At least two people have died after a fire broke out at a major Bangkok shopping centre complex on Wednesday.
The fire, which has now been brought under control, reportedly started on the building’s eighth floor at about 17:40 local time (10:40 GMT).
At least one of those who died had fallen from the building, local reports and witnesses say.
Videos on social media showed hundreds of Thais evacuating from the large shopping complex.
Other clips showed emergency services struggling to get through gridlocked rush-hour traffic to get to the scene.
At least 17 people have also been also injured, the Erawan Medical Emergency centre told AFP.
The cause of the fire has not been confirmed.
Bangkok’s governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, told a Wednesday night news conference that an investigation into the blaze would start on Thursday.
He also said the building would remain closed until deemed safe by officials.
On their Facebook page, CentralWorld said (in Thai) that the fire was brought under control about 30 minutes after it started.
The shopping centre’s website describes it as the largest lifestyle shopping destination in Bangkok.
It is also said to be as the 11th largest complex of its kind in the world.
The Thai authorities have arrested 15 Indonesian fishermen from Aceh and confiscated the 21 gross tonnage fishing ship they were using under the suspicion of committing violations in the neighboring country’s waters.
“We received the information about the arrest on Friday,” Aceh deputy sea commander Miftachhuddin Cut Adek said on Saturday as quoted by Antara news agency.
He added they had informed the Aceh Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency of the arrest, so the latter could tell the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok about the matter.
“We hope the Indonesian embassy could contact the Thai authorities to get the latest updates on the condition of the arrested fishermen,” Miftachhuddin said.
The fishing ship, KM Harapan Baroe 01, sailed from Kuala Idi village in East Aceh regency with 15 crew members onboard to catch fish in the Strait of Malacca and Indian Ocean. Miftachhuddin said the fishermen probably drifted off course because of the sea current while catching fish in the area bordering Thailand.
This was not the first arrest of East Aceh regency fishermen made by the authorities of a neighboring country. On Feb. 6, 23 fishermen from the same regency were arrested by Myanmar authorities for allegedly catching fish outside of Indonesian territory.
This year, at least 38 fishermen from East Aceh regency have been arrested for allegedly committing violations in a neighboring country’s waters. The Aceh Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency has been warning fishermen to not commit violations in other country’s waters. (kuk)
BANGKOK – Thai police summoned a prominent anti-junta politician on Wednesday to answer a sedition complaint, a police document showed, a charge rising star Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit called politically motivated after a disputed election.
The sedition complaint – the second criminal case opened against Thanathorn since he formed the Future Forward Party last year – dates back to 2015 and was filed by the army, a police official told Reuters.
The progressive, youth-oriented Future Forward Party made a surprisingly strong showing in the March 24 election, coming in third with 6.2 million votes.
It was still unclear which party could form government after the election, the first since a 2014 army coup. Final results may not be clear for weeks.
Future Forward has joined an opposition “democratic front” alliance that will try to form a government and block junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha from staying in power.
Thanathorn, 40, is accused of breaking article 116 of the Thai criminal code, the equivalent of sedition, and article 189, for assisting others who committed a serious crime, the police summons showed.
He could face up to nine years in prison if found guilty.
Thanathorn will have to report to the Pathumwan police station in central Bangkok on Saturday.
“I don’t know what the charges are yet but it is obviously politically motivated,” Thanathorn told Reuters.
The complaint against Thanathorn was filed by the army in 2015 over his involvement in helping anti-junta protesters that year, a police officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“The emergence of Thanathorn … isn’t a threat to the nation. It is a threat to the army that is hostile towards democracy and the people,” Thanathorn told reporters.
The hashtag “#SaveThanathorn” was a top Thai trend on Twitter on Wednesday, resurfacing from February when he met prosecutors about a cybercrime charge over a speech he made on Facebook criticising the junta in July.
Prosecutors will decide on April 26 whether to put him on trial for the cybercrime charge.
The Thai military government dismissed the idea that the police action on Wednesday was politically motivated, saying that the summons related to a national security matter.
“There will be an investigation,” Thai deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.
CHIANG MAI: Thailand’s prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday (Apr 2) gave the smog-hit northern city of Chiang Mai seven days to crack down on its spiralling pollution problem.
The city has far eclipsed other notorious pollution hotspots since Sunday, with the level of dangerous microscopic particles known as PM2.5 peaking at 480, according to the latest figures provided by the Air Quality Index. Any level over 300 is classed as hazardous.
By contrast, the reading in the Indian capital of New Delhi peaked at 228, while Beijing reached only 161.
The pollution crisis in Chiang Mai has seen residents, street vendors and monks donning surgical face masks and at least two universities cancelling classes.
Crop burning during the dry season has long been blamed for poor air quality, but the smog has been exacerbated by growing industrialisation and rising numbers of vehicles on the roads.
Prayut, on a visit to Chiang Mai, demanded a clampdown on crop burning.
“I want to reiterate that the problem of hotspots (crop burning areas) must be solved in seven days,” said the leader of the military government, who is angling to become the elected civilian prime minister.
“Nobody should ignite fires in the forest,” he said.
Crop burning is normally restricted for two months in the dry season to try to curb pollution, but it remains widespread.
The smog is worse this year because of a drought and more illegal burning, said Sate Sampattagul, head of the Climate Change Data Center at Chiang Mai University.
Chiang Mai is also especially vulnerable because it is surrounded by mountains that trap the pollution.
Olivier Evrard, a Thailand-based specialist for the Institute of Research for Development, said crop burning was not the only culprit.
“The government has encouraged the population to buy more vehicles and coal plants are still running at full speed,” Evrard said.
A total of nine provinces are affected by the smog as the northern city of Chiang Rai prepares to host the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting.
Face masks have been prepared for the event, Nadhavudh Dhamasiri, a senior Finance Ministry official, told Reuters.
About 300 officials are expected for the meeting, with some participants already arriving. There are no plans to change the meeting venue or schedules, officials said.
“The dust situation is improving and has not affected the meeting schedules,” Nadhavudh added.
Sophon Thongdee, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment told the Bangkok Post that Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn said the problem has escalated beyond the provincial authorities’ power.
“The government should take action, including on behalf of all the volunteers so they can join hands to deal with the problem,” Thongdee added.
The seasonal duration of the haze, which used to last for about three months, has now increased to six months, according to Chaicharn Pothirat, a lung disease specialist at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine.
The long-term effects include an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, he said, adding that he is sceptical the government has any “long-term plan” good enough to tackle the problem.
Earlier this year, the Thai capital Bangkok was also hit by bad smog, which led to school closures for three days.
BANGKOK – Rangers at a national park in northeastern Thailand have rescued six baby elephants that were trapped in a mud pit.
Park officials say the elephants were unable to climb up the pit’s slippery banks. Rescuers took five hours on Thursday to dig a path for them to clamber out.
A video taken by rangers at Thap Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima province shows the baby elephants climbing one by one from the muddy ditch.
The head of the park, Prawatsart Chantep, says rangers found the animals stuck in the pit on Wednesday afternoon. He said there were signs that a herd of elephants believed to be related to the trapped infants was circling the area.
It was unclear how the elephants became trapped.
BANGKOK: Thailand’s pro-army Palang Pracharat Party won the popular vote in Sunday’s general election with 8.4 million ballots, the Election Commission said on Thursday (Mar 28) as it released unofficial results of the first election since a military coup in 2014.
Palang Pracharat garnered 8.4 million votes while the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, whose elected government was toppled in the coup, got 7.9 million votes, said Krit Urwongse, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission.
Both the pro-army Palang Pracharat and an anti-military government “democratic front” have claimed a mandate to form the next government, but it is unclear if either side will be able to gather enough votes in parliament to form a workable government
The results represented 100 per cent of the ballots counted but would remain unofficial until final results are announced on May 9.
Palang Pracharat won the popular vote with 8.4 million ballots, the Election Commission said.
The main opposition Pheu Thai Party, whose elected government was toppled in the coup, got 7.9 million votes.
“These numbers are fully-counted results officially reported by each constituency,” said Krit Urwongse, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission.
The numbers were for the nationwide popular vote and were not broken down into parties’ share of vote in each of the 350 constituencies.
The commission has not announced the full number of seats for each party in the 500-seat House of Representatives.
Results for the lower house’s 350 directly elected “constituent seats” showed Pheu Thai with 137 and the Palang Pracharat with 97.
The remaining 150 House of Representatives seats are allocated according to a complex formula involving the total number of votes for each party.
The vote numbers released on Thursday should allow a clearer view of how the 150 party seats will be divided. The commission itself has said it would not to announce the party seats until May 9, when the official results are finalised.
On Wednesday, the Pheu Thai-led “democratic front” of seven parties claimed to have a combined 255 seats based on partial results, saying the majority in the House of Representatives gave it the right to try to form a government.
But Palang Pracharat, which campaigned on keeping on coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as elected prime minister, said it had the popular mandate because it had won the most votes nationwide.
Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/thai-election-palang-pracharat-won-popular-vote-pheu-thai-second-11389046
Sony Corp will close its smartphone plant in Beijing in the next few days, a company spokesman said, as the Japanese electronics giant aims to cut costs in the loss-making business.
Sony will shift production to its plant in Thailand in a bid to halve costs and turn the smartphone business profitable in the year from April 2020, the spokesman said on Thursday. He said the decision was not related to Sino-U.S. trade frictions.
Sony’s smartphone business is one of its few weak spots and is bracing for a loss of 95 billion yen ($863 million) for the financial year ending this month.
Some analysts say Sony should sell the business amid acute price competition with Asian rivals. The company has a global market share of less than one percent, shipping just 6.5 million units this financial year mainly for Japan and Europe.
But Sony has said it has no intention to sell as it expects smartphones to be central to technologies for fifth-generation wireless networks, where cars and various devices would be connected.
Among Japanese electronics companies, Fujitsu Ltd last year sold its mobile phone business to investment fund Polaris Capital Group.
That left just three Japanese smartphone makers – Sony, Sharp Corp and Kyocera Corp – in a global market dominated by Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and cheaper Chinese rivals.
Samsung late last year said it would cease operations at one of its mobile phone plants in China, as its sales in the world’s biggest smartphone market slumped.
(Reporting by Pei Li in BEIJING and Makiko Yamazaki in TOKYO; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Editing by Stephen Coates)
BANGKOK: Thai pro-democracy factions on Tuesday (Mar 26) moved to unite and thwart the Phalang Pracharat party from forming a government after the first election since a 2014 coup.
The military government appeared to be in pole position to return to power as a civilian administration after preliminary results from Sunday’s poll showed its proxy party had secured an unexpected majority of the popular vote.
Around 7.6 million votes went to Phalang Pracharat with 94 per cent of ballots tallied, the Election Commission has said.
That gives it – and its prime ministerial candidate Prayut Chan-O-Cha – a strong claim to legitimacy from a poll held under new military government-scripted rules.
It is more than 400,000 ballots ahead of Pheu Thai, the populist party toppled from power by the 2014 coup and affiliated with self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
But Pheu Thai still appeared set to become the largest party in the lower house, on track for 137 constituency seats compared to Phalang Pracharat’s 97, according to early figures.
It also was poised to receive a much-needed boost from other parties in the pro-democracy camp intent on creating an alliance.
Future Forward, a youth-oriented force that took over five million votes, said in a statement late Tuesday that it would join “a coalition of parties opposing the prolonging” of military government rule.
Those parties are expected to meet on Wednesday to reveal more details.
Under the stewardship of telegenic leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Future Forward won 30 constituency seats and is expected to collect more when separate party list seats are announced.
Experts predict days – perhaps weeks – of messy negotiations, with both Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat claiming the right to form a government.
Another smaller party, Bhumjaithai, the vehicle of a cabal of savvy billionaires whose allegiance shifts with the political winds, is likely to be crucial in swinging a lower house majority towards or against the junta party.
It has proposed Anutin Charnivirakul, 52, for prime minister and trailed promises of boosting rural incomes across the northeast by allowing medicinal cannabis to be grown.
Seen as a rare compromise figure across a political landscape bisected by personal hatreds, he was once a senior official in a Shinawatra party.
FREE AND FAIR?
Disqualifications of candidates and disputes over poll irregularities are likely to reshape the balance of the 500-seat lower house before May 9, when final results are to be published.
As the horse-trading plays out, questions are also swirling over election irregularities, with millions of invalidated ballots, dodgy oversight of polling and bungling by election authorities that may have wildly skewed initial numbers.
The Election Commission is also releasing the results in a staggered fashion, claiming “human error” when reporters pointed out that a handful of provinces returned more ballots than the voter turnout.
Regional election monitor ANFREL announced on Tuesday in a statement the initial ballot tabulation process was “deeply flawed”, which did “further damage to the perceived integrity” and public trust in the results.
“It is very confusing and someone needs to clarify it,” said Watcharee Chanpeng, a 41-year-old voter in Bangkok.
The United States said on Tuesday that it saw “positive signs” of a return to democracy in the country, but urged a transparent probe of allegedly widespread irregularities.
“The voting along with, we note, robust media coverage of the process and open debate of its merits, those are positive signs for a return to a democratic government that reflects the will of the people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
Even against a coalition the military government is not finished.
Apart from other parties that have yet to declare their intentions, Phalang Pracharat has the advantage of a 250-member military-appointed upper house or senate that has a say in voting for the next prime minister.
Prayut, a stern army chief who engaged in increasingly bizarre publicity stunts ahead of polls as part of an image-makeover, told reporters on Tuesday he would “put this country on the road to unity and reconciliation to move the country forward”.
Thaksin sits at the heart of Thailand’s political rupture.
His parties had won all elections since 2001 with votes from poor, in the process unsettling the Bangkok-centric elite and their royalist army allies who have struck back with coups and court cases.
On Monday he told AFP in Hong Kong he believed the polls were “rigged” and riddled with “irregularities”.
Use of the local currency settlement (LCS) scheme between Indonesia and Thailand has grown substantially since its inception in late 2017, Bank Indonesia (BI) said in a statement on Monday.
The LCS scheme promotes the use of local currencies to settle transactions between related parties to boost international trade and investment between countries and reduce reliance on third-party currencies like the US dollar.
Woah LOL the hilarity of this statement alone. Talk about shaping reality. ed
Trade transactions between Indonesia and Thailand using the LCS scheme had grown substantially since the scheme was introduced on Dec. 11, 2017. In the first two months of this year, transactions worth Rp 121 billion (US$8.5 million) were settled using local currencies, an increase from Rp 30 billion worth of LCS transactions recorded over the same period last year.
The figure was also above the Rp 58 billion monthly average LCS transactions recorded last year, the BI data revealed. Total trade between the two countries amounted to $17.71 billion in 2018, according to data from the Trade Ministry.
“The development [and] implementation of the LCS [scheme] was one of the topics discussed in a bilateral meeting between BI Governor Perry Warjiyo and Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob,” BI spokesman Onny Widjanarko said in a statement on Monday.
He added that the bilateral meeting between the two central bank governors was routinely held to exchange views and experiences on strengthening their respective capacity in facing future challenges.
In addition, the central bank governors also stressed the importance of optimizing developments in the digital economy to boost gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the two countries, said Onny.
Onny added Perry had told his counterpart that cooperation between the two financial authorities on the bilateral, regional and multilateral level was one of the key solutions to facing more complex challenges amid a high degree of uncertainty in the global economy. (bbn)
And how could you blame them given the shit show the world has had to endure since 2007 -EdTBNW
Thai election leaves country deeply divided, Prayut set to remain PM
BANGKOK: A national election billed as a referendum on Thailand’s acceptance of military rule has failed to produce a clear mandate from voters, with the country set to contend with fraught power negotiations and a deeply split parliament.
After five years under a military government following a coup d’etat in 2014, the election on Sunday (Mar 24) was met with enthusiasm from the thai people, but the outcome is unlikely to settle many of the divisions that have riddled Thailand in recent times.
Read the rest of the article from Jack Board via Thai election leaves country deeply divided, Prayut set to remain PM – Channel NewsAsia
BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG, AFP) – Thai voters flocked to the polls on Sunday (March 24) for the first election since a 2014 coup, but an exit poll and other surveys showed neither the populist party linked to exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra nor the pro-junta party would have a big enough haul for a majority in Thailand’s 500-seat lower house, signalling a coalition government.
While the exit poll puts the military-supporting Palang Pracharath Party in the lead at about 140 seats, about five seats ahead of the Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai party, other just-released surveys that took place before the election have Pheu Thai ahead on about 170 seats.
Counting began after polling for Thailand’s first general election since 2011 ended at 5pm (6pm Singapore time), with the first results expected in about an hour and final results from roughly 8pm (9pm Singapore time).
The race has pitted military junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha seeking to retain power and stay on as prime minister against a “democratic front” led by the Pheu Thai party.
Thailand has been under direct military rule since then-army chief Prayut overthrew an elected pro-Thaksin government in 2014. Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin was thrown out by the army in 2006 and has lived in self-exile since 2008.
Another poll conducted by the polling arm of the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University puts Pheu Thai leading at 173 seats, and the Democrat Party led by former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva at 88 seats.
Either way, neither Pheu Thai nor Palang Pracharath would have a big enough haul for a majority in the 500-seat lower house, signalling a coalition government.
But the pro-junta party is doing better than some had expected, based on these surveys. It would also have a better chance to form a coalition needed to elect a prime minister due to junta-written electoral rules that favour it.
With Senate votes in hand, Palang Pracharath needs just 126 lower house seats to secure a parliamentary majority. It can cross that line comfortably in alliance with smaller parties.
Pheu Thai however needs 376 lower house seats to command an overall majority – near impossible without complex tie-ups across pro-democracy factions.
“A deadlock is very likely,” political scientist Napisa Waitoolkiat of Naresuan University told AFP.
Turnout was estimated to be high as 80 per cent among the 51.4 million Thais eligible to vote, the Election Commission said about an hour before the polls closed.
Critics have said a new, junta-written electoral system gives a built-in advantage to pro-military parties and appears designed to prevent Pheu Thai from returning to power.
Voters are choosing the 500-seat House of Representatives. The lower house of parliament and an upper house Senate, which is appointed entirely by the ruling junta, will select the next government.
Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001, but the past 15 years have seen crippling street protests both by his opponents and supporters that destabilised governments and hamstrung business.
“I want to see Thailand become more democratic and inequality eased from society,” said insurance company employee Pattrapong Waschiyapong at a Bangkok polling station.
Fears of the potential for foul play ricocheted across social media in a reflection of the lingering mistrust between rival political camps, in a country which last held a general election in 2011.
“Thai people come to vote because they want change,” said Somkid, 64, giving only one name, as she waited outside the headquarters of the Pheu Thai party.
“If there is any vote rigging there will be protests.”
The day was framed by a palace statement, which added further intrigue to an election that has repeatedly threatened to tip into chaos before a single ballot was cast.
It reiterated comments by late king Bhumibol Adulyadej from 1969 calling for people to “support good people to govern the society and control the bad people” to prevent them “creating chaos”.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn urged the public to “remember and be aware” of the remarks of his father, who died in 2016. While there were no further clues as to who those “good people” might be, the phrase – “khon dee” in Thai – is habitually attached to royalist, establishment politicians.
Another royal command in February torpedoed the candidacy of the king’s elder sister Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya for prime minister of a party linked to Thaksin, a divisive former premier toppled by a 2006 coup.
Thaksin has lived in self-exile since 2008, but he looms large over Sunday’s election. His affiliated parties have won every Thai election since 2001, drawing on loyalty from rural and urban poor.
On Friday, Princess Ubolratana was guest of honour at the glitzy Hong Kong wedding of Thaksin’s daughter – with photos of the tycoon and the princess hugging and smiling going viral.
In Bangkok, Ms Sudarat Keyuraphan, the prime ministerial candidate for the largest Thaksin-linked party Pheu Thai, said she had witnessed “euphoria” at the ballot box.
The junta party is under intense pressure to avoid humiliation in what is effectively a referendum on its popularity. Mr Prayut toppled the civilian government of Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck in 2014. The army and its allies in the Bangkok elite loathe the Shinawatras, accusing the clan of toxifying Thai politics and society with money, nepotism and graft.
The Shinawatras say they have simply recognised the economic and democratic aspirations of Thailand’s majority.
This time, the junta has written new election rules aimed at curbing the number of seats big parties – specifically Pheu Thai – can win.
Pheu Thai is expected to again sweep the north and north-eastern heartlands as it seeks to head an anti-junta coalition. But a 250-member junta-appointed Senate and a new proportional system were meant to have manoeuvred Palang Pracharath into pole position.
Many younger voters tired of the old political lines have pledged to support telegenic 40-year-old billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
The political newcomer’s Future Forward party has won fans with strong social media messaging and its strident anti-junta stance. Others, including Thailand’s oldest party the Democrats, could play a key role.
BANGKOK: Thailand heads to the polls on Sunday (Mar 24) in its first general election since the military coup in 2014.
Tens of millions of eligible voters are expected to turn up in force at polling stations nationwide, to be a part of their country’s transition from military rule to democracy.
Prayut’s candidacy is largely seen as the military’s attempt to maintain its grip on Thai politics.
The 65-year-old holds popularity among certain demographics who approve of the military’s seizure of power. They regard it as an effort to bridge the deep socio-political divisions that had brought violence to the streets during the Yingluck administration and threatened to tear the nation apart.
Yingluck and her powerful brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are both in exile overseas but still hold great influence over large parts of the population, particularly in rural areas.
A total of 81 parties are contesting the election, and thousands of candidates will fight to represent 350 constituencies. The other 150 members of the House of Representatives will be elected from the so-called national party lists under a system of proportional representation.
This will see each party that contests the party-list election have a number of MPs in the House of Representatives, according to the share of the popular vote it secures in the contest for the 350 directly elected members.
Parties can still secure seats in parliament under this system irrespective of whether their candidates win any of the 350 contests.
Preliminary results of Sunday’s election, which will be a crucial indication of Thailand’s next political chapter, are expected to come in at about 8pm.
U.S. independent oil and gas producer Murphy Oil Corp said on Thursday it is selling two of its Malaysian assets to Thai energy company PTT Exploration and Production Public Co Ltd for $2.13 billion, turning its focus toward U.S. shale oilfields.
Murphy Oil, which has been in Malaysia for two decades, would exit the country after the sale of its Sabah Oil and Sarawak Oil units to PTTEP in an all-cash deal.
The company said a part of the money raised from the deal would be used for share buybacks and debt reduction. Reuters had reported about the deal earlier in the day.
The El Dorado, Texas based company will keep focusing on the local Eagle Ford basin and U.S. Gulf of Mexico for oil exploration and production, it said.
Shares of Murphy Oil rose 4 percent to $31.97 in premarket trading.
(Reporting by Shradha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
Every country has their breaking point, where corruption, abuse and living standards reach a point where people are compelled to take to the streets and demand a change.
Thailand’s breaking point appears to be much higher than most.
After all, a decade of political infighting, street riots, and military crackdowns has made mass protest much less palatable for the common Thai.
Despite this, the military seem to be doing their utmost to push the populace to their limit.
Reports from early and overseas voters tell of an election deeply flawed with spoiled ballots, discounted votes and confusing polling procedures.
Some votes have been disregarded altogether, including those that voted for the Thai Raksa Chat Party who was disqualified by the Election Commission for running a princess to be prime minister. Those who voted for the anti-junta party will not get a revote and their voices will not count.
Of course, these small, some would almost say petty, attempts at undermining the democratic process should hardly be surprising given even a cursory view of the Thai political landscape.
This is the same military that pushed through a constitution that allows for 250 military-appointed senators to vote for the prime minister. What this means is that the military aligned party only have to win a fraction of the electorate to get their choice of premier, in this case junta-chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.
This is the same military that has weather corruption allegations at the highest level including multi-billion-baht national parks, multi-million-baht luxury watches and other procurement abnormalities that a normal democratic government would not have survived.
Given that the previous, democratically-elected, government was run out of town, its leaders tried and found guilty for corruption, one wonders if the same rigorous application of the law could be applied to the military if they lose Sunday’s election.
The short answer, of course, is no. The law is never applied evenly in Thailand’s governing structure. The rules and regulations one holds for the evil, corrupt politicians do not apply to the steadfast defenders of nation and religion. The men in green are held to a different standard because, in short, they have the guns and tanks.
Is there any other explanation for the ridiculous number of coups that Thailand has experienced over the course of 20th and 21st century? Why has no democratic government that have come after military rule ever hold the coup-leaders accountable?
While the military may not be a homogeneous, unified entity (it has in the past dissolved into factionalism), it would undoubtedly unite to oppose any attempt a civilian government might make to prosecute past coup-leaders. A civilian government that moved against the military would undoubtedly be overthrown in yet another coup.
Progress despite chaos
Yet even as the military reserves its right to intervene in politics at its discretion, Thailand has rapidly modernized in the last 50 years. The standard of living for Thais have never been higher and all qualitative social and economic measures trend upward. Purchasing power parity, literacy, life expectation, infant mortality, access to healthcare, Thais living in 2019 share little in common with Thais living in 1959.
That is not to say that Thailand is not without its problems. The country continually ranks among the worst in terms of income disparity and inequality indicators. But overall, Thais have seen their country progress rapidly, oftentimes in spite of the country’s turbulent politics.
Will it change?
This brings us back to the breaking point theory. Simply put, Thailand’s standard of living, access to healthcare and food, is too decent to ferment wholesale revolution like those we saw during the Arab Spring.
Combine this with the military’s willingness to use its guns and tanks on its own populace, the public’s lack of engagement with a civil society, and it is unlikely that Thailand will mobilize in mass protest even if the army wins Sunday’s election
BANGKOK – Thailand’s North was once again choking in dangerous levels of PM2.5 dust particles on Monday (March 11).
For instance, tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district cited the day’s PM2.5 peak at 128 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre of air, more than double the Thai safety limit of 50mcg.
As of 11am, the district also hit an Air Quality Index (AQI) score of 238, more than double the safety limit of 100.
The harmful haze was worsened by smoke from forest fires on the Myanmar side, with a satellite image on Sunday showing 1,035 hot spots in the neighbouring country, and 516 in Thailand (123 of which were in the North, with only two in Chiang Rai).
With border district Mae Sai topping the North for PM2.5 levels for two consecutive days (128mcg on Monday and 80mcg on Sunday), residents were told to avoid outdoor activities.
Chiang Rai Governor Prajon Prachsakul, meanwhile, urged local officials to implement problem-solving measures and coordinated with the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee in an effort to get Myanmar to strictly implement measures against outdoor burning and forest fires.
According to the Thai Pollution Control Department, PM2.5 particulates in the nine northern provinces ranged from 29mcg to 117mcg as of 9am on Monday.
Air pollution in tambon Wiang Phang Kham stood at 117mcg at 9am and further worsened to 128mcg at 11am.
Muang Chiang Mai, meanwhile, was once again enveloped in haze, with readings of 58-70mcg after a period of better air since March 5.
The areas with beyond-safe PM2.5 levels included the tambons of Jong Kham (81mcg) in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district; Nai Wiang (81mcg) in Nan’s Muang district and Huai Kon (77mcg) in Chalerm Phra Kiat district; and Chang Pheuk (70mcg) and Sri Phum (58mcg) in Chiang Mai’s Muang district.
Beyond-safe levels were also experienced in tambons Phra Baht (64 mcg) in Muang district |and Ban Dong (75mcg) in Mae Mo district of Lampang; Wiang (56mcg) in Chiang Rai’s Muang |district; Na Chak (66mcg) in Phrae’s Muang district; and Ban Tom (67mcg) in Phayao’s Muang district.
Phayao – in the midst of combating multiple outbreaks of forest fire – reported that officials had put out a fire that damaged 16 hectares in tambon Dongjen of Phukamyao district, which stemmed from villagers lighting fires while poaching for forest products.
Two Bangkok Airways flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son – PG251 at 9.20am and PG352 at 10.35am – were cancelled on Monday due to visibility problems.
Mae Hong Son’s PM2.5 level stood at 91mcg, with the AQI level at 201 as of 11am.
So far, four flights have been cancelled this month due to haze.
A satellite image taken at 1.54am on Monday showed Mae Hong Son province as having 115 hot spots, especially in the three districts of Pai (33 hot spots), Pang Mapha (30) and Muang (29).
These were contributing to a dangerous the PM2.5 level of 81mcg, although Srisangwal Hospital had not yet detected any unusual increase in the number of respiratory patients.