All posts tagged SPECIAL REPORT

Big ramifications from our ageing society

Published มกราคม 11, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



from FB Wirat Rachburi

from FB Wirat Rachburi

from FB Wirat Rachburi

from FB Wirat Rachburi


As tradition of extended families fades, elderly may face a bleak future

THAILAND has become an ageing society well before it can join the ranks of rich and developed nations. Hence, the social and economic ramifications of a growing elderly population will be massive in the coming decades.

Available figures suggest that the number of Thais aged over 65 will double from 7 per cent in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2025.

The elderly usually require support, welfare and care. Also, financially speaking, it is very difficult for the elderly to find a job, while physically it gets difficult for them to get around. With age, one’s physical health goes into decline, raising the need for medical help.

“The older one becomes, the bigger the risk of developing chronic diseases,” Prof Dr Kua Wongboonsin, a deputy director of Sasin’s Administrative Affairs at Chulalongkorn University’s College of Population Studies, warned at a recent seminar.

Statistics show that the government spent Bt217 billion on state welfare for the elderly in 2014 alone and it is estimated that by 2021, expenditures on this will double – a rate far higher than the growth of state income.

Currently, the government is handing out a monthly subsidy of between Bt600 and Bt1,000 for those above the age of 60.

Essentially, the state has to shoulder a financial burden of Bt61 billion per year – a sum that is bound to rise as the elderly population increases.

Officially, anybody above the age of 60 is considered elderly. However, several experts working in this field have strongly recommended that the word “elderly” cover those above the age of 65. This new definition could make a big difference because people between 60 and 65 in age wouldn’t be forced to retire and can keep working.

Lack of savings

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) also pointed out that the growing elderly population will have an adverse overall economic impact on Thailand as there will be a shortage of labour and reduced economic productivity.

According to experts, if the word elderly is redefined, then Thailand will have a bigger labour force. Also, this new definition would be better for people in general because it will give them more time to prepare for their retirement.

The Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute said 2013 statistics showed that two thirds of Thais of at least 60 years of age had no savings.

Also, Thai society is no longer made of extended families, where grown-up children live with their elderly parents and take care of them. Hence, if an elderly person does not have a nest egg of their own, they face a real risk of suffering in their old age.

Despite receiving a monthly government subsidy, few elderly Thais have enough to scrape by.

With the minimum daily wage at Bt300 per day, the elderly just cannot make do with the tiny subsidy the government provides.

When South Korea and Singapore first entered the greying-society group in 1990, the per capita income was US$10,160 and $23,420 (Bt366,850 and Bt845,740) respectively. However, when the Thai society began greying, its per capita income stood at just $1,900.

A ‘longevity society’

Anusan Thienthong, director general of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry’s Department of Older Persons, said the government needs to seriously prepare for the growing elderly population.

“For instance, we need to encourage people to start saving for their future from the age of 15,” he said, adding that retirement age should also be extended in the private sector and that the government can encourage this by offering companies tax incentives.

Government agencies have recently come up with initiatives related to the elderly, including the launch of a model school for the young and community funds for the elderly. There are also efforts to repair the homes of elderly people and provide free and improved infrastructure at public parks.

Yet, all these efforts are dwarfed by the fact that the country’s elderly population is growing at a significantly fast rate.

Hence, apart from redefining the word elderly and providing assistance for the greying population, Kua also strongly recommends that Thailand adopt the attitude that it is becoming a longevity society, not an ageing one.

“We need to ensure that the elderly contribute to society instead of becoming a burden,” he said, adding that this could be done in many different ways.

For instance, he said, commu-nities could be given a financial bonus if they were able to cut down on healthcare costs. This will encourage their members, including the elderly, to take care of themselves better.


‘Tough year ahead’ for junta

Published มกราคม 1, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Charter plebiscite and struggling economy will pose challenges, observers predict

WHILE 2015 was tough and the military-installed government could barely get through it, the new year will not bring the junta much joy either. Not only is the new constitution very likely to arouse a political storm, critics agree economic problems will add to the woes facing the government and the country this year.

“Like threading a needle, economic difficulty cannot be overcome when politics is rocking,” said Nikron Chamnong, a veteran politician who is an adviser to the Chartthai Pattana Party and a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly.

The bread-and-butter issues this year will be integrated with and magnified by political heat, especially over the constitution, he said. When the first and final drafts of the new charter are out, controversy can be anticipated, “and this will make it hard for the government to focus on threading the economic needle”, Nikorn said.

Besides, all the uncertainty about the constitution – whether it will pass a referendum and what is the plan exactly if it fails – also affects the confidence in the government when it is in the middle of reinvigorating the economy, he said. And with all these issues, the political tide will flow very strongly this year, the veteran politician concluded.

Suriyasai Katasila, director of Rangsit University’s Thailand Reform Institute, shared similar thoughts. He said the loss of faith in the government because of its poor economic performance would continue to shake confidence in other aspects. This will make it hard for the government to run the country smoothly, he said.

Similarly, independent scholar Sirote Klampaiboon predicted that economic issues would be a huge deal for the government this year. Public dissatisfaction will become more explicit and people will be more expressive about it as long as the military-installed regime stays in power, he said.

Although the problem may not be the fault of the government, people will still look for someone or something to blame when they feel their bank accounts are running low, he said. Usually, the government is the first target in such circumstances.

He added that these problems were aggravated by the issue of the minimum wage. It has not been adjusted for a couple of years now, which affects at least 13 million people. Thus dissatisfaction will reveal itself this year, one way or another, the scholar said.

And that outlook does not include the issue of agricultural-product prices. There has not been any sign the situation will improve, he said. Ultimately, it will have political repercussions when people start to question whether the drought was natural or resulted from the government neglecting water management, Sirote said.

For the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship chairman Jatuporn Promphan, it has always been clear that all issues of economy, society, and politics are aligned, leaving the country in the muddle. There are no signs of improvement, he said.

“Under the incompetent junta government, even absolute power in its hands does not yield anything … The economy is really bad and the government is hallucinating enough to say that the people’s satisfaction is more than 99 per cent. The circumstance here is that there is no future,” the red-shirt figure said.

While he believes international pressure will affect the country’s economy this year, former prime minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed a different perspective on its impact. He said that under coercion, the government would ease up on freedom of expression in the country. This would make it more difficult and challenging for the government, he said.

On political issues, the critics agreed that the focal point this year would lie in the new constitution being written by Meechai Ruchupan’s Constitution Drafting Committee.

Sirote took the view that regardless of whether the next charter will be Meechai’s draft or that of anyone else picked by the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), controversy will be stirred up.

For the charter being drafted by the CDC, the dangerous points include an outside or unelected prime minister, and senators who are not directly elected. The scholar believes these issues will accelerate political confrontation.

But if the charter is rejected by a national plebiscite and the junta opts for adopting one of the previous constitutions, the clash could be put aside for a while, he believes.

By “clash” and “confrontation”, he said he did not necessarily suggest it would mean street demonstrations. “All I can say is that discontent would rise up. [If there are] street protests, they will be the result of many factors combining together,” Sirote said.

Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, a senior political scientist who in 2013 joined the People’s Democratic Reform Committee to protest against corruption, agreed that constitutional matters would turn up the political temperature.

He remarked that the junta-imposed 2014 interim constitution stipulated that for the new charter to pass a plebiscite, a majority vote from eligible voters was required. Sombat said this was almost impossible and might cause an issue when the charter entered a referendum this year.

And if the charter does not pass, for whatever reason, more problems would follow, as the government had no clear plan of what it would do.

For the Thailand Reform Institute’s Suriyasai, no matter how the referendum turns out, there will be aftershocks. He said that if the poll failed, it would put pressure on the government. The vote result could prove public discontent towards the junta, he said. In political issues such as the Rajabhakti Park scandal involving the Army, and the case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra over the rice-pledging scheme, Suriyasai said there would almost certainly be repercussions.

Abhisit said if no transparency were provided in the Rajabhakti case, the country could be weakened as faith in the government and the NCPO would be lost. So he urged that the military reforms itself to set an example for politicians.

In contrast, Sirote took the view that the two major cases would not have much political impact.

For the rice-pledging scheme, it was just another issue, among many others, that Shinawatra supporters would be upset about. There have been many times that the Shinawatra camp was attacked and discontent was stirred up, but then the powers-that-be were still able to remain in power, he said.

The park scandal, too, would not have an impact as the government had all the media under its control. It would end the same way as the GT200 bomb-detector case where no culprits were found, Sirote said. This was also because no independent agencies stepped in to investigate.

He added that all in all, the junta’s supporters would stick to their ground on the condition that the military-installed regime could block the Shinawatra camp from politics. As long as Prime MinisterPrayut Chan-o-cha could resist Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, the general’s supporters this year would continue to advocate him – unless an alternative or rising star were found who could do the job, he said.

What’s more worrisome this year are international deals like the double-track railways and other major infrastructure projects, Sirote said. Although they have not gained much public attention up to now, they could be used against the junta any time as the country falls into an inferior position with the unreasonable interest rates extracted by China.

Together with the rising bread-and-butter issues, people could express their disaffection about such deals this year, Sirote said.

Farmers need more than just ‘rhetoric’

Published ธันวาคม 30, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Activists say structural changes and political will needed to end cycle of debt and poverty

IT’S AN ENDLESS cycle. Year after year, the story of Thai farmers generally goes like this. First, farmers are uneducated and getting older. They know nothing about anything except growing rice so they grow rice and sell it without any knowledge or controls over the market.

As the price of their rice keeps falling, they make less profits. And when they get less profits, they become more indebted. Over time, their debts do not decrease at all because investment costs keep increasing.

As their debts keep increasing, farmers desperately try to pay off their debts. The easiest and most popular way to do this is to mortgage their land with loan sharks. But as they still cannot pay off their debts, their land is seized. Without land, farmers are plunged deeper into debt. Life becomes less secure and more futile, and some decide to end it all.

“We have interviewed four farmers who tooked loans provided by loan sharks, and all of them have attempted to kill themselves,” said Pongtip Samranjit, director of Local Action Links, a non-profit research think tank on the plight of Thai farmers.

Her latest study on the farm debt trend last year revealed that Thai farmers generally bear debts on their shoulders and this has become heavier over time because of increasing farm investment costs. They have also lost their farmland following their inability to pay off debts, increasing insecurity in life.

As a farm advocate who has been monitoring the plight of Thai farmers for many years, Pongtip has tried to sum up this endless cycle in order to address its causes and present them to policy makers.

Pongtip believes these are structural problems that need a serious political will to address. For instance, she said, most farm materials are in the hands of giant companies, and farmers have no choice but to buy these items at the set price.

Surprisingly, the government has failed to address this problem seriously despite the fact that it is so obvious and blatant, even to ordinary people.

Pongtip wondered if this was because some companies have connections to political parties or have made donations that could encourage political leaders to turn a blind eye to the plight of the farmers.

Instead, she said, they tend to go for increasing yield policies or come up with price guarantees offered, which are often seen as tools to win votes.

“I personally believe that they can think of all these as they have a lot of officials with doctorate degrees. The question is why they don’t do it. Is this because it would affect their political bases? If they do, it would change everything and help lift farmers’ incomes and quality of life,” said Pongtip.

Pongtip sees no difference between these and the controversial rice-pledging scheme, which was exciting at first but did not change anything fundamentally. She said the military-installed government seems on the surface to be addressing the farmers’ plight and its causes, but so far no concrete actions have been taken.

For instance, she said, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha keeps talking about reducing farm investment costs, which appears to be a step in the right direction. However, it is not enough to just ask for cooperation from companies.

The reality is that farmers are still facing high farm production costs, which unreasonably went up after the launch of the rice-pledging scheme.

Pongtip urged Prayut to immediately to help farmers by lifting the burden of debt off their shoulders because most of their debtors are under the government’s directives.

The government should also help control the cost of farm materials in the market so that farmers would not be additionally loaded with farm investment costs.

In the long run, Pongtip said, the government must address the loss of farmland issue as this is directly linked with the insecurities of farm life. And last but not least, it must also address farmers’ education and learning, so that farmers can be empowered and become more self-reliant.

“In the end, it’s down to addressing the right policy, what kind of farming we are going to proceed with,” said Pongtip. “But I must tell you that it’s not all about farm production and yields. We must also take care of the farmers’ lives. The question is, what kind of life do we and farmers want to see in the future?”

Krissana Kaudlim, leader of the Photharam Agri-Nature Learning Group in Ratchaburi’s Photharam district, urged the government to focus on empowering farmers.

Krissana views farmers’ learning and establishing groups to increase their bargaining power as an effective approach to break the cycle.

However, based on his own experiences during the last few years, government policies such as the rice pledging scheme have killed the farmers’ learning process.

Local leaders, he said, are particularly influential in addressing government policies in local areas and they are still in favour of quick gains from policies.

To make farmers’ empowerment successful, Krissana said, we must make these leaders understand the point, but he acknowledged that it won’t be easy.

“When it comes to money-driven policies, it’s very highly politically charged,” Krissana said.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya on Thursday explained to the National Legislative Assembly’s meeting about the ministry’s latest agenda to address the farmers’ plight.

He said to increase farmers’ incomes and quality of life, the ministry has come up with four main approaches. The ministry is working in collaboration with the Commerce Ministry to reduce farm production costs, he said, without elaborating on the details.

He said the ministry has also instructed its own agencies to integrate their work to improve farmers’ fundamental materials such as quality of soil as well as quality of seeds in the hope of increasing production yields.

In addition, it has come up with over 200 pilot farm plots, under which integrated and modern farm management will be implemented. In 2009, he expects to see at least one such farm plot in every province.

The ministry conceded that farmers involved in single crop production cannot stand on their own feet easily anymore because they earn only a narrow profit from the same old farm practice while their living expenses keep increasing.

So, the ministry is trying to come up with integrated farming practices to increase farmers’ chances of survival.

“We will look at farmers’ life with a new and different vision,” said the agriculture minister. “We will not focus only on high farm prices. We will rather see how to help farmers earn enough income, while being able to stand on their own two feet.”

This is the last part of a series on rice-pledging scheme.

‘Awful’ GMO legislation will open the door to problems, law professor warns

Published ธันวาคม 19, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



THE Biological Safety Bill will allow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to damage the nation’s ecology and those who will suffer the most are farmers, a law professor warned.

Somchai Ratanasuesakul, a law lecturer at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, cautioned that the bill, which recently received Cabinet approval, will cause incorrigible ecological damage and severely harm agriculture, the nation’s core economy.

“There is a very high possibility that this bill will open the door for GMO liberalisation in the future in order to benefit giant biotechnology transnational companies to expand their market in Thailand,” Somchai said in a recent interview.

“This bill is not drafted to prevent the possible harm of GMOs as its title indicates; instead, it will intentionally open many legal gaps for biotechnology businesses to open up the market in Thailand and escape without any punishment if their products turn out to be environmentally harmful.”

Somchai, who is well known for his opposition to biological patents and GMOs, said the bill would not respect the precautionary principle. He said it must be regarded as very dangerous and harmful until scientific proof clearly points out that it is safe. Therefore, it any possible negative impacts should be treated very cautiously.

“GMOs should be treated with caution because if one ‘leaks’ into the environment, it is impossible to get rid of the contamination,” he said.

“This bill states that it allows GMOs to be used out in an open environment, if lab tests prove that it is safe. But what if [a GMO] is found to be harmful later? There is no indication of such a case in the bill and those responsible can walk free.”

Describing the content of the bill as “awful”, Somchai said the country needs the Biological Safety Act, but the content of the bill should be revised to ensure that the precautionary principle is followed.

Somchai is also concerned that the bill is a “daydream turned nightmare” for Thai farmers, because they will not get high yields and disease-tolerant crops as promised. Instead, GM crops would raise their expenses with less-than-expected produce.

He argued that if we open the country to GMOs, biotechnology conglomerates such as Monsanto would be able to control Thai seed market and cause seed prices to rise.

“Many studies show that even in the United States, GM plants do not produce a better harvest than normal crops. Furthermore, GM seeds usually sell with specific fertilisers and other chemical products that will increase the cost of farming,” he said.

Also, many foreign markets such as Europe lean toward organic products and 16 EU countries have already banned GMOs. Even in the US, more consumers avoid GM products and go for organic food.

“The farmers are more likely to go bankrupt than get rich,” he said.

Stigma, budget threats still hamper HIV/Aids struggle

Published ธันวาคม 18, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



DESPITE growing public understanding, the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids patients is still widespread and unrelenting.

Large numbers continue to face mandatory blood tests before they can be recruited to a firm or get accepted for ordination at temples. Children are not spared. They have trouble finding a place at schools as soon as others learn of their infection.

Apiwat Kwangkeaw, who heads the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/Aids (TNP+), says discrimination continues to be a big issue.

“A third-year university student was fired after his university found out about his infection in 2010,” he said.

The student was forced to move to another province and enrol at another university.

The Central Administrative Court has punished the university only for disclosing the student’s HIV-positive status to others. The court ruled that the university had the right to dismiss the student.

“I have appealed against the court ruling. I think the university is discriminatory,” Apiwat said.

He complained that discrimination was widespread at primary schools as well as temples.

“If people can’t turn to temples for solace, where else can they turn to?” Apiwat lamented.

He believed that more serious campaigns must be waged to increase better public understanding of HIV/Aids.

People do not die because of HIV. They succumb to the Aids virus, which develops only after HIV badly weakens the infected victim’s immune system. If HIV-positive sufferers get proper treatment from the very onset, they can continue to live a normal life for a very long time. They can work and contribute to society.

More than 400,000 people are living with HIV in Thailand at present.

Apiwat said so many of these people were of working age and society should embrace them.

“If you don’t allow them to work, how can they live?” he said.

While Apiwat estimated the number of employers requiring blood tests during the recruitment process was declining, AidsAccess director Nimit Tienudom blamed some state agencies for condoning the practice.

According to Nimit, some agencies have tended to see such discrimination as a move to protect those without the disease.

“It is not right to protect the rights of some people by violating the rights of others,” he said, “We need to create the right understanding here,” he said.

Nimit pointed out that HIV/Aids campaigns or prevention efforts should not focus just on groups like sex workers, drug abusers, and homosexuals.

“Otherwise, other people will think they are not at risk,” he said.

According to the national committee on Aids prevention and solutions, its three-year strategy (2014 – 2016) will expand its scope – for example, by increasing HIV tests for key groups such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, and drug addicts who use needles.

Nimit is concerned that Thailand will not be able to get financial support from the Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria after the end of 2016.

“Thailand is becoming a middle-income country. So, it won’t be able to get money from the Global Fund anymore,” he noted.

He said that with a shrinking budget, there was a risk Thailand’s battle against HIV/Aids would lose momentum.

Thailand is among the countries that have successfully cut the mother-to-child transmission rate to just 2.1 per cent last year. As many as 61 per cent of HIV-positive people in the country have also received anti-retroviral drugs. A sizeable percentage of these patients received the much-needed medicines for free.

Between November last year and July this year, 95 per cent of pregnant women who tested positive to HIV immediately received anti-retroviral drugs.

“The National Health Security Office (NHSO) cannot provide budget to non-governmental organisations. Although it has recognised the need to control the spread of HIV/Aids its rules require its financial resources be given to hospitals,” he explained.

He said the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, meanwhile, had to date given relatively little money for the prevention of HIV/Aids.

This is the first in a 3-part series to mark World Aids Day. The next parts are on discrimination in Thai society and patients’ responsibility in controlling the spread of the disease.

Tackling Khon Kaen’s mountain of garbage

Published ธันวาคม 18, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



MORE than 800,000 tonnes of garbage in Nakhon Khon Kaen municipality – accumulated over the past five decades at Ban Kham Bon in Muang district’s Tambon Noen Thon – gives this city in the Northeast the dubious distinction of having the eighth biggest rubbish dump in the country.

Residents living around the 98-rai (16 hectare) dumpsite at Ban Kham Bon believe the amount of rubbish could exceed one million tonnes if waste buried beneath the ground is included.

They also lament they have been negatively affected by the foul smell from the site and polluted water leaking into rice fields and water sources, as well as by occasional fires sending off smoke.

The residents say they have protested and filed complaints about these issues many times over the years.

Despite the municipality’s efforts to tackle the dumpsite’s impacts on people, as well as handling the amount of garbage before the site reaches maximum capacity, the level of waste coming in is relentless – and increasing on a daily basis.

As Khon Kaen has expanded and its population grown over the years, so has the amount of trash.

Burying the garbage has only led to a faster rate of accumulation, while the mooted establishment of a biodiesel factory to turn plastic waste into energy is not deemed as value for money – because it cannot compete with petrol, the price of which has fallen.

Attempts to find more places to bury garbage have faced protests from villagers near other areas.

Mayor Theerasak Theethapha said this meant the city had to find new solutions with minimum environmental impacts.

The first solution of constructing a wastewater-treatment system, featuring a 20-rai pond with 129,000-cubic-metre capacity to gather polluted water, has lessened the problem of polluted water leaking into villagers’ farmland, he said.

The next challenge, however, was to tackle the huge mountain of garbage, and the most suitable solution was seen as an electricity-generating plant powered by burning the municipality’s solid waste, he said.

The idea was in line with government policy to support alternative-energy production and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s policy to buy electricity from retail power generators, he explained.

The municipality finally found a private company with expertise and funding for 100 per cent of the investment required to build such power plant, the mayor said.

Public meetings about the project with stakeholders, including villagers, went well, as people agreed it was a good solution for Khon Kaen, provided that all impacts on villagers would also be addressed and solved, he said.

Work on the project commenced in 2011 and all steps have been carried out in accordance with the law, including licence application.

The Bt800-million power plant will be operated by Alliance Clean Power, and applies the direct-fired-furnace method to produce heat for electricity generation, Theerasak said.

The plant, also equipped with an air pollution-eradication system, will dispose of tonnes of garbage at a low cost of less than Bt249 per tonne for the first three years. This would rise by 10 per cent every three years, with the operating period initially set at 20 years, he said.

When completed, the plant is expected to dispose of 450 tonnes of garbage a day and yield 4.9 megawatts of power per day – 4.5MW will be sold and the rest used within the facility.

Plant construction has now progressed 50 per cent and the facility should start operating by next April, he added.

The mayor said that since early this month 20 local administrative bodies in the province had brought garbage to the dump in accordance with the province’s policy. A further local bodies nearby will have to wait for the power plant’s completion before their can unload their trash there also.

The municipality normally produced 200 tonnes of garbage a day, but the amount arriving at the site has risen to at least 350 tonnes.

The original plan for the plant was to dispose of 250 tonnes of accumulated trash per day and 200 tonnes of “new” garbage. That would have meant getting rid of Ban Kham Bon’s mountain of garbage in seven to 10 years, he said.

However, the increasing amount of trash has caused them to seek additional measures to ensure the disposal of no less than 350 tonnes a day, in order to keep up with the growing rate of “new” trash from the city.

Reasons behind his removal from EC

Published ธันวาคม 16, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation





THE ELECTION Commission 4-1 vote to terminate EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong’s employment is unprecedented in the agency’s history.

The reason given for the termination was that Puchong failed his performance evaluation because EC work was often delayed. The end of his employment took effect immediately.

Puchong rose from the post of deputy EC secretary-general to secretary-general on March 13, 2012, after Suthipol Thaweechaikarn quit to join the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

Then-EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond signed a five-year employment contract with Puchong, provided he passed his annual evaluation every year.

EC specialist Thanit Sriprathet said Puchong was required to present his performance report three times a year. Denying that EC members had discriminated against Puchong, he said the same performance yardstick used in 2014 was also used in this year’s evaluation. He said Puchong’s total score was below 60 per cent.

A source said that four of the five EC members had voted against him because he was not able to meet the deadlines for several assignments, such as the establishment of a centre for technological development, revamping the workforce structure and renovating EC buildings plus establishing an intelligence centre.

The source said some of these projects were delayed, with contracts signed just two days before the end of the fiscal year.

Puchong also faced a disciplinary probe for allegedly leaking confidential information to the media and also faced corruption allegations in the construction of EC offices, the procurement of suits and seeking inflated sums for the February 2, 2014, election.

However, Puchong tearfully defended himself on Wednesday, saying his work was delayed because the EC ordered a review of every project and extended the operation of some projects or suspended and cancelled some projects.

“Over the past few years, EC members interfered in the authority of the secretary-general, citing EC resolutions,” he said, claiming that they also ordered the transfer of some EC officials and appointed advisers who cost the office up to Bt24 million a year.

An EC source said the conflict might have stemmed from the fact that EC members handed assignments directly to the deputy secretary-general, bypassing Puchong.

“But every time any projects were met with problems, Puchong was always blamed,” the source explained, adding that the problem was also structural.

The source suggested that the agency’s structure be changed in the same way as the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which has a board for management with the secretary-general overseeing the agency’s management. Besides, the source said, a separate committee is appointed to look into each graft complaint, which prevents inference in the NACC from outside.

The move to remove Puchong came after a newspaper columnist claimed that the agency was planning to get rid of him. In response to the article, the EC moved his evaluation up by a month.

Though outsiders are allowed to apply for the secretary-general’s post, the EC chairman also has the right to nominate candidates.

However, the EC will soon have to deal with the major task of holding a referendum on the charter draft, and if the agency gives the job to an outsider, the new person may have problems.

Some believe that the EC members may choose one of the EC advisers or Puchong’s deputy to take over so the work can continue smoothly.

Solution to impasses still point of debate

Published ธันวาคม 16, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



File Photo

File Photo


DIRECTLY and indirectly, the Nat-ional Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has always signalled that the country needs a mechanism to cope with its never-ending political impasses – in the hope there will not be yet another coup and the constitution would not be torn up time and again.

Despite the issue being stipulated already in the interim charter in Article 35, the NCPO led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha recently submitted another suggestion list. In it, the need for a mechanism to drive the country through critical times was emphasised again, among other proposals.

This was no small deal. Such a mechanism had been a subject of debate before in the previous constitution draft. At that time, it came as the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Commission (NSRRC), and drew much criticism.

Many believed it was a super-body holding supreme power to override the elected executive branch. Partly as a result, the mechanism eventually met its end as the National Reform Council (NRC) shot it down before the draft could enter a national referendum.

Learning from the mistake, the present CDC vowed not to create new bodies. Drafters have constantly said they would try to make the most out of existing bodies and get them to work as mechanisms to steer the country out of any predicament. And therewith, drafters revealed that the Consti-tutional Court would be one, among others, to act as such an apparatus.

The court would be authorised to give a final say on any legal disputes, they said. This included when a constitutional conflict arose between the executive and legislative branches. The court would rule what was constitutional and what was not.

Drafters said this was an exit to the problem with Article 7 of the first charter draft, which had always been deemed broad and vague, although it was the one measure to break any dead-end political crisis. However, more often than not, use of the article brought hot water on “the revered institution”. They explained that in the new charter draft, the court would have the authority to plug this hole.

Udom Rathamarut, a drafter and a law professor from Thammasat University, said such a practice was what some might call “breaking the deadlock”.

“When there are issues in the charter and it does not stipulate what exactly has to be done, the question arises: Who is to say? In the past it has always been the revered institution, but that is inappropriate. So we shift it to the Constitution Court. It has to be [such, because] it is the constitution’s guardian,” he explained.

Another drafter, who is also a veteran political scientist, Chartchai Na Chiangmai, explained the charter court was now being designed to prevent the kind of conflicts that have happened in the past.

“If a conflict is between a good number of people and the powers that be, there should be a channel for the Constitutional Court to step in and steer everything back to normal.” He added that the situation should not be left until it reached the point where the military has to intervene.

With all these processes, the court would have the authority to initiate peacekeeping process. It would not have to wait until chaos broke out to step in. However, someone has to request the court to do so, he explained.

Take the Amnesty Bill in 2013 that led to national upheaval, as an example. Chartchai said if this model were to be imposed in that context, the Constitutional Court would have helped rule whether the bill was constitutional. This could have prevented people taking to the street, he claimed.

Ekachai Chainuvati, a pro-democracy law professor from Siam University, said that to grant the Constitutional Court such a power was feasible. Nowadays, anything could be put in the charter, he said.

However, one effect would be that the institution would hold supreme power to rule the country if it exercised its power excessively, he said.

“In principle, the legislative, executive and judicial branches must be on the same level. It is not right to have the Constitutional Court at a higher position than the Cabinet and Parliament. Thus to have the Constitutional Court become a plug similar to Article 7 would be rather dangerous as it could hold a position higher than the Cabinet and the Parliament, he said.

This is a dangerous decision because it could leave the court to make political decisions, when actually courts are for ruling on legal disputes, not political ones,” Ekachai said.

He said the decision on whether the country needed any mechanisms to drive it through critical times must be made by the people in a referendum. If it were approved, the CDC could proceed and include such a mechanism in the charter draft.

It could be for the Constitutional Court to do the job, but Ekachai believed judicial bodies must not decide on political issues; rather they should decide only on legal issues. Political issues must be the responsibility of politicians, not the court. Otherwise, the court itself would become political, he said.

Constitutional Court Judge Charan Phakdi Thanakoon said he agreed that there must be some mechanism to break deadlocks before people took to the streets and things got worse, as in the past. However, he refused to say whether the authority to prevent the impasse should fall to the charter court.

Udom said that “eventually, someone has to do the job to bring the country through an impasse”. Ekachai responded that this argument was valid, but it was beyond the CDC to make the call, it was a question for all Thai people.

The case for a Constitutional court

THE Constitutional Court was established for the first time under the 1997 Constitution and has been active through the 2007 Constitution until now. Previously, Thailand had a constitutional court commission to help rule on charter related cases, but its status and authority did not completely come under the judiciary.

Under the 1997 Constitution, the Constitutional Court became a specialised court that followed the German model, tasked with protecting the supremacy of the charter.

Under the charter draft, the Constitution Court would comprise of nine judges; each serving a nine-year non-extendable term. An expert panel would select the judges from relevant professions, to ensure they are capable of performing their tasks.

The drafters initially agreed that the Constitutional Court would be additionally authorised to rule whether or not a politician was qualified to hold his or her office, similar to the authority that previously belonged to the Senate for impeachment.

The drafters believe that impeachment would not work well here, because Thais tend to be kind and considerate. So, they resolved to replace it with the practice of “disqualifying”. When a politician is disqualified by the Constitutional Court, he or she must leave office.

In addition, the drafters are considering granting it enough power to deliver a final say on constitutionally controversial issues and thus help end a “crisis”, without establishing any new and independent bodies to do that task.

This is considered as empowering it to exercise a clear-cut decision to unresolved situations as stated under the Article 7.

Sources: The Constitutional Court and the Constitution Drafting Commission.

Veterans back indirect election

Published ธันวาคม 16, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Wallop Tangkananurak

Wallop Tangkananurak

Suchon Chaleekrua

Suchon Chaleekrua

Rosana Tositrakul

Rosana Tositrakul


Former senators say it could be the best way to create an effective upper House

VETERAN senators believe indirect election is the best method yet for picking people to fill the Upper House of Parliament, given that use of only directly elected or selected senators both have loopholes that prevent them from performing to their full potential.

Introduced to the Thai Parliament in 1946, senators were initially appointed to mainly scrutinise legislation. Then, the 1997 Constitution, for the first time, called for members of the Senate to be elected.

The 1997 charter, acclaimed as the most democratic constitution in Thai history, also granted elected senators the authority to impeach politicians, amid hope of empowering “more voices of people” in the political arena.

However, a decade later, in 2007, a new charter written after the coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra a year earlier, designed a mixed Senate, consisting of both selected and elected senators, in a bid to create balance in the chamber. The result, however, was two types of senators so incompatible that journalists called them “fish from two different waters”.

Eight years on, the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) revealed last Thursday that it will include an indirect election method of choosing senators in the new charter. Candidates will be initially selected from 20 groups before being elected by members of those bodies. Details will be finalised this week on how that would be done, the CDC said.

Now, senators who have served terms in parliament, either via an election or selection, have given their views on the pros and cons of the different methods of choosing members for the Upper House.

Rosana Tositrakul, a former senator elected to represent Bangkok in the “mixed” Senate in 2008, felt both types of senators were equally vulnerable to interference by people with influence.

Rosana recalled the time when she joined her colleagues impeaching former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and former Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama in 2010. She observed that some senators had acquaintances with two former high-ranking officers.

“There were anonymous votes so I have no idea who voted for what. But before they were done, I could see some senators greeting and contacting Somchai and Noppadon,” she said.

Rosana and her Senate bloc had filed a petition to the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) to impeach the two high-ranking officers, even though they were out of office since 2008. The impeachment, Rosana and her colleagues thought, must be applied as Somchai in 2008 authorised the police to use force against anti-government demonstrators blocking the Parliament, causing two deaths and injury to thousands.

In the same year, Noppadon signed a joint communique in support of Cambodia’s bid to seek World Heritage status for Preah Vihear temple without seeking approval from parliament, a move that may have cost Thailand disputed territory.

On March 9, 2010, the Senate voted 76 to 49 to impeach Somchai, before voting 57 to 55 to impeach Noppadon three days later.

Despite obtaining a majority of votes, these sanctions could not be carried out because the 2008 charter stated that votes must exceed three fifths of the 150 senators – more than 90 votes from all senators – to impeach politicians.

“It has been common in the House that senators have backstage connections, no matter if they were elected or chosen to the House,” she added.

Despite being more independent from political influence compared to senators who were elected, selected senators could still be backed by outside players.

“There have been a number of [administration-related] programmes provided by governmental institutes and agencies,” she said. “Those programmes are where officers and bureaucrats, including potential senators, gather. These places are where they gain connections, which later affect their work in the chamber.”

However, Rosana felt the selection method could reach potential senators with a variety of backgrounds. A “merit system”, she said, could be applied to create the best senator selection process, she said, although she could not figure out how best to achieve that.

Rosana’s best effort to create a process to select senators was during her term in the now-defunct National Reform Council, where she proposed an indirect election in the hope of achieving a fine balance between election- and selection-based procedures.

She proposed that some publicly recognised senators, like her, could initially select some potential candidates before presenting them |to the public for election.

“This would help senators of various backgrounds, gain public recognition as candidates, and allow people to have an election process. Unfortunately, this idea was not approved.”

But Rosana also ponders the roles for senators. “For instance, if senators are to impeach politicians, they must come from an election only. Having selected senators to perform such roles could be seen as undemocratic practice, On the other hand, however, if we limit selected senators to only scrutinising law and let independent agencies take care of the impeachment, would the agencies be reliable enough for such jobs?” she said.

As an alternative, Rosana believed that politicians who do wrong could be automatically impeached once they are found guilty by responsible courts. “Doing that would solve the concern over who has to impeach politicians.”

For Wallop Tangkananurak, an election gives more legitimacy when they serve in Parliament. He said this after his experience of being a senator in the appointed Senate in 1996 and a Bangkok senator in the elected Senate in 2000.

“Elected senators enter the Parliament because people approved them, while the selected ones were there because a few people selected them,” he said. “This creates distinct privilege between the two, in my opinion.”

His roles in the two terms differed. Assigned mainly to scrutinise law during the first term, Wallop was also authorised to impeach politicians in the second term. But he was never able to strip any politician of their position, as the House always voted down impeachment moves.

And like Rosana, Wallop agreed there should be an indirect election process. Being chosen by the public, senators would have more moral weight when putting proposals in parliamentary meetings. They also tend to be more independent of political influence than purely elected senators, he said.

There was concern also about who initially selects candidates, he said, noting that selected candidates were only chosen by a few people – mostly “experts from courts. Their legal knowledge was undeniable, but their social knowledge might be another story.”

Currently a member of the National Legislative Assembly, Wallop suggested that senators’ roles be made clear first before further steps on finding how to pick them. But he said senators should not have the power to impeach politicians regardless of their origin. “To me, senators should only scrutinise law, impeach officers only appointed by senators, and conduct national administration.”

Former Senate President Suchon Chaleekrua agreed that senators should be sought depending on their designated roles. “Senators from selection or indirect election should be authorised to only scrutinise laws, while elected senators could have rights of impeachment.”

But Suchon thought senators should no longer have the job of impeaching politicians as the public would raise doubts about potential lobbying and interference in how senators’ vote. The whole Senate should also only come from one process, to avoid a possible split.

An appointed senator in 1996 and an elected senator in 2000, Suchon recalled an occasion when the Upper House voted to impeach nine anti-graft commissioners found to have allegedly boosted their own salaries

“It was, however, one of a few times we senators could successfully carry out impeachment. But our roles there were actually simply to raise hands for or against the sanction,” Suchon said, stop short of elaborating.

Suchon suggested that independent agencies could take the impeachment role, with an appeal court set up for political office holders to build strength in the legal process for politicians.


One-stop website launched with data on all govt services

Published ธันวาคม 16, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Accessing government information has been made much easier with the launch of the website http://www.GovChannel.go.th.

GovChannel was introduced as a channel for people to access information from all governmental sectors, in the hope of achieving an advanced national digital strategy and keeping pace with the fast-changing world.

Operated by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry and its underling, the Electronic Government Agency (EGA), GovChannel links information from four other government websites.

info.go.th contains databases and services for individuals who need to do business with government agencies as addressed in the Licensing Facilitation Act, such as tax collection services. It also contains content of handbooks that allows people to contact government agencies with ease. info.go.th has almost 687,000 databases.

data.go.th contains government databases. The government allows the databases to be freely distributed and used as sources for quotes, with the conditions of their use provided by the agencies that publish the material. The website has 436 databases.

apps.go.th was designed as a

platform for the Governmental Application Centre. It provides mobile applications designed to

give people access to government services. For example, Egat Water,

an application developed by the Electricity Generating Authority

of Thailand, shows water levels of the country’s dams.

The Rubber Thai application, developed by Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry’s Department of Agriculture, provides daily updates on rubber prices in markets and a daily analysis on prices. The website contains 108 databases.

egov.go.th acts as a portal to governmental electronic services. The website contains 2,574 databases.

Perhaps to tone down government formality, the pastel-coloured GovChannel webpage has a rather minimalist design. Unlike most other government websites, its simplicity equals user-friendliness.

To test the website, The Nation typed “national identity card” in Thai in the search box. After around 20 seconds, the result showed there are six databases related to the term and all are at egov.go.th.

The databases content includes information on EGA’s campaign to get people’s opinion on what information should be on the Thai ID card and a brief law related to the card that Thai citizens should know.

They also contained details of the improved issuance of the card at Bangkok’s Bang Phlat district office and EGA’s campaign to encourage people to submit opinions on how the cards should look.

But when “alien” was added in the search box in the hope of accessing information about how aliens should manage their identification while in Thailand, nothing appeared. This suggests that the website may currently work efficiently under only one search term.

Along with this more integrated online database channel, EGA has delivered a non-Internet information portal in the hope to connecting with people in remote areas. Government Kiosk has been developed much like an automated teller machine, allowing people to check their government-based personal information such as their right to medical care and to social security and details of their credit bureau accounts.

To access the information, a person need only slide their ID card into a machine and the information appears on the screen.

But currently a password is not used with the card, meaning if someone else had access to the card they could view the cardholder’s personal information.

Government Kiosk machines are currently located in only five points and all are in Bangkok, including two at EGA offices.

The EGA has also produced an EGA Smart Box, a digital television box set providing governmental information via a TV. Working much like the government’s mobile application centre, the box provides users with access to long-distance lectures facilitated via an education cloud-computing system. It has been done in collaboration with the Telephone Organisation of Thailand.

Also designed to help people with limited access to the Internet, the EGA Smart Box is currently only located at major educational centres and local administrative offices.

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