HD Research Institute
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 27/5 – 10/6/2013June 10, 2013 | By MN | Category: HD Research Institute
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 27/05-10/06/2013
In politics, the government’s 2014 budget bill comfortable passes the first reading in the House of Representatives and Prime Minister (PM) Yingluck Shinawatra agreed to further intensify free trade talks with India after the first Indian premier visit since 2004. Former secretary general of the National Security Council (NSC) Thawil Pliensri won a court battle against PM Yingluck at the Central Administrative Court, which consequently ordered his reinstatement as head of the NSC. Thailand’s color coded politics receives a new group-entry, the white mask movement.
In economics, Thai shares fell due to foreign sales and the baht’s appreciation slowed, representatives from the SET show no fear however as domestic demand and companies remain strong enough to push the Monetary Policy Committee to cut the policy rate by 25 basis points. Increased ASEAN integration was also discussed during the past fortnight both at the World Economic Forum and in the media, with high expectations set for Thailand’s economic potential.
In security, the Police is still investigating in Bangkok’s bomb blast in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 on 26 of May. A connection to the South is not suspected, police is considering two possible motives: a political one or a background related to business conflicts in the area. Concerning the ongoing violence and numerous casualties in the South, emergency decree is extended for further more 90 days, the new expiry date is September 19. The next round of the peace talks between National Security Council (NSC) and representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist group is slated for June 13. Ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently urged the government to postpone the peace talks and negotiate informally in smaller meetings with some southern insurgents instead to push for satisfactory developments.
The government’s 2014 fiscal budget bill passed the first reading of the House of Representatives after a 292 to 155 vote. Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva criticised the bill for leading to unsustainable growth which will concentrate wealth even further and spread poverty around more widely. PM Yingluck defended the 2.52 trillion baht budget bill arguing it would solve long-standing pressing problems and stop the decline in trade competitiveness. She insisted that her budget will contribute to eliminate social inequality and provide equal opportunities for all people while focusing on environmental friendly growth that will manage forests and natural resources sustainably and thus help resolve the flood and drought problems of Thailand. According to PM Yingluck the lack of investment into infrastructure should be given first priority in future developments.
The Thailand Development Research Institute’s (TDRI) president Somkiat Tangkitvanich meanwhile criticized the government’s populist policies such as the rice pledging scheme and first-car tax rebate as generating fewer benefits for the public than populist policies under previous Thaksin Shinawatra administrations such as the 30-baht universal healthcare scheme and the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) entrepreneurship program. Current programs have simple become a political tool to accumulate power, he claimed. His argument was supported by his TDRI colleague Ammar Siamwalla, who argued that it is the wealthiest farmers who benefit most from the pledging scheme. Although TDRI was not against populist policies per-se, Mr. Somkiat advised the government to adopt strict fiscal policies to control spending such as European governments does now to prevent a rise in private debt. (Bangkok Post)
Former secretary general of the National Security Council (NSC) Thawil Pliensri has won a court battle against PM Yingluck at the Central Administrative Court, which order that he be reinstated as head of the NSC. Thawil was transferred from his position through an order by PM Yingluck on 7 September 2012 to the PM’s office where he should have served as an adviser. Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Anusorn Lamsa-ard commented that the government’s legal team will have to look into the case before the government will decide if it wants to appeal the case. Generally though, Anusorn announced: “The government should be able to choose the individuals who work for it. Is every transfer order a case of abuse of power?” Thawil, who insisted that he did not want to threaten Yingluck, stated that if PM Yingluck appeals against the Central Administrative Court verdict he will take the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing the Prime Minister of severe ethical violation, which could in the worst case lead to her impeachment. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung joined the debate and defended the Prime Minister’s initial transfer of Thawil, arguing that it would be normal practice of any government and had also been conducted by the Abhisit-led Democrat government, citing the transfer of National Security Council chief Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut as proof. In what might be understood as a direct message to Thawil, Deputy PM Chalerm stated: “It doesn’t matter how many NSC chiefs we have to change. The NSC chief is nothing if I don’t give him any jobs to do.” (Bangkok Post) (The Nation)
Thailand and India agreed to elevate their ties to a “strategic partnership” and outline a framework for a comprehensive free trade agreement during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. India views Thailand as its gateway to the ASEAN region and thus wants to develop the current free trade agreement, which includes tariff exemptions for 84 goods, further. Two-way trade between India and Thailand reached USD 9.2 billion in 2012-13. Another important item on the agenda during the meeting of the two Prime Ministers was the 3,200 km highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand. The highway project, for which India has already provided a loan to Myanmar, is expected to be finished by 2016. PM Yingluck also propagated information regarding the Dawei Special Economic Zone in southern Myanmar and invited Indian businesses to join the project. The visit by PM Singh was the first by an Indian premier since the 2004 visit by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. (Times of India) (The Hindu) (Bangkok Post)
The color-coded political sphere of Thai politics has received a new entry, this time not discernible by the color of their shirts though but by the mask supporters of the group wear. The group, calling itself V for Thailand, or the white mask movement, protested on Sunday, June 2, in front of Central World shopping mall wearing the internationally known Guy Fawkes mask. Protesters urged people to oppose the current government, which it sees as being ruled by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin’s legal adviser Noppadon Pattama stated that he believed members of the white mask group were the “old faces” of Thaksin’s opponents, saying “These people have a clear agenda. When the public did not support them, they just changed the names.” The group, who has no official leader, seems to be another response to PM Yingluck’s democracy speech in Mongolia and subsequent freedom of expression debates and could therefore join forces with the Thai Spring group initiated by Pol General Vasit Dejkunjorn. (Voice of America) (Bangkok Post) (AsiaOne)
Thai share prices are down again, and are headed to a two-month low due to sell-offs amid foreign investors. The decline started after a Fed announcement that they would limit their asset purchases if the economic growth in the US remains stable. The president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) remained calm, saying that the decline is due to foreign outflow and that the Thai economy still has potential for growth since listed companies’ earnings remain strong and growing. Domestic demand remains strong and after months of debate and political pressure, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cut the policy rate by 25 basis points to 2.5 %. Politicians have since the beginning of the year urged the MPC to cut the policy rate in order to stop the appreciation of the baht that is hurting local industries and export products. In the end, the expectation of a policy rate cut in the market was in itself enough to slow currency appreciation before the rate cut decision by the MPC. (Bangkok Post, The Nation)
The World Economic Forum (WEF) was held in Myanmar this week, a chance for the ASEAN countries to come together and discuss their common economic objectives. There was general optimism about the future of the common platform and business leaders from around the world encouraged ASEAN countries to start thinking about their presence on the global market, rather than being focused on the regional market, and to develop the quality aspects of their products, rather than concentrating on producing cheap products. The long-held idea of an ASEAN common currency was floated but instantly rebuked by the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Kittiratt Na-Ranong, who said that it was simply “impossible”. (The Nation, Bangkok Post)
As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is drawing nearer to completion (set to be launched in 2015) investors are examining their options for drawing profit from the regional integration. Thailand is expected to benefit greatly from the AEC, among other things through property development and increased demand of serviced apartments and high quality accommodation. The opening of Myanmar’s market may also represent an important opportunity for Thai investors as there is an important shortage of hotels, offices and apartments in the country. (The Nation)
Police is still investigating in the correlations of the bomb explosion in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 in Bangkok on 26 of May. Two possible motives are considered: one political and another arising from possible business conflicts in the area. There is no suspected connection to the unrest in the South. (Bangkok Post)
The violence in the South of Thailand continues and bomb explosions and shootings caused numerous casualties. Concerning these developments, the emergency decree is extended for further 90 days. It was due to expire on June 19, the revised expiry date is September 19. Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha brought out the idea of building a security fence along the southern border to prevent separatist bandits crossing back and forth into Malaysia. The fence would also complicate the situation for smugglers. Defense Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat agrees with the idea, but no decision about the improvement of this idea has been made yet. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
The next round of peace talks between the National Security Council (NSC) and representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist group is slated for June 13 in Malaysia. A survey among the local population regarding the peace dialogue between the government and the BRN, shows that the majority of the respondents (54.4 %) want the talks to continue. The survey was carried out in 409 telephone interviews between June 6 – 7 in the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. Asked about their rating of the present situation in the South, 61 % of the respondents said the situation has become more violent, while 36.6 % said the situation has remained unchanged. 2.7 % appraised the situation as improved. Asked about the opinion of an advantage of one party of the peace talks, the majority of the respondents with 78.9 % pointed to the BRN. Asked about their opinion of the prospective development of the situation in the South, 72.6 % of those interviewed were concerned the situation would get worse, while 27.4 % said there were signs of truce. (Bangkok Post)
Meanwhile members of civil society groups are trying to involve themselves more in the ongoing peace-building process in the South. Recently, members of the Civil Society Council of Southernmost Thailand have agreed to draft their own recommendations for the ongoing peace dialogue between the Thai government and the separatist rebels. Another civil society group is starting a three-month-long leadership training course from June to November to prepare local leaders for a role in the peace-building process. People’s College, which is offering the course, aims in collaboration with other organizations to provide political space to all relevant stakeholders in the peace-building process. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
Concerning the imminent beginning of Ramadan next month, southern Imams demanded the end of all forms of violence during the month-long fasting period. This demand was pointed out in a recent meeting between Imams, or leaders of 364 mosques across the southern province of Narathiwat and Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, director of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), held at the office of the Narathiwat Islamic Committee. The Muslim religious leaders called on the National Security Council (NSC) to set this as an urgent demand on the agenda of the next round of peace talks. (Bangkok Post)
Ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently urged the government to postpone the peace talks with the BRN and negotiate informally in smaller meetings with some southern insurgents instead since the violence is going on to push for satisfactory developments. (Bangkok Post)
South Thailand Security Report (May 2013)June 4, 2013 | By EK | Category: HD Research Institute
Emergency decree to be lifted in 5 districts
After a peak in the number of casualties resulting from the conflict in Thailand’s south in March 2013, the last two months have seen declining casualties. The peak was due to the start of peace negotiations between the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) group and Thailand’s government. The next round of peace talks is to be held on 13 June, just before the emergency decree is planned to be lifted and replaced by the less restrictive Internal Security Act in five districts after 19 June. 32 persons were killed and 51 injured in May 2013, compared to last year this corresponds to a 57% increase in the number of casualties.
Further school closures
28 schools were closed again in Narathiwat province the targeted attack on a headmaster in the province. When teachers wanted to reopen schools, worried parents insisted on keeping them closed in some locations. The shooting was the first directed at academic personnel since February.
Vehicle bomb attacks decline, but more civilian casualties
Following the declaration of peace negotiations in the end of February there was a sharp increase in the amount of vehicle bomb attacks in the three southern border provinces. Vehicle bombs caused many civilian casualties in March but although this trend has subsided, the number of casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IED) remains above average. 50 % of attacks in May consisted of IED attacks and the amount of civilians killed or injured was the highest since 6 months. Over the previous two months, attacks had more intensively targeted military or police officials (59 % of victims in March and 72 % of victims in April). In May however, there were as many civilian casualties as military/police casualties. For all groups in the South, the morning continues to be the most dangerous time of day.
You can download the Security report here.
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 13/5 – 26/5/2013May 27, 2013 | By MN | Category: HD Research Institute
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 13/5 – 26/5
In politics, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung proposed a reconciliation bill that is supported by 163 Pheu Thai MPs but not the executive branch of the party. The bill would provide a blanket amnesty to everyone involved in past political violence from 2006 until now but was instantly met by strong opposition from the opposition parties as well as the red shirts. A new by-election will be held in Don Muang after Pheu Thai MP Karun Hosakul was disqualified by the Supreme Court for defaming his opponent from the Democrat Party during the general election in 2011 and consequently banned from politics for five years. Asia-Pacific nations have signed the “Chiang Mai declaration” to improve their water management and promised closer cooperation to defuse tensions conflicts over the natural resource.
In economics, ASEAN integration is moving ahead and attracting big investors such as General Motors and Scania to invest in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Economic Community held a meeting last week in Bangkok to discuss, among other things, future investment potential in Myanmar. Thai companies are moving to invest, especially in the household consumption sector, to take profit from the large potential of the opening neighbour market. While investors move full steam ahead, worries are voiced about the volume of Thai household debt despite reassurances from the Ministry of Finance.
In security, On Sunday night, 26 of May, a bomb exploded in Bangkok, at Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 and injured seven people. This bomb explosion marked the first bombing in Bangkok for several years. Police says that it is not likely connected to the separatist movement in Thailand’s three southernmost border provinces. While the violence in the southernmost provinces of Thailand continues, the National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut recently pointed out, that the peace talks with the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional) will continue. The third round of peace talks will be held on June 13 in Malaysia.
In the ongoing aftermath of Prime Minister (PM) Yingluck Shinawatra’s speech at the Democracy Forum in Mongolia, the accused hacker of the PM’s website, which was smeared with a derogatory term, Narongrit Suksarn, aka Window 98se reported to Police to deny the accusation. He was adamant that he never visited the PM’s website and claimed he was likely double-crossed by the “Unlimited Hack Team”, which he was once a member of but left after internal conflicts. The hacker team responded by posting on Facebook that Mr. Narongrit was never a member of their team and that it would be completely insane to “smear others by putting their actual name”. Police meanwhile are of the belief that Narongrit hacked the website but didn’t change anything, later on shared the information with other hackers who then posted the insulting term on the website. Narongrit on the other hand felt betrayed by police, who he says used his help to track down the hacker but didn’t officially announce his innocence.
The office of the Thai Rath newspaper, which publishes Chai Ratchawat’s cartoons and was recently in the headlines for his controversial comments about PM Yingluck, was attacked on Saturday morning, May 11. Four men on two motorcycles threw two iron petanque balls and firecrackers at the security booth in fromt of the head office, injuring two security guards slightly. The Thai Journalism Association issued a statement condemning the attack, saying it was a deliberate act of press intimidation. (Bangkok Post)
The PM’s democracy speech was pushed out of the headlines though after Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung proposed his version of a reconciliation bill, supported by 163 Pheu Thai MPs. The bill was submitted to Parliament by Pheu Thai MP for Yasothon Piraphan Palusuk on May 23 and would provide a blanket amnesty to everyone involved in past political violence from 2006 until now. His bill is thus in contract to the amnesty bill proposed by Samut Prakan MP Worachai Hema, which would not include amnesty for leaders but only demonstrators. Before submission of the bill Mr. Chalerm removed article 5 of his initial bill which sought to provide financial compensation to people affected by political violence and crackdowns because as it would rely on the national budget PM Yingluck would have had to endorse it. Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit announced that although Deputy PM Chalerm’s bill is supported by Pheu Thai MPs, it is not supported by the executive branch of the party. He clarified that, “Pheu Thai has resolved to support Worachai’s bill and will not take up Chalerm’s version for deliberation at the same time.” Chalerm’s bill was instantly met by criticism from the opposition as well as red shirts, who do not want a blanket amnesty for military leaders of the 2010 crackdown. Perhaps in a direct response, Chalerm has recently personally promised to bring Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand until the end of the year. Worachai’s bill is at the top of the house agenda when parliament reconvenes on August 1, while Chalerm’s bill is not on the house agenda yet. (Bangkok Post) (Phuket Gazette) (The Nation)
The Supreme Court disqualified Pheu Thai Party member Karun Hosakul as an MP and banned him from politics for five years for defaming Democrat Party MP Thaenkhun Chit-itsara during the general election in 2011. Consequently, the by-election in Don Muang will be held on June 16 and will be contested by Democrat Party MP Thaenkhun Chit-itsara and Pheu Thai candidate Yuranunt Pamornmontri. Yuranunt, who stood unsuccessful in the 2009 Bangkok governor election, stated that the party probably chose him because of his close relationship with the people in Don Muang and for his work in the district in the aftermath of the 2011 floods. Te Election Commission will sue Mr. Karun to pay for the by-election, which will cost around 10 million baht. (Bangkok Post) (Pattaya Mail)
PM Yingluck has called on all Asia-Pacific nations to cooperate in sustainable water management to handle natural disasters more effectively. She delivered the opening speech at the second Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in Chiang Mai on May 20. She furthermore urged countries to reduce the destruction of the environment and prevent deforestation and warned that a war over water could erupt if countries wouldn’t agree to share and work together. Summit leaders of the Asia-Pacific nations adopted the “Chiang Mai declaration” which states: “We declare to encourage the adoption of policies and measures to reduce water pollution, combat desertification, improve water quality and protect wetlands, rivers and the other source of fresh water.” Despite the region’s economic growth about two-thirds of the Asia-Pacific’s population does not have access to potable, piped water services, according to the Asian Development Bank. The Bank attributes this to poor management and lack of investment in infrastructure. Environmental groups gathered alongside the summit to protest the “top-down” approach to water management and lack of focus on major environmental and trans-boundary development projects and their social impacts. (Straits Times) (Ooskanews) (Pattaya Mail)
Amid worries for Thai products’ competitiveness as a result of the minimum wage reform and government pledging schemes for agricultural products, a Thai delegation to Brussels is hoping to get more Thai products certified with the Geographical Indication (GI) stamp from the European Union. After the Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong Hai rice, the delegation has applied for certification of Sung Yod rice and Doi Chang and Doi Tung coffee from northern Thailand. Increasing recognition of Thai products and quality is expected to help promote the products despite their higher price levels compared to products from neighbouring countries. (The Nation)
Ongoing ASEAN integration is starting to show clear signs of attracting industry and investment as General Motors and Scania, a Swedish truck producer, announce plans to expand their production and market share in Southeast Asia. The government’s first-car policy has increased car purchases in Thailand and it is now mainly car and motorcycle leasing that accounts for the increase in household consumer loans since 2011. In Thailand, household debt has risen steadily over the past years but credits for cars and motorcycle leasing grew by 33.9 % in 2011 whereas other consumer loans declines by 17.4 % in the same period. Loans for property investments have also increased while prices for condos have risen at the same time. On the outskirts of Bangkok land prices have gone up by more than 50 % in some areas as the expansion of mass transit routes continues. Prices are expected to continue to rise as demand remains equally strong while the supply decreases. The supply is expected to decrease although new development is abundant along the new mass transit routes and especially on Sukhumvit after Soi 55. Although some voices have been heard raising doubts about the sustainability of the current household debt trends, the Fiscal Policy Office (under the Ministry of Finance) does not yet believe that there is any need to worry. (Bangkok Post, The Nation)
Last week, the ASEAN Economic Community held a seminar in Bangkok to discuss, among other things, the potential for new investment in Myanmar. At the moment, the opportunities are seen as especially important for companies that produce consumer goods as general household income is slowly increasing in the country. The Thai beverage company ThaiBev recently concluded an over 300 billion baht deal with another company that has a stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd. The plan is to start important beverages into Myanmar but also to export beer from the country to Thailand for the important migrant worker market. (Bangkok Post)
On Sunday night, 26 of May, a bomb exploded at Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 in Bangkok at a crowded market place and injured seven people. This bomb explosion marked the first bombing in Bangkok for several years. Police says that the bomb explosion is not connected to the separatist movement in Thailand’s three southernmost border provinces. It was most likely connected to disputes between vendors over selling spaces and related to an expert from a bomb inspection unit it is unlikely the explosion was the work of southern insurgents, sources say. Police is investigating. At time of this writing, sources say that a former teacher was arrested suspected of planting the bomb. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
The situation in Thailand’s southernmost provinces stays tense. The violence continued and causing many casualties and disturbances through shootings or bombings the past two weeks. Meanwhile the emergency decree will be lifted in five districts in the southern border provinces next month and will be replaced by the less harsh Internal Security Act after the current term of enforcement ends on June 19. The affected districts are: Kapho district in Pattani; Betong and Kabang districts in Yala; and Waeng and Sukhirin districts of Narathiwat. The Internal Security Act opens the way for suspected insurgents to turn themselves in to authorities, to prove their innocence and be sent for training before being released, instead of facing legal action. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
Concerning issues of self-protection the military is helping five villages in Pattani set up a “people’s army” for improving the ability to defend themselves against security threats. Thereby the 44th Rangers Regiment chief Niti Tinsulanon has provided weapons training to residents and educated them on how to set up and man security surveillance points. About 200 residents have joined the citizen defense volunteer units in their respective villages so far. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
The third round of the peace talks will be held on June 13 in Malaysia. Recently a new BRN video with demands was released on You Tube. Adam Muhammad Noor, who is described as a “staff vice-delegate” of the group in the video, reiterated the five demands, which were published before the last peace talks and emphasized that the continuing conflict in the far South stemmed from “colonial rule” in Pattani. After the video of BRN was published, National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut pointed out, that the peace talks will continue, but the negotiation framework is not yet clear. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh’s, the former prime minister, recently made a proposal for setting up of a special administrative zone in the region of Pattani, but Lt-Gen Paradorn said it would not yet be taken up for consideration. (Bangkok Post, The Nation)
Concerning the security situation in Thailand, a currently published ranking of a British-based firm specializing in risk management and terrorism insurance recently cited that Thailand is the world’s ninth most-prone country to terrorist attacks. The top-10 countries at risk from terrorism are, in order Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 30/4 – 12/5/2013May 10, 2013 | By MN | Category: HD Research Institute
HDFF Bi-Weekly Thailand Review 30/4 – 12/5
In politics, Prime Minister (PM) Yingluck Shinawatra’s speech at the Democracy Forum in Mongolia started, unwantedly, a debate on freedom of expression in Thailand, started by an unfounded social media message insulting PM Yingluck. The Government was asked to review its 350 billion baht water-management and flood-prevention scheme, and Li Ping is extending her stay in Chiang Mai Zoo.
In economics, the baht’s appreciation continue to divide policy makers, while gravely affecting exports and slowing Thailand’s national growth projections. The Bank of Thailand is in continued disaccord with the Finance Minister about the policy rate and the measures necessary for limiting speculation in the government bond market. Meanwhile, foreign direct investment in Myanmar is lunging ahead and abundant trade opportunities are open to Thailand, starting with the infrastructure development and special economic projects related to the Dawei economic zone.
In security, on Monday, April 29, the peace talks between the Barisan Revolusi Nasional and Thai officials went into its second round. The demands of BRN, which were issued one day ahead, were rejected by the Thai officials, who instead urged the BRN to prove their control on other insurgent groups in reducing the violence. Meanwhile incidents by insurgents in the southernmost provinces continued with many casualties. Several drug smugglers were arrested in the South as well as in the North of Thailand and the police confiscated more than a hundred thousand of methamphetamine pills. The Anti-Human Trafficking Division revealed two recent arrests of suspected human traffickers.
PM Yingluck’s speech on April 29 at a Democracy Forum in Mongolia has set in motion another debate about freedom of speech in Thailand and provided Yingluck-critical analysts with the opportunity to claim that she would have finally shown her true feeling about the 2006 coup and the 2010 protests.
Already before leaving to Mongolia PM Yingluck was criticized for defending red-shirt protest against the Constitutional Court by saying they would have the right to do so as long as the protests remain peaceful. Democrat MP Ong-art Klampaiboon insisted though that the red-shirts threat to capture the three court judges deciding whether the charter amendment bills were unconstitutional went too far. Meanwhile, 312 parliamentarians signed a letter indicating their stance not to adhere to the Constitutional Court’s decision stating that the court would not have the authority to rule on the amendment of Article 68, which currently allows the public to complain directly to the court in perceived acts that undermine the constitutional monarchy. The government wants to amend to article so that every complained is first screened by the Office of the Attorney-General, which then decides if it should be sent to the court.
In her speech at the Democracy Forum PM Yingluck condemned the overthrow of her brother’s government, which was democratically elected, by “anti-democratic forces”. While her speech was naturally praised by government MP’s and spokespersons, opposition forces criticized her for painting only half a picture and distorting facts, failing to mention corruption and abuses of authority under the Thaksin government. A group of 58 appointed senators were quick to demand an apology for her speech. The controversy then reached another level when Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat posted a message on Facebook saying: “Please understand prostitutes are not evil women. Prostitutes just sell their body but an evil woman sells the nation.” PM Yingluck, the obvious target of Mr. Rachawat’s posting decided to file a lawsuit for defamation, which ultimately lead to the discussion regarding freedom of expression. On top of that the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Anudith Nakornthap threatened to block websites criticizing the prime minister. Opposition democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva slammed the minister for violating democratic principles but did not, on the other hand, stop his Party from filing a defamation lawsuit against Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who called the 2008-2011 Democrat government a “non-elected government”. The Prime Ministers website was then hacked and a fake picture wad added including derogatory and sexist remarks added.
In no-nonsense news regarding Yingluck’s visit to Mongolia, the two countries agreed to strengthen ties in terms of trade, investment, science, education, public health, and tourism. Furthermore, Thailand will promote investment in mining in Mongolia and help through its experience in the hospitality sector and cooperate on alternative energies and the development of dual degrees. (Associated Foreign Press)(Bangkok Post) (The Nation) (National News Bureau of Thailand)
A network of organizations, lead by the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, asked the Prime Minister to review the government’s 350 billion baht water-management and flood-prevention plan. The groups argued that there was no agency responsible to supervise the nine modules, and no local participation was included in the scheme, a violation of the 2007 constitution. The Lawyers Council of Thailand announced that it will lodge a complaint with the National Anti-Corruption Commission in case the Central Administrative Court will not issue an injunction on the acceptance of bids. Utain Shartpinyo, a former advisor to Yingluck, asked the Administrative Court for the injunction. (The Nation)
In uplifting news, Thailand and China agreed to extend Li Ping’s stay in Chiang Mai Zoo to a yet to be announced date. Li Ping is the offspring of Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, two pandas leased by Beijing to Thailand in October 2003 for 10 years for $250,000. The agreement was reached during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Thailand. Mr. Wang stated that, “When the time is right, the panda will have to go home to find its partner in China.” It is expected that China will invest in Thailand’s 2-trillion-baht infrastructure projects, which include water management systems and high-speed railways.(Bangkok Post) (Global Post) (National News Bureau of Thailand)
The strong baht leads to continued discussion between Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and the Bank of Thailand (BoT) regarding the preferred measures for cooling down the baht’s appreciation. The strong baht has affected national growth projections and exports; with for example rice exports expected to plummet to their lowest level in 12 years. The price of Thai rice is now at gravely uncompetitive levels, with neighbouring countries as well as India providing the market with cheaper produce. Minister of Finance has since last year promoted a reduction of the policy rate as his preferred solution to the situation, something that the central bank has rejected repeatedly. The BoT has now proposed four measures directed at the government bond market to limit speculation and inflow of foreign capital. The first measure involves a requirement for foreign investors to engage in foreign exchange hedging. In short, this means that investors are forced to protect themselves from the risk that the exchange rate will change unfavorably. In practice, this limits the foreign investors’ possibility to gain money from the baht’s rise and the interest in pumping in more money in the government bond market therefore weakens. The second measure is to set a minimum holding period for foreigners investing in Thai government bonds, something that according to Paul Mackel, head of Asian currency research at the HSBC, is likely to discourage investors. The other two measures involve a ban on buying the central bank’s bonds and on levying fees on offshore investors that profit from bond investment. (The Nation, Bangkok Post)
Although the scramble for Myanmar is already in full speed among investors, remittances from the Burmese expatriates remain an important source of revenue for Burmese households. Currently, around 3 million Burmese migrant workers are estimated to live in Thailand, with another 1.8 million expected to receive work permits by the end of the year. The Thai bank Kasikornbank is therefore extending its remittance transfer services, first set up in 2012. Remittance transfers are now available in Kbank’s ATMs that also provide service in Burmese language. The bank is hoping to cash in on the opening up of the banking system in Myanmar and the lifting of international sanctions against the country. The bank expects that the service will increase their remittance customers from 10,000 to 100,000. Trade links between Thailand and Myanmar are growing, a development that is likely to be boosted by the continued planning of the Dawei special economic zone and following infrastructure construction. The Industry Minister from Myanmar, Mr. Aye Myint came to Thailand on 8 May to talk with potential investors and move forward on the plans to set up a Thai consortium to gather all the interested investors. (The Nation, Bangkok Post, Eleven Myanmar)
On Monday, April 29, the second round of peace talks between the Barisan Revolusi Nasional and Thai officials was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One day ahead the talks, BRN published a video clip with five demands via you tube. They stipulated that the peace talks will be attended by the Melayu Pattanis led by BRN, and the Thai government and the Thai officials need to accept Malaysia as “mediator” of the peace talks and not just as “facilitator”. Furthermore demanded the authorities to release all detained suspects and suspend and revoke all arrest warrants concerning national security cases without condition. BRN themselves want to be recognized as a Pattani liberation movement, not as separatist group. Besides that, one of the demands issued by BRN, is the involvement of Asean members, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and other non- governmental organizations as witnesses of the peace talks. (Bangkok Post)
The Thai officials rejected the demands in the second round of peace talks on 29 of April. Instead they brought out their own postulation, which includes that Hassan Taib and BRN group should prove their influence on the movements in the South by reducing the violence in May. Observers of the peace talks said that the BRN’s demands are a “slap in the face for the government”. Lt-Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut, chief of National Security Council, insisted that the second round of the talks couldn’t be seen as a failure and developments until the next meeting of BRN and Thai officials has to be awaited. Meanwhile Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa, a former defense minister, urged, that the NSC should go on the offensive and involves experts in negotiation. The next round of peace talks will be held on June 13. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
According to a Dusit Poll survey, most of the people in the southernmost provinces rejected the conditions demanded for peace talks set by BRN. The survey was conducted between April 29 and May 2, whereby 1249 people of all education levels and a wide range of occupation nationwide (including 542 respondents in the three southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala and the southern province of Songkhla) were asked about their opinion about the BRN peace talk’s demands. (Bangkok Post)
Meanwhile the violence in the southern provinces continues. In Pattani almost ten people were shot dead in the last two weeks and four local administrative offices and two mobile phone signal towers were torched in four different districts. Among the casualties is a 2-year old boy who was killed in a gun attack with six other adults. Also in Narathiwat were several gun attacks, whereby numerous civilians, members of the security forces and one militant were killed or injured. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
Thai police could recently arrest several suspected drug smugglers. In Narathiwat two men were arrested on suspicion of transporting methamphetamine pills worth 23 million baht to be smuggled into Malaysia on 5 of May. Police found 94 000 speed pills in their possession. Investigators believe that the drugs were eventually supposed to be transported further to Singapore, where the price of each pill is expected to be nearly five times higher. Also in Chiang Mai police has arrested 11 suspected drug dealers. They are suspected of selling drugs to youths through social media like facebook. Police confiscated hundreds of amphetamine tablets in this case. In Chiang Rai five drug suspects were killed on May 5 in a gunfight between a smugglers’ caravan and the Pha Mueang Task Force. In Nakhon Phanom’s Ban Paeng district police arrested three Thai men, who had 31 425 yaba pills in their possession. (Bangkok Post/ The Nation)
On April 30, the head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Divison, Pol Maj-General Chawalit Sawaengphuet, presented two recent arrests. One of them was arrested on suspicion of luring a Thai woman into forced prostitution in South Africa, while the other arrested man is suspected of luring a man from Myanmar into forced work on a fishing boat for 4-5 months. (The Nation)
South Thailand Security Report (April 2013)May 3, 2013 | By EK | Category: HD Research Institute
The government’s talks with the Baranasi Revolusi Nasional (BRN) group have continued in April, and violence decreased somewhat compared to last month. Nevertheless, anti-peace talk banners were posted around Pattani and Narathiwat provinces and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found close to several of these banners. In April, 60 persons were injured and 26 persons were killed, a decrease from last month. The change is in part attributable to the high number of vehicle bomb incidents in March 2013 that caused a large amount of casualties. In April, the majority of victims (66%) were killed or injured by IEDs, followed by gunshots (26 %).
Casualties evenly spread over provinces
April deviated from the trend in the previous six months in which Yala had significantly fewer casualties than Pattani and Narathiwat. During the month, casualties were almost evenly spread across the provinces.
Many attacks during daytime
In the past three months, it has become more frequent for attacks to occur in the middle of the day, between noon and 4 PM. In April, the number of casualties reported during the night also increased strongly – 44% of the month’s victims were injured or killed between 7 PM and midnight. However, the morning (from 6 AM to noon) remains the time when most victims are wounded or killed.
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