Published มกราคม 13, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Reconciliation-remains-a-faint-glimmer-as-more-pan-30276665.html

BURNING ISSUE

ALL attempts to reconcile Thailand’s divided society appear to be going around in circles.

One of the junta’s purported reasons to stage the coup in May 2014 was to resolve the many conflicts affecting society. Yet, nothing has been accomplished so far, despite the setting up of three panels and plans for one more to study the issue.

In June last year, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) set up the Centre for Reconciliation and Reform to promote reform, unity and reconciliation at village and provincial levels. This centre came under the Defence Ministry’s responsibility as well as under the Internal Security Operations Command.

The centre held several activities, including providing free food and a concert, in a move to bring conflicting sides together. However, its most well-known achievement, so far, has been to invite those opposed to the junta for “attitude adjustment”.

Then a sub-panel tasked with promoting reconciliation was set up under the now-defunct National Reform Council (NRC), which has since been replaced by the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA). This panel, chaired by Anek Laothamatas, was dissolved after the first draft charter was shot down by previous reformers and the NRC disbanded.

Anek’s panel had come up with a six-point report on reconciliation, which included building public understanding about the cause of political conflicts, establishing the facts about violent incidents, and an amnesty plan for protesters who did not face corruption, severe criminal or lese majeste charges. Yet nobody looked into the proposal or ways to implement it.

Once the present Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) was set up to write a new draft, chief drafter Meechai Ruchuphan set up another sub-panel to find ways to bring society together. This was the third reconciliation panel since the coup.

And just last week, yet another proposal for setting up a fourth reconciliation committee was floated. This idea came from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), with NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai saying the aim of the panel was to seek ways to promote reconciliation and mend rifts in society.

This panel will invite more than 20 representatives from all concerned political parties and groups to participate. The assembly then aims to come up with a solution to propose to the NCPO and the government in 180 days. The NLA is set to discuss today whether the panel should be established.

If it does approve this panel, then it will mean that four of the “five rivers” of authority – the NCPO, the NRC, the CDC and the NLA – will all have studied the issue of reconciliation.

The question is whether any of these studies will ever be implemented.

Here’s a timely reminder of a previous events that might be instructive.

Back in July 2010, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government appointed former attorney-general Kanit na Nakhon as chair of the Truth for Reconciliation Committee of Thailand (TRCT) – this was two months after the red-shirt riots left 92 dead and some 2,000 injured.

The TRCT was subsequently backed by the Yingluck Shinawatra government, but it was given no powers to consider amnesty for those involved in politically-related violence.

In 2012, the commission released its final report on political violence and its key points were similar to those proposed by other panels – mainly that those “who committed crimes due to political motivation” be treated differently from other criminals.

The TRCT’s final report also looked to be treating both sides of the political divide in a balanced way, holding both red-shirt supporters and government forces, including the military, responsible for escalating the situation. But handling of the matter has clearly been linked to political will.

Perhaps, the current rulers should consider these studies and take real action instead of setting up more |panels.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has always said that all criminals need to serve their time before receiving pardons.

Although many people agree with him on this point, more flexible measures can also be taken. For instance, ordinary protesters who have committed minor offences could be spared legal action. Also, no double standards should be employed when dealing with conflicting sides.

This is, perhaps, the only way reconciliation will manifest into reality, otherwise hopes to achieve a peaceful society will remain a faint glimmer.

Plastic money set to become a way of life

Published มกราคม 8, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Plastic-money-set-to-become-a-way-of-life-30276387.html

BURNING ISSUE

IN 2020, we might see a lot more use of plastic money instead of cash to pay for our food, travel, daily-use products, medicare services and debts towards taxes.

Growing payment systems via the Internet will bring more convenience to people. When we pay for food or mass-transit tickets, we just put a card on a device and money for the transaction will be deducted from our account. No more need to find and wait for change.

The government has just woken up to evaluate what it had not done and what needs to be done next to create a national e-Payment system. Meanwhile, the private sector has take long strides using the Internet network. Business models have been given a face-lift. Online shopping platforms are gaining popularity among people worldwide, including Thais, in response to changes in their lifestyles. So, e-Payment is much more important than before in a bid to serve the increasing number of e-business transactions. Many private banks have developed their own online payment applications for smartphones for both corporate and individual clients.

According to a PayPal survey, current online transactions in Thailand were valued at Bt14.7 billion or Bt13,181 per person. Of that, 71 per cent were from middle-income earners. Most of the transactions were executed through bank online payments.

Under the Prayut-led government, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees economic affairs, was appointed chairman of a committee carrying out the National e-Payment Master Plan as soon as the plan was approved in principle by the Cabinet last month.

The plan aims to develop the country’s one-stop e-Payment services, which will include: payment infrastructure development; increased efficiency in the e-Tax System; social welfare registration; financial inclusion; and a cashless society.

The National e-Payment Master Plan is part of Bank of Thailand’s third-stage financial system development plan for the period 2016-20 in accordance with the government policy to push for the “digital economy”.

At the first stage, we should see the development of the e-Payment system in the form of “Any ID” – any ID of users such as mobile phone number, bank account or ID number that ties in with a card – in the next six months of this year, as per the Finance Ministry’s schedule. However, it is not clear which kind of card – debit or credit – it will be.

The e-Payment system will benefit the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the government sector. In fact, the national e-Payment system should benefit the government sector the most, as it can have data of both individuals and businesses in a bid to outline key policies on income distribution and taxation.

The government, however, can use the e-Payment system to help uncover flaws in income distribution via taxing policies and measures in the past as well as pulling all targeted businesses and individuals into the tax system.

Many governments failed to expand the tax collection base of both corporates and individuals. Out of a total population of 66 million as of fiscal 2012, only 3.2 million persons pay personal income tax, with total receipts of Bt197.88 billion. Those who earn more than Bt4 million a year are subjected to a 35-per-cent tax, but they actually paid only 27.82 per cent on average after availing themselves of the full benefits from tax deduction measures.

Among corporates, 2.7 million are SMEs of whom 400,000 are registered with the Business Development Department and some 200,000 are now active. However, only 80,000 of them are taxpayers.

Beyond convenience, we will be challenged for “accuracy” in the data collecting system. We can use e-Invoicing, e-Receipt, and e-Tax system, which means those in the system will find it hard to avoid tax payments. Also, corruption would be automatically reduced if the government adopts e-Payment in its procurement system.

Not only will the government target for efficient tax collection materialise, but it will also help income distribution to the grassroots in a form of populist policy through taxation measures. Those who are classified as negative income earners may be given some kind of aid. Meanwhile, the rich, especially those who own businesses, as well as celebrities, superstars and singers, may be not allowed many tax shields.

After all, it would be great if the government started the e-Payment system by means of paying back the excess annual personal income taxes directly to the taxpayers via their personal bank accounts instead of using bank cheques. This will help the government save money, which was collected from taxpayers.

From deep in Democrat Party, rumblings for leadership change

Published มกราคม 7, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/From-deep-in-Democrat-Party-rumblings-for-leadersh-30276308.html

BURNING ISSUE

RECENT REPORTS that Surin Pitsuwan was preparing to contest for the Democrat Party’s leadership have uncovered attempts for change within the party.

Surin, a former foreign minister who was previously secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), has denied the reports – but many political observers are still convinced elements in the country’s oldest political party are pushing for a change of leadership.

Changes within a political party are not unusual. They are part of the democratic principle. Most parties often see changes at the top, except for parties that are “family run” or “owned” by wealthy politicians.

It is undeniable that the Democrat Party is now at a very low point in its 69-year history. Many people view the party as undemocratic, as several of its politicians took part in the street protests led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee against the Yingluck Shinawatra government that eventually led to the military coup in May 2014.

Many people view the party as inefficient, pointing to the government’s unsatisfactory performance while the Democrats were in power.

Many of the party’s former supporters now seem to admire General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who became prime minister after the coup he led as Army chief. Those people are calling for politicians, including the Democrats whom they once admired, to end their political activities.

This is a big problem for the Democrat Party in particular, as well as other political parties in general. People who once supported a political party in the democratic system are now backing a prime minister who did not gain power through election.

In fact, many Democrat figures are aware of the problem and they want to see changes for the better. Obviously, they know that if they allow things to continue the way they are, the party will be in a difficult position in the next general election.

Not only will they lose again, the Democrats are unlikely to be able to retain their number-two position, should a new political party with military connections be formed to contest the next election.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was a strong hope for the party in the past, but he is no longer. That is why there have been moves to seek changes at the party’s helm, supposedly in a bid to regain its former image.

In addition to the news about Surin, there have been calls for another noted Democrat figure, Supachai Panitchpakdi, to contest the party’s leadership. Supachai served as deputy prime minister and commerce minister in a Democrat-led government. He later became director of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and secretary general of the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). However, Supachai does not seem so keen to make a political comeback.

For the Democrats, changes at the top may be insufficient to restore their past greatness. The party needs to change its attitude. It should believe more in democracy and stop relying on special powers to solve crises.

Its members need to be aware that their electoral losses have not necessarily been caused by money politics, as they always believed. In the recent past, losses were mainly due to their own actions and standpoints that kept the party increasingly separate from the people.

Testing times in China but US economy warming up

Published มกราคม 6, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Testing-times-in-China-but-US-economy-warming-up-30276216.html

BURNING ISSUE

CHINA STARTED 2016 with a 7 per cent plunge in stock prices on Monday, raising the spectre of major economic challenges in the new year. Among the major issues are China’s over-capacity and rising non-performing loans (NPLs) amid global economic uncertainty.

Officially, China’s GDP could slow to an annual rate of 6.9 per cent in 2016 from more than 7 per cent. The official figures are, however, still a very bullish projection compared to estimates of western investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, which suggest that China’s growth rate would more likely be in the range of 3 to 5 per cent this year.

According to Christopher Balding, an associate professor of Peking University’s HSBC Business School, who closely monitors the Chinese economy, fiscal measures and monetary tools will be used to stimulate China’s domestic economy to help offset a likely drop in Chinese exports, which were flat in 2015.

At present, exports account for around 25 per cent of China’s GDP, while domestic consumption accounts for about half of GDP.

As an export-led economy for several decades, China has shifted to rebalance its economy with a focus on boosting domestic consumption.

For Thailand, the consequences will be mixed. Given that China is currently the largest market for Thai exports, accounting for about 10 per cent of total shipments, a Chinese slowdown would be negative for a recovery in the Thai export sector, which endured a contraction last year.

However, there is some indication that Thai shipments to other major markets such as the US may pick up due to a stronger economic outlook following last month’s hike of the Fed fund rate – the first increase in nine years.

US GDP is poised for a stronger growth rate of 2.4 per cent this year.

While the prospects of Thai exports to China may not be encouraging, Chinese companies will likely accelerate investment projects and acquisition of assets in Thailand, especially those for import substitution, natural resources, agriculture, hightechnology manufactur?ing, and property investment, as it diversifies the economy to reduce depend?ence on exports.

Because of rapid economic development over the past few decades, China has also faced the challenge of high wages, prompting some western firms to shift their production to Mexico to serve consumers in North America.

Rising wages in China have also boosted the attractiveness of manufacturing facilities in Aseancountries, including Thailand.

In addition, the Thai tourism industry should continue to benefit from an increase in Chinese tourist arrivals, which reportedly totalled seven million last year. The number of outbound tourists from China is expected to post double-digit growth this year.

New target groups for Thai tourism should include middle-upper income travellers from China, who would be less affected by an economic slump.

Among their favourite destinations in Asia are Thailand, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

Overall, China’s economic challenges and rebalancing ought to be well understood, so as to take advantage of new opportunities and minimise potential risks.

In the end, China’s role in helping to drive global economic growth may be reduced, as the US economy regains strength and becomes a more powerful locomotive in this year.

Children need a culture that boosts self-expression, self-confidence

Published มกราคม 5, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Children-need-a-culture-that-boosts-self-expressio-30276139.html

BURNING ISSUE

THE upcoming National Children’s Day presents another opportunity for the country to contemplate how it has been shaping and cultivating its children.

If Thailand expects its citizens to become more creative, self-confident and analytical, we need to create an environment in which children can grow and feel comfortable about doing things differently and raising questions.

Take a look at the circumstances that Thai kids find themselves in.

By culture, Thais appreciate nice, polite manners, particularly among kids. Most parents, though not all, want their children to be obedient and do what they are told to do.

Most teachers also expect pretty much the same.

Children who do things their own way quickly get reprimanded, rather than taught how they should express themselves.

Arguing with parents is seen as a form of disrespect towards one’s guardians. Raise a few questions in class and teachers will wonder if a particular student is trying to challenge them.

Since 1959, the prime minister has carved out a new motto for Thai kids every year. Most of these have put an emphasis on diligence, economising, honesty and morality.

For last year’s Children’s Day, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha gave the slogan “With knowledge and morality comes a brighter future”.

To mark Children’s Day this Saturday, his slogan is “Good kids shall persevere and study hard for the future”.

All the qualities mentioned in these mottoes are good, but the point is that Thailand also needs other qualities to shine in the population.

Some important skills needed this century in the labour force include innovative and analytical thinking, plus creativity.

Many experts say that Thai kids should do better academically, but there is little action to nurture them that way in Thailand.

Look at how a 15-year-old schoolgirl, known widely as ‘Ploy’, recently faced the threat of a lawsuit after she participated in a citizen’s TV initiative and reported on how the waterway in her home town appeared to have been harmed by the operation of a nearby gold-mine.

The mining firm lodged a complaint against her for alleged defamation, even though her report did not mention its name at all.

A lawyer for the company even went as far as contacting her school director in a bid to arrange a meeting – to get the girl to apologise for the report.

The girl’s mother has admitted that she feels worried and hopes that her daughter will not join any further extracurricular activity.

Before ‘Ploy’ got into hot water for her courage to speak up about the adverse environmental impacts in her hometown, a Mathayom 5 student faced temporary detention for unfurling a banner at a forum attended by the prime minister.

The boy, Parit Chiwarak, showed up at the event with the hope of airing his opinions that the government should place a stronger emphasis on philosophy than on history or civic duty, but he had hardly spoken a word when security officials grabbed him.

Although Parit was released soon after, he has found that his life is not the same as it was before the incident, as police have started monitoring his activities.

In one of his Facebook posts, Parit said: “I am just an ordinary student who stood up to demand a better education for Thai students.”

He also insisted that he is not affiliated with any political group.

Despite his explanations, Parit has been attacked by several people on social media, who suspect he may have had a hidden political agenda.

While ‘Ploy’ and Parit remain firm in their intention to pursue what they believe is right, the trouble they have had to face shows that Thai society does not provide children with many opportunities to express themselves, or experiment with their ideas and develop accountability in the process.

If Thai children are to grow up to become quality and mature adults, Thai culture needs to support self-expression, self-confidence and self-esteem as much as other great virtues like honesty, responsibility and politeness.

Let’s give Thai children a precious gift. Let them learn by doing, asking questions when they need answers, exploring solutions, and experimenting with ideas, some of which may turn out to be great.

Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) president Thepchai Yong has commented that Ploy has exercised her fundamental right to express her opinion and did it with a pure intent – protecting her community and locals’ quality of life.

“If the firm thinks her opinions are not accurate, it should provide information it thinks is right to the public, to create the right understanding, instead of taking legal action,” he said.

Indeed, we must all take care not to threaten and intimidate children who speak up. We need more people who agree to nurture Thai kids the right way. More than 14,000 people have already signed an online petition to demand that the mining firm withdraw its complaint against Ploy. But we need more such people to boost Thai culture, so that our kids can grow up stronger and wiser.

With a constructive culture, kids can fully develop their potential, while acquiring accountability along the way, and eventually making a positive contribution to Thai society.

Education crucial to giving farmers genuine hope

Published ธันวาคม 30, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Education-crucial-to-giving-farmers-genuine-hope-30275640.html

BURNING ISSUE

RECENTLY I met Son Sukcharoen, an aged farmer in Ratchaburi’s Photharam district, and his petite daughter Walisa.

Unlike the father, Walisa has been trying to break away from conventional rice-farming practices, and in her efforts I could see hopes for Thai farmers who have been caught in a cycle of despair.

Walisa will turn 34 this year. Like her father, she is a farmer but more educated than him, and that has made a huge difference. It is also possibly the key to solve the doomed fate of Thai farmers.

For decades, Thai farmers have been plunged deep in debt and insecurity. According to statistics from the Farmers’ Rehabilitation and Development Fund, from 2003 to 2013 some 490,650 farmers registered with the fund, and their debt was estimated at more than Bt76 billion. Some 139,000 faced assets seizure.

The trend continues, even worsening in some parts of the country, according to the recent study by Local Action Links, a non-profit research think-tank on the plight of farmers.

Those studying the history of Thai farmers have realised that it all started when farmers were pushed to enter export-led rice production decades ago, and the hard fact is that state policies played a big role in this trend.

Farmers were encouraged to grow chemical-intensive rice, which has added to their growing debt. Farming costs have been increasing over time, partly because of loose controls and regulation in the market. Hardly any state policies have seriously addressed the issue of reducing production costs, which would be a huge relief for the farmers.

On the other hand, farmers have hardly been able to control the market as it’s largely export-based, something far beyond their knowledge and capacity to control.

So, considering both uncontrollable farming costs and fluctuating prices in the market, Thai farmers are already in a vulnerable position.

Without the know-how and high education, they are almost crippled from the start.

Several experts have been trying to address Thai farmers’ plight, and they have come up with several sets of good policy recommendations. But after meeting Walisa, I have realised that what is probably missing is a focus on education among Thai farmers.

We have heard about policies concerning reduction of farming costs, and about boosting yields and farmers’ incomes. But the most recent policy, offering price guarantee has been of no great help to the farmers due to a corresponding increase in farm costs. Farmers have been left exposed to the reality that rice prices are sharply dropping, more than 50 per cent below the previously guaranteed price of Bt15,000 to Bt20,000, while farming costs have surged more than 50 per cent for some materials.

As per current market prices, farmers can expect only around Bt6,000 to Bt7,000 per tonne, while they have to invest up to Bt5,000, leaving them a very narrow profit margin, and sometimes, almost no profit.

Walisa was judicious to exit the rice-pledging scheme before facing troubles like her father and other farmers. As a student of a non-formal educational centre in the province who managed to finish Matthayom 6 and had a chance to join the village’s community enterprise promotion centre, Walisa managed to explore how to grow pesticide-free rice. She learned to adapt her farm life to a mere 3-rai (4,800-square-metre) plot.

She has changed the method of growing rice, starting by changing from a normal white-rice variety to Riceberry, which is attractive to the high-end market. As it needs to be free from chemicals, Walisa has managed to cut costs, thus leaving for herself a wider profit margin. Now, her rice can be sold at Bt50 per kilogram and Walisa can earn up to Bt40,000 per rai.

Walisa said she understood that many farmers might still need to use some chemicals for higher yields so they could clear their debts. She said it would be helpful if the government came up with serious policies to help address the skyrocketing farm costs.

Sound policies are one thing, but self-reliance is what is needed.

Watching Walisa analysing her Riceberry yields and the income they would bring to her, I saw in her a new perspective for farmers’ lives and hopes. This cannot be possible without serious emphasis on education and learning.

The coming year promises a bumpy ride for the NCPO

Published ธันวาคม 30, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/The-coming-year-promises-a-bumpy-ride-for-the-NCPO-30275572.html

BURNING ISSUE

POLITICAL ACTIVITIES have been effectively frozen since the military coup in May last year, at the order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

However, many political observers doubt whether the ongoing calm is genuine. The situation appears peaceful because the NCPO has used its power to prohibit any political moves. Over the past year, it regularly summoned people who disagreed with it for so-called attitude adjustment. Those detained included politicians, protest leaders and political activists.

In response to the latest controversy involving the Army’s Rajabhakti Park project, a number of activists have been arrested, including a few men who distributed a diagram explaining alleged legal irregularities. A small group of student activists were prevented from travelling to the park in Hua Hin district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, as they tried to scrutinise the project. The activists’ moves caused ripples and seem to have provided some headaches for the NCPO and the government.

This particular issue is likely to heat up Thai politics next year – and the NCPO does not appear to be able to come to terms with it. What it has done is to deal with the people who campaigned about what they saw as a scandal.

If the NCPO continues failing to clear public suspicion about this alleged scandal, the dissatisfaction certainly will grow and the pressure on its members will rise further. Suppressing corruption is a key selling point for the NCPO, and this has given it legitimacy in running the country.

Also, the country’s economy has weakened and shows no sign of recovery any time soon. Despite several government stimulus projects, the economic situation has remained unchanged. The economic problems will eventually lead to increased dissatisfaction with the government.

Any unexpected factor in the future could put the government in the hot seat. And the undercurrents will re-emerge and become a severe problem. As past administrations learned the hard way, even the slightest problem could grow out of control if dealt with incorrectly.

Moreover, two other issues will prove to be key turning points for Thai politics next year – the national referendum on the new constitutional draft, and the Supreme Court verdict in the rice-pledging case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The charter draft being written by the Constitution Drafting Commission, headed by Meechai Ruchupan, will definitely be put up to a referendum next year. Unlike the previous draft, which was voted down by the National Reform Council, this new one will not need approval from any post-coup agency.

In the run-up to the referendum, we can expect campaigns by supporters and detractors of the constitution draft, and political parties certainly will become actively involved in the campaigning.

If the draft fails to pass the national plebiscite, the NCPO and the government will remain in power. But they will be viewed with suspicion that they want to cling on to power. Even if the draft manages to pass the vote, there could be suspicions the new constitution was drafted in a way that allowed the NCPO’s “inheritance” to remain in Thai politics.

Another key turning point will be a ruling by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders in a case against Yingluck stemming from her government’s corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme. The trial, in which the ex-PM will be accused of negligence, is expected to end in November next year and the verdict is likely in late 2016 or early 2017.

If the verdict is against Yingluck, her supporters are unlikely to stay idle. In 2010, the red-shirt supporters of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, began street protests just days after the same court ruled against him and ordered the seizure of Bt46 billion in assets found to have been gained dishonestly. The street protests, lasting more than two months, grew to become political unrest and riots, during which more than 90 people were killed and some 2,000 others injured.

So, 2016 certainly will not be another easy year for the NCPO and the government.

Status quo maintained in ties with US and Cambodia

Published ธันวาคม 30, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Status-quo-maintained-in-ties-with-US-and-Cambodia-30275474.html

BURNING ISSUE

THE 5th Thailand-United States Strategic Dialogue

But, it’s hard to say that this government has successfully achieved any?thing in its foreign relations.

Although general relations with the US remain normal, Washington was required by law to freeze military assistance to Thailand and scaled down the annual Cobra Gold military exercise. It is a policy of the Obama administration to comment on Thai democracy.

A joint statement issued after the strategic dialogue in Bangkok last Wednesday indicated that both sides affirmed their enduring treaty alliance and the strategic importance of their relations. It said they wanted to expand areas of cooperation in public health workforce development, medical research, a creative economy, prevention and suppression of trafficking in people and forced labour, law enforcement cooperation, and training through the International Law Enforcement Academy, as well as trade and investment.

On the security front, the two sides reaffirmed the value of Thailand-US defence cooperation and looked forward to continuing implementation of the 2012 Joint Vision Statement – by strengthening cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, global peacekeeping, and military medical research, among other defence engagements.

However, it is also very normal to hear comments on Thai democracy and human rights practice from the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, who led the US delegation to the meeting.

Russel, who never offered any support to the coup makers and establishment elite in Bangkok over their political difficulties, said full cooperation between the US and Thailand would be resumed only when Thailand returned to democracy.

Senior officials in the military government and Foreign Ministry might be disappointed with Russel’s perception of the Thai political situation and his role in implementing US policy toward Thailand. However all efforts to convince the US senior diplomat about political reform and democracy restoration will totally fail as long as the military regime is still in power and human rights are widely violated.

It is embarrassing to say this government respects human rights and is performing a reform agenda for democracy as long as the lese majeste law is abused and people are prohibited and arrested for exercising their right of expression. Nobody on earth would believe that reform for democracy could happen under such authoritarian circumstances.

The visit of the Cambodian premier over the weekend was more impressive for Prime Minister PrayutChan-o-cha who claimed in exaggerated fashion that relations with Phnom Penh were the best in 65 years of diplomatic contact – although the visit brought no new initiative to the relationship. All pacts of cooperation were initiated by previous governments and all left-over problems have yet to be resolved.

The 2013 judgement of the International Court of Justice on the controversial Preah Vihear has still to be implemented. While news reports say that Cambodia has reduced its number of troops at the areas near the historic Hindu temple on the border, Thai tourists were prohibited from visiting the site from the Thai side. Agreement on the vicinity around Preah Vihear has not been achieved, as per the court’s ruling. Perhaps Prayut‘s government, like many others in the past, will fail to resume negotiations also on the overlapping continental shelf in the

Gulf of Thailand with Cambodia.

As long as fundamental issues like Preah Vihear remain, nationalist proponents like Veera Somkwamkid are still active and domestic political differences have not been settled, so relations with Cambodia will remain at risk.

The best New Year’s gift for Thai people

Published ธันวาคม 30, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/The-best-New-Years-gift-for-Thai-people-30275392.html

BURNING ISSUE

PRETTY SOON, Thailand will enter a new period of “Seven Dangerous Days” with all the usual huge publicity to remind motorists they should help to promote road safety.

Authorities are always eager to highlight such campaigns ahead of festive seasons such as the New Year holidays, during which large numbers of people will hit the roads. But have these concerned authorities done their job fully in preventing road accidents?

As I was driving along the Bang Na – Bang Pa-in Motorway yesterday, I noticed that signs reading “construction ahead” were installed again at a spot just a few hundred metres away from an actual construction site. Vehicles on that motorway move at the speed of no less than 100 kilometres an hour. So when the signs are only visible so close to the site, there is a real risk of accidents.

According to the Highways Department, such signs should be installed at least one kilometre ahead of the actual construction areas on the motorway, and there must be several signs to alert motorists, installed 300 metres apart.

As a frequent user of this motorway, I have seen several accidents take place there.

When I turned into the Bang Na – Trat Road yesterday, I also noticed that some repair work was underway on inbound lanes in front of Rajavinit Road – without any signs to remind motorists.

Such flaws in the road-warning system reminded me of how many times I have felt scared when driving along the Bang Na – Bang Pa-in Motorway at night and seen lighting that signalled construction work ahead at very short notice. What would have happened to me if I could not have switched to another lane in time?

So very often, road accidents happen because authorities concerned provide less than perfect driving lanes.

Inappropriately-placed barriers, poorly signalled road repairs and insufficient lighting are quite common on our roads. Most motorists must have noticed such things before. The fortunate ones are still alive, but not all are lucky at all times.

In addition to human error, vehicles, road conditions and circumstances – all are factors that can cause accidents.

So while soft measures like campaigns may help curb road accidents, authorities concerned must be acutely aware that hard measures are equally needed. Please provide proper infrastructure so that we all can use the roads safely.

At present, many traffic areas in Thailand are known as “dangerous bends or curves” where many road accidents happen. In particular, people have heard about “Kong roi sop” (A curve that has claimed hundreds of lives). When agencies hear about this, they should visit the spot and examine how they can reduce accident risks. Increase lighting and install signs, if necessary. All such hard measures can help.

Don’t ignore the need to introduce hard measures. When a tour bus skidded off a mountain in Nan province last year, authorities discussed a plan to ban double-decker coaches on mountainous roads because statistics showed the vehicles were not suitable for such travel. But no ban has actually materialised since.

And just on Sunday, a double-decker tour bus crashed in a mountainous area in Chiang Mai, killing at least 14 including 13 Malaysian tourists.

According to the Global Status Report on Road Safety, Thailand ranks third worst in terms of dangerous roads. Road accidents kill 38 people per 100,000 population each year. With such notoriety, Thailand trailed behind just Eritrea (48 deaths per 100,000 population) and Libya (41 deaths per 100,000 population).

The Thai government has vowed to reduce the number of annual road deaths to no more than 10 per 100,000 by 2020.

To achieve that goal, all agencies involved as well as people in Thailand must be aware of their duty and take both soft and hard measures in the prevention of road accidents.

For motorists, respect traffic laws and ensure vehicles are in good condition. No speeding, no drink driving, and no riding without wearing safety belts or safety helmets.

For authorities, make sure road conditions are safe for all. It will very likely be one of the best New Year gifts of all for Thais.

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