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Thairath Reporter Taken to Army Base for ‘Red Bowl’ Report

Thairath frontpage for its March 28 issue.

CHIANG MAI — A veteran reporter from the largest newspaper said he was detained at an army base in Chiang Mai province for reporting about a festival water bowl that bore messages from ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chaipin Kattiaya said the military held him for interrogation for several hours Wednesday and interrogated him regarding a frontpage report about a Redshirt activist posing with one of the red bowls published Monday. The woman, Theerawan Charoensuk was charged with sedition for the photo.  

Chaipin said he did not take the photo, but found the image online and then sent it to Thairath’s office in Bangkok. He also said he did not do so because he thought it was a political issue, but because it fit the theme of the upcoming Songkran festival. 


Woman Charged With Sedition For Posing With Red Bucket


“I told the soldiers that I didn’t take the photo. I found it on social media,” Chaipin said by telephone Thursday. “And I didn’t have any intention to cause unrest. It was just for Songkran festival news.” 

The water bowls were apparently distributed by the Shinawatra family to its supporters in the northern province. The scoops were printed with the innocuous text “the situation may be hot, but brothers and sisters may gain coolness from the water inside this bucket” and “signed” by Thaksin. 

But for posing with the bowl, Theerawan is now charged with sedition, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. She will be tried by a military tribunal. 

Chaipin said he was initially summoned by police to a local police station to give testimony as a witness in the charge against Theerawan.  But when he showed up at the station, Chaipin said, he was immediately taken by soldiers to the 33rd Army Circle base. Seven soldiers, including martial court officers, interrogated Chaipin about the red bowl photo, he said. 

“The moment I was transferred to the army camp, I was really frightened. I realized this was not a witness questioning anymore. This was a detention,” he recalled. 

According to the reporter, the soldiers were eventually convinced that he did not have any knowledge about the bowl after they phoned Theerawan and she told them he wasn’t the person who took the photo. Chaipin was released afterwards, but not before he was photographed and his personal details taken, and he was instructed to refrain from reporting about the issue in the future. 

“They said I must exercise my consideration not to do this kind of news again, because it’s sensitive; it may cause division and conflict,” Chaipin said. “They say I wrote it as one-sided news, so the other side was not pleased. They asked for my cooperation.” 

Chaipin, who has worked at Thairath since 1977, said he’s willing to comply with the order, but added that the experience is unprecedented in his career. 

“I never ran into this kind of thing before, because when I report news, I always stay in the middle. I don’t analyze things. I report news as the situation that really happened. I was really frightened [by the brief detention],” Chaipin said. 

 

 

Related stories:

Shinawatras Defy Junta With Publicity Drive

A Country Divided by a Calendar

Junta Warns Redshirts Not to Don Red Shirts

Soldiers Confiscate 'Thaksin Strawberry Jam'

 

Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at [email protected] and @Teeranai_C.

 

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Activists Swept Up in Military Campaign Against ‘Influential Figures’

Soldiers posted outside an army auditorium where civilians were being brought in for ‘attitude adjustment’ one day after the coup on May 23, 2014, in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — One was a 65-year-old activist opposed to the military’s eviction of his fishing community; two others were his colleagues. Another led a campaign against a power plant the military government wants to build north of the capital.

To the military government, the four activists are the type of “influential figures” to be detained without charge as part of its much-publicized campaign originally thought to target underworld influences.

All four were released from detention on Wednesday, the same day soldiers nationwide were granted sweeping search and seizure powers as a means of carrying out the junta’s campaign. But instead of going after the type of criminal figures blamed for entrenched corruption, they have moved against activists opposed to projects supported by the junta.

“I was confused. The influential figures are supposed to be very rich, to have millions of baht,” said Lamom Boonyong, the 65-year-old community leader from Rayong province. “But now, just by working on an issue concerning the troubles of locals, I have now became the mafia.”

Lamom was among three community leaders leading a fight against the military eviction in Rayong province. The fourth was a prominent environmental activist in Pathum Thani province campaigning against a waste-fired power plant. All of them were summoned under the junta crackdown on influential figures.

After vowing to crack down on underworld crime and business, the junta Tuesday night issued an order authorizing soldiers to conduct warrantless searches of homes, seize assets and detain civilians without charge if they are suspected to be involved in any kind of criminal enterprise.


Junta Grants Police Powers to Military


Lamom was summoned to the 14th Army Circle in Chonburi province at 5am on Tuesday along with community leaders Rangsan Dokchan, 48, and Anan Thongmanee, 57. About 36 hours later, they were released late Wednesday afternoon.

“They treated us well. I believe it was a misunderstanding,” Rangsan said. “But some of my relatives were shocked and cried when the military officers came to take me from my house.”

The three men are leaders in a fishing village in Rayong which recently complained to the Human Rights Commission that the military and local municipality were trying to forcibly evict their community from the beach.

“Someone told them that I was going to form a mob to expel the district chief officer,” Lamom said. “That’s why I was recognized as an ‘influential figure.’”

The other activist summoned Wednesday was 47-year-old  Thaweesak Inkvang, who is leading a campaign against a junta-backed plan to build a trash-fired power plant.

After receiving a letter of summons Saturday, Thaweesak said he reported himself in to Pathum Thani’s Sam Khok district office at 1:30pm on Wednesday and was released about an hour later.

“The military officers said it did not involve the power plant case, but because I was an influential person dealing in an illegal business,” he said.

Before being released, Thaweesak said he was asked not to discuss the matter and delete a photo of the summons posted online that evening. He obeyed the latter request.

Thaweesak is known for his role in the ongoing campaign against a junta order that allowed the construction of an incinerator power plant without regard of city planning laws. The order was represented as needed to solve Thailand’s critical energy shortage. He said the decision process authorizing each plant was also completed without public participation.

Thaweesak weeks ago also criticized the abuse of power of the Article 44 in a public discussion at Thammasat University.

“I think the point [of summoning] is to use me as an example for others,” he said.

In response to these two cases, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on Thursday said they are concerned the junta’s new order has created an arbitrary means to expand its unchecked powers of detention to matters other than national security.

“We are concerned that it will be used with some other groups rather than mafia [figures],” said Sorawut Wongsaranon, a staff member of the group.

Were the order actually applied as the military suggested it would be, by going after actual underworld criminal suspects, Sorawut said it still denies them rights and legal protections they would be afforded under the law. Sorawut pointed to the fact the order keeps those detained out of the justice system by ordering they be held in places other than police stations, detention facilities, correctional institutions or prisons.

“But then they will not disclose the detention location,” said Sorawut. “And even if we know the location, they will say a lawyer cannot visit as those who are summoned are not criminal suspects. Hence no one will know about what happens during the detention. And the words [detainees] say to authorities, without the advice of a lawyer, can later be used against them.”

 

Related stories:

Junta Grants Police Powers to Military

Thai Junta Expands Military Power in New Order, Citing Article 44

Thai Junta Chairman Downplays Article 44's Autocratic Powers

Junta Clarifies Scope of Article 44's Sweeping Power

Trust Prayuth with Article 44, Thai Govt Says

 

 

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Activists Swept Up in Military Campaign Against ‘Influential Figures’

Lamom Boonyong, a 65-year-old community leader was taken by military officers from his home early Tuesday morning in Rayong in a widely shared photo purportedly from the 6th Division Army Base.

BANGKOK — One was a 65-year-old activist opposed to the military’s eviction of his fishing community; two others were his colleagues. Another led a campaign against a power plant the military government wants to build north of the capital.

To the military government, the four activists are the type of “influential figures” to be detained without charge as part of its much-publicized campaign originally thought to target underworld influences.

All four were released from detention on Wednesday, the same day soldiers nationwide were granted sweeping search and seizure powers as a means of carrying out the junta’s campaign. But instead of going after the type of criminal figures blamed for entrenched corruption, they have moved against activists opposed to projects supported by the junta.

“I was confused. The influential figures are supposed to be very rich, to have millions of baht,” said Lamom Boonyong, the 65-year-old community leader from Rayong province. “But now, just by working on an issue concerning the troubles of locals, I have now became the mafia.”

Lamom was among three community leaders leading a fight against the military eviction in Rayong province. The fourth was a prominent environmental activist in Pathum Thani province campaigning against a waste-fired power plant. All of them were summoned under the junta crackdown on influential figures.

After vowing to crack down on underworld crime and business, the junta Tuesday night issued an order authorizing soldiers to conduct warrantless searches of homes, seize assets and detain civilians without charge if they are suspected to be involved in any kind of criminal enterprise.


Junta Grants Police Powers to Military


Lamom was summoned to the 14th Army Circle in Chonburi province at 5am on Tuesday along with community leaders Rangsan Dokchan, 48, and Anan Thongmanee, 57. About 36 hours later, they were released late Wednesday afternoon.

“They treated us well. I believe it was a misunderstanding,” Rangsan said. “But some of my relatives were shocked and cried when the military officers came to take me from my house.”

The three men are leaders in a fishing village in Rayong which recently complained to the Human Rights Commission that the military and local municipality were trying to forcibly evict their community from the beach.

“Someone told them that I was going to form a mob to expel the district chief officer,” Lamom said. “That’s why I was recognized as an ‘influential figure.’”

The other activist summoned Wednesday was 47-year-old  Thaweesak Inkvang, who is leading a campaign against a junta-backed plan to build a trash-fired power plant.

After receiving a letter of summons Saturday, Thaweesak said he reported himself in to Pathum Thani’s Sam Khok district office at 1:30pm on Wednesday and was released about an hour later.

“The military officers said it did not involve the power plant case, but because I was an influential person dealing in an illegal business,” he said.

Before being released, Thaweesak said he was asked not to discuss the matter and delete a photo of the summons posted online that evening. He obeyed the latter request.

Thaweesak is known for his role in the ongoing campaign against a junta order that allowed the construction of an incinerator power plant without regard of city planning laws. The order was represented as needed to solve Thailand’s critical energy shortage. He said the decision process authorizing each plant was also completed without public participation.

Thaweesak weeks ago also criticized the abuse of power of the Article 44 in a public discussion at Thammasat University.

“I think the point [of summoning] is to use me as an example for others,” he said.

In response to these two cases, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on Thursday said they are concerned the junta’s new order has created an arbitrary means to expand its unchecked powers of detention to matters other than national security.

“We are concerned that it will be used with some other groups rather than mafia [figures],” said Sorawut Wongsaranon, a staff member of the group.

Were the order actually applied as the military suggested it would be, by going after actual underworld criminal suspects, Sorawut said it still denies them rights and legal protections they would be afforded under the law. Sorawut pointed to the fact the order keeps those detained out of the justice system by ordering they be held in places other than police stations, detention facilities, correctional institutions or prisons.

“But then they will not disclose the detention location,” said Sorawut. “And even if we know the location, they will say a lawyer cannot visit as those who are summoned are not criminal suspects. Hence no one will know about what happens during the detention. And the words [detainees] say to authorities, without the advice of a lawyer, can later be used against them.”

 

Related stories:

Junta Grants Police Powers to Military

Thai Junta Expands Military Power in New Order, Citing Article 44

Thai Junta Chairman Downplays Article 44's Autocratic Powers

Junta Clarifies Scope of Article 44's Sweeping Power

Trust Prayuth with Article 44, Thai Govt Says

 

Motorbike Rider Killed in Bus No. 509 Collision

A motorbike hit by bus No.509 near BTS Sanam Pao Thursday morning

BANGKOK — A motorbike rider was hit and killed by a Bangkok bus at around 10.10am Thursday on Phaholyothin Road near BTS Sanam Pao.

Air-con bus No. 509 running from Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road to Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal hit a motorbike as the bus was pulling in to stop near Sanam Pao BTS, killing 46-year-old Sunanta Hongsakul.

The bus driver Sayan Poidee, 40, told police that he was switching from the right lane to the left near BTS Sanam Pao when the bus hit the motorbike ridden by Sunanta which was running parallel to the left side of the bus.

Sayan said he was driving slowly, but the heavy rain this morning made the road slippery and he was unable to brake in time.

Sayan is currently being questioned by police at Phaya Thai Police Station, Capt. Pichai Sikam said by phone Thursday afternoon.

Related stories

Pedestrian Killed by Bus No. 36

 

 

Chayanit Itthipongmaetee can be reached at[email protected] and @chayaniti92.

 

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Prayuth Attending Nuclear Summit in US

General Prayuth Chan-ocha and others at a reception at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC last night

WASHINGTON — A number of Asia-Pacific leaders are traveling to Washington for this week's nuclear security summit. They will be discussing how to stop terrorists from making an atomic explosive or dirty bomb, amid concern that the Islamic State group aspires to such a weapon. It is also a chance to discuss other issues and burnish their international standing.

Here's a look at the presidents and prime ministers and what will be on their national agendas. Other governments from the region are sending lower-level officials.

Thailand

The nuclear summit is the second opportunity in six weeks for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to make an official visit to the U.S. after Obama met Southeast Asian leaders in California. A regular bilateral trip to Washington isn't in the cards. Prayuth took power in a 2014 coup, which led to a downgrading in ties between the U.S. and its oldest Asian ally, and it's unclear when civilian rule will return. Prayuth will, however, be hosted for dinner by U.S. business leaders.

China

President Xi Jinping was in Washington just six months ago for a state visit. China has the world's fastest-growing civilian nuclear industry and is keen to showcase its efforts on nuclear security, an example of fruitful cooperation with the U.S. But there will be thorny issues on the agenda when Xi meets separately with President Barack Obama. They will discuss next steps with North Korea after the imposition of the toughest international sanctions yet over its nuclear and missile development, and the growing tensions in the South China Sea where Beijing's island-building is roiling its relations with Washington.

India

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power after a convincing election victory in 2014, strained U.S.-India relations have improved. The summit is an opportunity to build on that progress and signal that India, anuclear weapons state which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is engaged on nuclear security as it expands its atomic energy sector. There's no prospect for reconciliatory talks with archrival Pakistan because its prime minister canceled his Washington trip because of a terrorist attack at home.

Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will participate in a summit with South Korea's leader and Obama. That's the latest chapter in a U.S.-supported effort to mend fences between its core Asian allies after a landmark December agreement aimed at reconciling over the Japanese military's use of sex slaves during World War II. They will discuss how to advance security cooperation and face the threat from common foe North Korea. While Japan is adamantly opposed to nuclear weapons, it could face concerns over its stockpile of separated plutonium from its energy program, still largely in shutdown following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Singapore

As a close partner of the U.S., Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a frequent visitor. He arrived early to meet with industry and financial sector leaders in New York. In Washington, he's also meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Singapore is a financial hub and will be watching closely as the Fed considers a hike in interest rates, which could have a significant impact on the world economy.

South Korea

In addition to the U.S.-Japan-South Korea meeting, President Park Geun-hye is set to meet Xi, a sign of deepening ties with China as their economic bonds have grown, and as Beijing's alienation from its traditional ally North Korea has grown. Park's visit comes as threats from the North have reached a fever pitch in response to larger-than-usual, annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North regards as a preparation for invasion.

New Zealand

Prime Minister John Key will meet with top U.S. economic officials, including Yellen and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and other issues. New Zealand is one of 12 participating countries and hosted the signing of the pact in February. The deal is the main economic plank of Obama's Asia policy, but uncertainty remains about whether Congress will ratify it.

Story: Associated Press

 

Expelled Cops Defend Shooting Out Tire, Beating Students

From right, lawyer Charnchai Chimpanang, Sgt. Subin Nuekkham, Cpt. Wutthipat Bua-urai and Lt. Cpt. Thanakarn Chaipipat at a news conference Wednesday in Phitsanulok province.

By Teeranai Charuvastra
Staff Reporter

PHITSANULOK — Three disgraced police officers said they shot at a car full of university students before hauling them out and assaulting them two weeks ago because they suspected the students were criminals.

The officers spoke to the public for the first time Wednesday since the incident in Phitsanulok province, which prompted the regional police force to expel the three men while a criminal investigation against them was being conducted.


Undercover Cops Accused of Beating, Pistol-Whipping Students (Video)


With their lawyer present, Sgt. Subin Nuekkham, Cpt. Wutthipat Bua-urai and Lt. Cpt. Thanakarn Chaipipat gave their side of the story of what happened at a hotel news conference.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Subin did not dispute the accounts of what happened on the night of March 18, when he and two other officers reportedly gave chase to five university students and fired a handgun at their car, disabling one of its tires. The three officers then forced all five students out of the vehicle and assaulted them, according to the students.

After the case came to light, the police charged Subin, Wutthipat and Thanakarn with six offenses, including attempted murder, and expelled them from the service.

But Subin said he and his colleagues did all the things they were accused of only because the student driver, Chaithawat Thamrongsakdikhun, clipped his car first and refused to stop and take responsibility. Subin said Chaithawat then sped away from the scene, raising his suspicion the driver might have been a criminal on the run.

“As a professional police officer, my instinct made me question why that vehicle did not stop and allow me to inspect it,” Subin said. “Furthermore, that car did not have a license plate, and it was modified like a racing car, so I had to gauge the situation that the vehicle might have been involved in wrongdoing or possessed illegal things, so I decided to do everything I could to stop the vehicle.”

Even if it meant shooting at the car, Subin said, though he insisted that he only aimed his handgun at the car’s tire as he had no intention of harming the students. 

“I’d like to insist that I fired the shots according to a SWAT course that I participated in,” he said. “Therefore, I’d like to dispute the allegation of attempted murder, because if I intended to kill someone or shoot at someone, I would have shot at the car window.” 

Subin also admitted to assaulting the students with his two colleagues after they were forced out of their car, but said he did so because he felt “pressured” from his pursuit. 

Subin added that he and other two officers have tried to express their apology to the five students for the ordeal, but the students declined the offer. 

“I admit to my wrongdoing and after what happened I tried to ask for a meeting with the victims, I visited the victims at hospital, and I offered my apology to the victims and their family and offered to pay the medical bills, but I was repeatedly denied,” Subin told reporters. 

The three expelled officers said they will only plead guilty to physical assault in court and contest all other charges. 

 

Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at [email protected] and @Teeranai_C.

 

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Charter Draft First Look: When Will the Junta be Really Gone? (Analysis)

Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Meechai Ruchuphan presents the final draft of the proposed charter on March 29 in Bangkok.

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — One of the most contentious aspects of the junta-sponsored draft charter released Tuesday is the question of how much longer it would enable the military to stay in power if voters choose to adopt it as the law of the land.

The 279 articles filling the 105 pages of the charter released Tuesday offers reasons to suggest the junta will be around, one way or another, for at least five years, and there are other blurry issues to take into consideration as well. Many of its most contentious details are stipulated in the transitional provisions enumerated between articles 262 and 279. 

Under Article 269, for the first five years after an election, 244 members of the 250-person senate will be chosen by the National Council for Peace and Order, the formal name of the junta, via a junta-appointed selection committee. Six other seats will be reserved, ex-officio, for commanders of the army, navy, air force, police, the armed forces commander in chief and permanent secretary of the Defense Ministry.


Charter Draft Second Look: Full Education No Longer Guaranteed (Analysis)


Since there will be 500 MPs under the new draft charter, this means a third of the Parliament House will be populated by people chosen by the junta.

Under the charter draft, candidates for prime minister will come from parties’ lists of three candidates, but if none of the MP candidates wins a majority of lower house votes, both upper and lower houses will convene a joint session to select a prime minister. Candidates can be nominated who are not MPs, thus allowing room for a non-MP to become prime minister.

Those who think the junta will quickly fade away and cease to exist if and after the draft charter is approved through the Aug. 7 referendum may be disappointed.

This five-year transitional upper house, which is indirectly selected by the NCPO, is authorized under Article 270 to endorse laws and oversee the implementation of reforms. The Cabinet will have to report to the senate every three months to update them about the progress of reforms, and the senate is empowered to speed up that process.

The first-term, post-election senate is basically an extended arm of the NCPO for five years after a new elected government is sworn in.

The draft charter also ensures that the junta itself won’t be leaving too soon. Article 265 stated that the NCPO will remain in power until “the newly formed Cabinet” assumes office.

What if 24 hours before the new cabinet assumes office, junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha decides he can’t bear the sight of the newly formed government and exercises his absolute power under Article 44, which is guaranteed to remain intact, to do something about it?    

Here’s where things get even more blurry and tricky. Article 279 states that all the orders and actions made by the NCPO and its head before this draft charter comes into effect will be considered constitutional under the new draft charter and “will have [legally] binding effects”.

Does this mean orders freezing assets of some dissidents and the requirement that these people seek the NCPO’s permission to travel abroad will still be valid?

In the overall picture, the preamble of the draft charter says a lot about how the junta-sponsored charter drafters view politicians and the notion of democracy.

Part of the two-and-a-half-page preamble states that past constitutional crisis was partly a result of “people who are not fearful of rules governing the country.”

The first page also vaguely states that another factor in causing the crisis was due to “governing rules that are still not suited” to Thailand at the current time.

The preamble gives us a clue as to how the junta-appointed charter drafters perceive an ideal society. It states that preconditions leading to political conflicts must be reduced so Thai society can be “happy and peaceful on the foundations of love and unity.” It says nothing about how different political opinions should be accommodated and resolved peacefully through deliberation.

Those who love the military junta’s performance over the nearly past two years will likely be happy to endorse the draft charter as they can feel reassured that the NCPO will not really vanish after 2017. 

People who are already fed up with the military regime will have a hard time deciding what to do, as the NCPO is keeping its cards close to its chest and not revealing what may happen in case the junta-sponsored draft charter gets rejected in the Aug. 7 referendum. 

There’s a possibility that the junta may restart a third round of the charter drafting process, thus in effect buying more time and staying in power even longer, or junta leader Gen. Prayuth may invoke his absolute power to amend the rejected draft or revise any former constitution and declare it valid. And there lies the uncertainty of not just the draft charter but the whole referendum process.

 

 

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Charter Draft First Look: When Will the Junta be Really Gone? (Analysis)

Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Meechai Ruchuphan presents the final draft of the proposed charter Tuesday in Bangkok.

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — One of the most contentious aspects of the junta-sponsored draft charter released Tuesday is the question of how much longer it would enable the military to stay in power if voters choose to adopt it as the law of the land.

The 279 articles filling the 105 pages of the charter released Tuesday offers reasons to suggest the junta will be around, one way or another, for at least five years, and there are other blurry issues to take into consideration as well. Many of its most contentious details are stipulated in the transitional provisions enumerated between articles 262 and 279. 

Under Article 269, for the first five years after an election, 244 members of the 250-person senate will be chosen by the National Council for Peace and Order, the formal name of the junta, via a junta-appointed selection committee. Six other seats will be reserved, ex-officio, for commanders of the army, navy, air force, police, the armed forces commander in chief and permanent secretary of the Defense Ministry.


Charter Draft Second Look: Full Education No Longer Guaranteed (Analysis)


Since there will be 500 MPs under the new draft charter, this means a third of the Parliament House will be populated by people chosen by the junta.

Under the charter draft, candidates for prime minister will come from parties’ lists of three candidates, but if none of the MP candidates wins a majority of lower house votes, both upper and lower houses will convene a joint session to select a prime minister. Candidates can be nominated who are not MPs, thus allowing room for a non-MP to become prime minister.

Those who think the junta will quickly fade away and cease to exist if and after the draft charter is approved through the Aug. 7 referendum may be disappointed.

This five-year transitional upper house, which is indirectly selected by the NCPO, is authorized under Article 270 to endorse laws and oversee the implementation of reforms. The Cabinet will have to report to the senate every three months to update them about the progress of reforms, and the senate is empowered to speed up that process.

The first-term, post-election senate is basically an extended arm of the NCPO for five years after a new elected government is sworn in.

The draft charter also ensures that the junta itself won’t be leaving too soon. Article 265 stated that the NCPO will remain in power until “the newly formed Cabinet” assumes office.

What if 24 hours before the new cabinet assumes office, junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha decides he can’t bear the sight of the newly formed government and exercises his absolute power under Article 44, which is guaranteed to remain intact, to do something about it?    

Here’s where things get even more blurry and tricky. Article 279 states that all the orders and actions made by the NCPO and its head before this draft charter comes into effect will be considered constitutional under the new draft charter and “will have [legally] binding effects”.

Does this mean orders freezing assets of some dissidents and the requirement that these people seek the NCPO’s permission to travel abroad will still be valid?

In the overall picture, the preamble of the draft charter says a lot about how the junta-sponsored charter drafters view politicians and the notion of democracy.

Part of the two-and-a-half-page preamble states that past constitutional crisis was partly a result of “people who are not fearful of rules governing the country.”

The first page also vaguely states that another factor in causing the crisis was due to “governing rules that are still not suited” to Thailand at the current time.

The preamble gives us a clue as to how the junta-appointed charter drafters perceive an ideal society. It states that preconditions leading to political conflicts must be reduced so Thai society can be “happy and peaceful on the foundations of love and unity.” It says nothing about how different political opinions should be accommodated and resolved peacefully through deliberation.

Those who love the military junta’s performance over the nearly past two years will likely be happy to endorse the draft charter as they can feel reassured that the NCPO will not really vanish after 2017. 

People who are already fed up with the military regime will have a hard time deciding what to do, as the NCPO is keeping its cards close to its chest and not revealing what may happen in case the junta-sponsored draft charter gets rejected in the Aug. 7 referendum. 

There’s a possibility that the junta may restart a third round of the charter drafting process, thus in effect buying more time and staying in power even longer, or junta leader Gen. Prayuth may invoke his absolute power to amend the rejected draft or revise any former constitution and declare it valid. And there lies the uncertainty of not just the draft charter but the whole referendum process.

 

Pravit Rojanaphruk can be reached at [email protected] and @PravitR.

Follow Khaosod English on Facebook and Twitter for news, politics and more from Thailand. To reach Khaosod English about this article or another matter, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected].

 

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Pedestrian Killed by Bus No. 36

Bus No.36 Wednesday night on Hua Chang bridge

BANGKOK — A 70-year-old woman was killed at around 8:15pm Wednesday when the No.36 bus hit her on Hua Chang Bridge at Bangkok’s Ratchathewi District.

Air-con bus No. 36 was running from Huai Khwang to Si Phraya Pier when it hit a pedestrian identified as Pranom Ko-Charoenrat, 70, who was crossing the road, according to Capt. Nikom In-Oonchote of Pathumwan Police Station.

48-year-old bus driver Supasit Yodpanya said he was driving en route to Huai Khwang in the left lane. At the time many pedestrians were crossing the road during a traffic jam, Supasit told police. Supasit said he heard the vehicle hit something, so he parked the bus and discovered Pranom’s body.

Police charged Supasit Wednesday evening for reckless driving, Nikom said. Police will question witnesses and inspect CCTV footage from the area.

 

Related stories

Motor Taxi Passenger Killed in Bus No. 8 Collision

Man Dies After Jumping In Front of Moving Bus on Sukhumvit Road

 

 

Study: Indonesia 'Hobbit' Fossils Older Than First Thought

In this 2012 photo provided by the Liang Bua Team, archaeological excavations of Holocene deposits at Liang Bua are conducted on the Indonesian island of Flores. Photo: Liang Bua Team / Associated Press

NEW YORK — It was a spectacular discovery: Fossil remains in an Indonesian cave revealed a recent relative of modern humans that stood about 3 feet tall. The creatures were quickly nicknamed "hobbits."

With evidence that they had survived to just 12,000 years ago, the hobbits appeared to have been the last of our companions on the human branch of the evolutionary tree to go extinct.

Now, a decade after they made headlines, they've lost that distinction. New investigations indicate they evidently disappeared much earlier — about 50,000 years ago, before Neanderthals did, for example.

The new date raises speculation about whether hobbits were doomed by the arrival of modern humans on their island. But it doesn't change much about their scientific significance, said Matt Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

He and others wrote the new paper with three of the researchers who'd first reported the discovery in 2004. The new paper was released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

The hobbits are formally known as Homo floresiensis, reflecting their home on the Indonesian island of Flores. With small, chimp-sized brains, the hobbits had skulls that resembled Homo erectus, which lived in Africa and Asia. But they also had long arms and short legs that harkened back to the much older evolutionary forerunners best known for the skeleton dubbed Lucy.

It's not clear where they fit in the human family tree. They may have descended from taller ancestors who shrank because of their isolation on the island. Some scientists have argued they were diseased modern humans rather than a separate species, but experts called that a minority view and several said the new dates make it less likely.

Hobbits evidently made the stone tools that were found along with skeletal remains in the Liang Bua cave. The new analysis says the remains are 100,000 to 60,000 years old, while the artifacts range in age from about 190,000 to 50,000 years.

Researchers revised the original age estimates after new excavations revealed more about the geology of the cave. Sediments were sampled to date the artifacts and bones.

"I think it's a terrific paper," said Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who had no role in the research. "They have done everything you can possibly ask."

So did the arrival of modern humans spell the end for the hobbits, as is proposed for the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe and Asia about 40,000 years ago?

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This 2012 photo provided by the Smithsonian Institution and the Liang Bua Team shows Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, as the Liang Bua Team prepares for new archaeological excavations. Photo: Smithsonian Digitization Program Office and Liang Bua Team / Associated Press

 

There's no evidence that modern humans occupied Flores until long after the hobbits were gone. But they are known to have lived not far away, in Australia, some 50,000 years ago — right about the time the hobbits evidently disappeared.

"It is certainly suggestive," said anthropologist Karen Baab of Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, who studies the hobbits but didn't participate in the new work.

Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia, a study author, said in an email it is "certainly a possibility to be considered, but solid evidence is needed in order to demonstrate it. One thing we can be certain of, it will definitely be a major focus of further research."

Story: Malcolm Ritter / Associated Press

 

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