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  • Charter Court acquits PM Prayut Chan-o-cha

    The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has not violated the charter by staying on in his Army residence, so can remain in office.

    The court ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.

    Wednesday’s verdict came amid political unrest that has been escalating since July, with pro-democracy protesters demanding Prayut’s resignation, charter change and monarchy reform.

    Protesters have called a rally at Lat Phrao Intersection today.

    The opposition accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok, after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.

    Prayut was accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from “receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, state agency or state enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business”.

    In his court testimony, Prayut argued he had to stay at the Army base because the PM’s official residence, Baan Phitsanulok, was being renovated, according to a Parliament source.

    Also, the PM argued that his security team suggested he live at the Army residence for safety. Hence, he said, the court should dismiss the petition against him.

    The Army informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.

    Similar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament, the Army says.

    The opposition pushed the case knowing that a guilty verdict would mean Prayut was removed and disqualified from holding government office for two years.

    It also knew an acquittal would mean business as usual for the prime minister, perhaps even bolstering his legitimacy as PM.

    The Constitutional Court has played a key role in shifting political momentum in past years, making several controversial verdicts deemed politically biased by critics.

    Three previous PMs have lost their posts as a result of Charter Court verdicts -- Samak Sundaravej, Somchai Wongsawat and Yingluck Shinawatra .

    The court has disqualified two prime ministers – Samak and Yingluck – and dissolved a handful of political parties including Thai Rak Thai, People's Power, Thai Nation Party, Neutral Democratic Party and, most recently, Future Forward. All were at the opposite end of the spectrum to the conservative establishment.

    The verdicts were also seen as fuel for mass protests by the red shirts and now Ratsadon (People’s Movement) against conservative governments and the royalist establishment.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • PM leads merit-making ceremony to pay tribute to the late King Bhumibol

      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his wife led members of the cabinet, the Privy Council, parliament, the judiciary, the armed forces, senior officials and their spouses and the public in a merit making ceremony at Sanam Luang this morning (Saturday), to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of the late King Bhumibol, which is also National Father’s Day.

      After the ceremony, they presented alms to 189 Buddhist monks and placed trays of beautiful flowers, in the form of a chedi, in front of a huge portrait of the late King.

      All the excess alms presented to the monks will be donated to welfare homes, under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Dignity, and temples which are short of necessities.

      The government, meanwhile, has invited the public to join Their Majesties the King and Queen at a candle-lit ceremony this evening at Sanam Luang, to pay homage to the late King Bhumibol.

      Several activities and exhibitions, featuring the late King’s activities and contributions to Thai society, are being held at Sanam Luang, on Sanam Chai Road and in front of the Defence Ministry today and tomorrow until 9pm.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • PM allays 2nd wave concerns

        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to allay fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections, saying the Thais who sneaked back across the border from Myanmar's Tachileik town were not super-spreaders.

        The prime minister also warned that those who entered the country illegally via natural passages to avoid mandatory quarantine will face legal action.

        Speaking via the government's Thai Khu Fah podcast broadcast on Monday, Gen Prayut gave assurances that the Covid-19 situation in Thailand remained under control despite some infected Thais sneaking back across the border from Myanmar.

        "It is not a second wave of infections or super-spreaders. It is individual infections. We have asked the neighbouring country to screen and prevent them from entering via natural passages along the border," the prime minister said.

        He said he instructed authorities to build barricades along the border and step up border patrols around the clock to stop illegal crossings by people who may bring the disease with them.

        The Interior Ministry has also been told to set up additional checkpoints to watch for those who might manage to sneak back, while local residents have also been urged to keep an eye out for strangers or outsiders who enter their villages and alert authorities, the prime minister said.

        "Those who sneak back will face legal punishment because they are irresponsible towards others and society as a whole," Gen Prayut said.

        "I told security agencies to use aerial photography or drones to survey any new natural crossings that might be used by illegal border crossers so additional barricades and patrols can be deployed there," Gen Prayut said.

        He also warned that human smuggling gangs that helped people enter the country illegally via natural passages will be dealt with severely and any officials who were involved will also be punished.

        The prime minister also called for public calm, saying the government is finding ways to solve the Covid-19 problem. He added that the Covid-19 situation is expected to ease next year when vaccines are available.

        Gen Nattaphon Narkphanit, head of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration's (CCSA) panel on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, chaired a meeting to follow up on cases involving Thais returning from working at the Covid-19 hotspot hotel in Myanmar's Tachileik town.

        After the meeting, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said that there were a total of 32 infected patients who sneaked back from Myanmar, with two local transmission cases who contracted the virus from the returnees from Myanmar.

        Dr Opas said that the National Security Council had instructed security agencies to tighten curbs on illegal entry through natural passages. All must go through official checkpoints and undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine, he said.

        "The situations in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and other provinces where infections were found have been brought under control. So far, no additional cases from Tachileik have been found. Don't worry. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are safe for travel," Dr Opas said.

        Jaturon Chaiyakham, deputy director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, said that the prime minister had instructed the Foreign Affairs Ministry to expedite the relaxation of restrictions on foreigners entering Thailand.

        In light of this, the ministry will seek cabinet approval for an extension of free visas for foreign tourists from 30 days to 45 to compensate for their 14-day-quarantine period. There are 56 eligible countries for visa exemption. This will also apply to Russia which has a visa-exemption agreement with Thailand, Mr Jaturon said.

        With the extension, the number of tourists is expected to increase from 10,000 to 20,000 per month, he said.

        The CCSA on Monday recorded 21 new cases of the novel coronavirus, including nine Thais who reentered the country from Myanmar, for an accumulated total of 4,107 since the outbreak began. No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 60.

        The CCSA said the new cases comprised 15 Thais and six foreigners.

        The Thai returnees included nine people who had worked at the coronavirus hotspot 1G1-7 Hotel in Tachileik, Myanmar. Unlike previous returnees, however, they re-entered Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai through the official checkpoint and were tested immediately.:
        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • PM savages 'republic' rhetoric

          Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has downplayed the anti-government protest movement's latest rhetoric about "a republic", saying the government will do everything in its power to thwart any such system of government in Thailand.

          Last Friday, the Free Youth group, which is a part of the anti-government Ratsadon group, posted a message about the subject of "a republic" on its Facebook page.

          The group explained that a republic is a state in which the masses are the boss, and is the predominant form of government worldwide.

          It emphasises the decentralisation of power, with rulers coming from free and fair elections -- not determined by bloodlines.

          It then referred to Thomas Paine's famous quote about equality, which is: "For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever".

          "For the benefit and happiness of the masses of a republic, the voices of the people can echo to the skies, but a republic will never happen without the people rising up to dismantle all the shackles," the group said.

          The group also declared its "Restart Thailand (RT)" campaign which appears to have taken on socialist overtones, and posted a red logo on its Facebook page which observers say looks like the "hammer and sickle".

          In the post, the group: "This is a new movement where nothing will be the same. Awareness of the oppressed working class will be awakened, whether you are students, office workers, non-uniformed staff, farmers or civil servants. We are all oppressed workers.''

          Under the RT campaign, "there will be no leaders, no guards, no compromises or negotiations", the group announced.

          Observers have interpreted the Free Youth's message as a sign of their advocacy for a republic to be created in Thailand.

          Commenting on the issue, Gen Prayut on Tuesday said that the government's legal team will consider whether this is against the law.

          "The government will stop any move that will lead to that point. We will look into their intentions. Anyone who is found to have committed sedition will face legal action," the prime minister said.

          "Thailand is not and won't be a republic. That's impossible," Gen Prayut said.

          Former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechkitvigrom, now leader of the pro-monarchy Thai Pakdee (Loyal Thais) group, on Tuesday took to Facebook to say that the protest movement's RT campaign was aimed at inciting social divisions in order to create a republic in Thailand.

          ''Even though the protest movement is now fizzling out, its director has refused to budge and changed tack by propagating social equality with the aim of inciting violence that will lead to a war of revolution and changes to the country's structure," Dr Warong said.

          Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, also posted on Facebook, describing the protest group's latest idea about "a republic" as "a pipe dream".

          Meanwhile, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, co-founder of the Progressive Movement group, and young protest leaders on Tuesday acknowledged fresh charges arising from the anti-government demonstrations.

          Mr Thanathorn reported to Phahon Yothin police station to hear a charge of violating the Public Assembly Act stemming from his presence at an anti-government rally at Lat Phrao intersection in Chatuchak district on Oct 17.

          At Nonthaburi police station, rally leaders Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong "Mike" Jadnok were charged with lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code over their rally at Nonthaburi pier on Sept 10.

          At Thung Mahamek police station in Bangkok, nine other protest leaders, including Patsaravalee "Mind" Tanakitvibulpon, were also charged with lese majeste over the Oct 26 rally outside the German embassy.

          At Chana Songkhram police station, Jatupat "Pai Dao Din" Boonpattararaksa and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk were also charged with lese majeste over their anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20.

          Mr Jatupat said he was unhappy about the charge because it carried a harsh penalty.

          Mr Somyot said he had previously been jailed for seven years for lese majeste and if found guilty of the same offence again would face heavier punishment.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • I forgot this story…….

            PM presides over the launch of the Bangkok’s first electric boat service

            Bangkok’s canal commuters will be treated to six-months of free rides on the city’s new electric boat service along Khlong Padung Krung Kasem. The service was officially launched today by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

            The launch ceremony, which took place this morning at the Hua Lamphong pier, was presided over by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The prime minister, several cabinet ministers and city officials took a ride the boats after the opening ceremony.

            Seven electric boats, each equipped with 12 solar panels, with reserve energy stored in batteries, will be put into service on Khlong Padung Krung Kasem. Each boat has 30 seats, including one for a wheel chair. The maximum speed ranges between 10and 15km per hour.

            City officials say that the boats are quiet and do not cause air pollution. The government has a long-term plan to replace all diesel-fueled commuter boats currently in service.

            Initially, the service will cover 11 piers along 5kms of canal, stopping at Hua Lamphong, Noppawong, Yossay, the Ministry of Energy, Larn Luang, Nakhon Sawan, Ratchadamnoek Nok, Prachatippatai, Thevet and Tevarat piers.

            The boat service starts at 6am and ends at 7pm and there will be 39 trips each day.

            After the free service period, a 10-baht fare will be charged for the entire trip.:
            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • PM to ride Thailand’s first driverless train on Dec 16

              Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the opening ceremony of the Skytrain Green Line extension (Mo Chit – Saphan Mai – Ku Kot) and the Gold Line monorail, which is linked to the Green Line at Krung Thon Buri station, on December 16.

              “The prime minister will also board the first official driverless train from Krung Thon Buri Skytrain station to Khlong San District Office station along with members of the press,” Government Spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Saturday.

              “The Green Line extension and the Gold Line would seamlessly link the transport of people from three provinces -- Pathum Thani, Bangkok and Samut Prakarn. Furthermore, the Gold Line also features Thailand’s first driverless monorail train, which should help in reducing pollution and saving energy,” he added.

              The Green Line extension includes seven stations -- Phahon Yothin 59, Sai Yud, Saphan Mai, Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital, Royal Thai Air Force Museum, Yaek Kor Por Aor, and Khu Khot. The last station is the first Skytrain stop outside Bangkok.

              With the extension, the Green Line is 68 kilometres long with 59 stops, and can accommodate up to 1.5 million passenger trips per day.

              The Gold Line monorail in the first phase runs between three stations: Krung Thong Buri, Charoen Nakhon and Khlong San, covering a distance of 1.8 kilometres. The system is equipped with automated guideway transit and automated people mover, and can accommodate up to 42,000 passenger trips per day.

              “Nine out of 14 projects to extend the Skytrain network in Bangkok and its perimeter have been completed so far with a total distance of over 553 kilometres,” said Anucha.

              “In the coming years, more projects are expected to be opened, such as the Dark Red Line (Bang Sue – Rangsit) in 2021, the Pink Line (Khae Rai – Minburi) in 2022, and Light Red Line (Taling Chan – Siriraj) in 2024.”:
              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Prayut, ministers test-ride new Red Line from Central Station

                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and members of his Cabinet visited Bang Sue Central Station on Tuesday for a test ride on the new Red Line urban train.

                The central station will serve as a high-speed train hub linking the three airports of Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao with the 10 stations of the Red Line.

                Construction of the station is now 100 per cent complete, but the Red Line won’t launch full services until November 2021.

                The Red Line, running between Bang Sue and Rangsit stations, will help shorten travel time between the city’s heart and urban areas to under 30 minutes thanks to high-speed (120kph) trains. Public test runs will start in March, with at least 272,500 passengers per day expected after the official opening in November.

                Meanwhile, the State Railway of Thailand plans to develop a rental apartment project in Don Muang to accommodate residents whose properties were expropriated to build the high-speed train project.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • Big Mountain Music Festival fiasco prompts warning

                  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday threatened to enforce the emergency decree and prohibit the assembly of more than five people should the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country get any worse.

                  Speaking to media after the controversy surrounding attempts by authorities to bring the curtain down early on the Big Mountain Music Festival over the weekend, Gen Prayut refused to rule out once again using the sweeping powers afforded to him by the decree to curtail or prevent large public gatherings.

                  When asked if a ban on social gatherings would be necessary, Gen Prayut said it might be if there were an outbreak. Currently, the Covid-19 situation did not warrant such a ban, said the prime minister.

                  Social gatherings of more than five people have been prohibited to curb the spread following the outbreak in March, he said.

                  "What should we do if we have an outbreak after the concert in Nakhon Ratchasima? Or an outbreak after a concert in Bangkok. What should we do? It's all back to lockdown. So, every one needs to help. The emergency decree is needed when necessary," he said.

                  Nevertheless, New Year celebrations and countdown events will be allowed to proceed but with strict rules in place, especially in Bangkok, the prime minister said.

                  Gen Prayut insisted that the order to shut down the concert was not politically motivated and he was unaware of the content of the performances.

                  Asked about the risk posed by the ongoing political demonstrations, he said protesters must not violate the law and all attendees should be screened.

                  The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) also on Monday re-emphasised the need for organisers of New Year celebrations to adhere to "new normal" rules in the wake of the confusion surrounding the Big Mountain Music Festival's abrupt end.

                  CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said concerts with crowds were a risk, but the government would not cancel any events at this time and would instead focus on policing the public safety measures put in place by the organisers.

                  Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima governor Wichian Chantaranothai, in his capacity as chairman of the provincial communicable disease committee, said he had filed complaints with Pak Chong police against the organisers of the Big Mountain Music Festival for violating the committee's order to end the concert early.

                  The festival organisers could face up to a year in jail and/or fine of up to 100,000 baht, according to the governor.

                  The concert went ahead on Sunday in defiance of the governor's order cancelling the second day over coronavirus fears.

                  The organisers had posted on the event's Facebook page that Sunday evening's performances were to end at 10pm after negotiations with provincial authorities.

                  The governor also dismissed the rumours that the order to shut down the concert was politically motivated, saying other concerts and festivals that had been granted permission were allowed to be held as scheduled as the appropriate public safety measures had been taken.

                  President of the Khao Yai Tourism Association Phanchana Vatanasathien said the association had continually asked its member entrepreneurs to strictly comply with the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration standards to ensure safety for visitors.

                  In the capital, Governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang said he had instructed the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to inspect businesses where restrictions have been relaxed, in particular areas at risk of becoming hotspots such as boxing stadiums and entertainment establishments.

                  The BMA would at the same time step up efforts to round up and test migrants who had illegally entered the country without undergoing the mandatory two-week quarantine, Pol Gen Aswin said.

                  Deputy Bangkok governor Pol Lt Gen Sopon Pisuttiwong who is chief of the Bangkok branch of the CCSA, has instructed all 50 districts in Bangkok to conduct onsite inspections at every boxing stadium, pub, bar and karaoke venue in the city from Dec 9-15.

                  The BMA, he stressed, was determined to make sure that standards would not slip and was itself stockpiling face masks and hand santisers for widespread public distribution should an outbreak occur.

                  All schools and early learning centres would continue to be required to take pupils' temperatures, while any found to have contracted the relatively common Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) would be told to stay home and recover, he said.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • About those protests and Prayuth's removal……..
                    • Thai Youth Party Fails to Make Gains in Local Poll

                    BANGKOK (Reuters) - The political successor of a banned party in Thailand that had strong support from young Thais failed to make inroads in weekend provincial elections that were held after months of youth-led protests.

                    The ballot was the first since a general election last year and the first provincial vote since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha first took power in a 2014 coup.

                    Unofficial results from the 76 provinces showed the Progressive Movement failed to win in any of the 42 provinces where it had contested.

                    "We apologise for not being able to win any posts for provincial heads," said the movement's Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who was banned along with his Future Forward party after emerging as Prayuth's most vocal challenger.

                    That ban helped to prompt youth-led protests this year that have demanded Prayuth's removal as well as reforms to the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

                    In a Facebook post, Warong Dechgitvigrom of royalist group Thai Phakdee said the provincial election's rejection of the progressive Movement showed the lack of support for groups challenging the monarchy.

                    Thanathorn nevertheless said the party's overall share of the vote had been similar to at the 2019 election.

                    Candidates linked to the Pheu Thai Party linked to populist former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra held onto some strongholds in the northeast and the north, but the party said it was hard to tell whether it had gained or lost ground overall.

                    Several candidates who had made clear their loyalty to Prayuth were among those elected, but many of the winners were politicians with strong local power bases without any obvious loyalty to national movements.

                    Provincial administrations are responsible for the provision of local services and development plans and run their own budgets.:
                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • Virus fear threatens New Year

                      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has signalled a halt to the easing of travel restrictions and the reimposition of tough disease control measures, including a potential ban on New Year's celebrations, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in Samut Sakhon at the weekend.

                      "This outbreak serves as an important reminder of how serious a threat the Covid-19 pandemic remains to our nation. At the same time, the global Covid situation has also taken a sudden and serious turn for the worse," the prime minister said during a TV Pool broadcast on Tuesday.

                      Chula UltimateX Library at Chulalongkorn University is fully automated, not a librarian in sight, cost-saving - and the hours are flexible.| Jetjaras Na Ranong and Saritdet Marukatat

                      He went on to say that December has seen the numbers of deaths each week surge into the hundreds and even thousands in many countries.

                      "The worsening global Covid-19 situation will have a serious impact on Thailand, and we must prepare ourselves.

                      "First, it means the world economy will take longer to recover which will impact our own economic recovery, too.

                      "Second, it means that we will have to be even more careful about relaxing rules to let people from other countries into Thailand.

                      A health official in protective gear delivers food packs to people placed in quarantine within the Central Shrimp Market, which has been sealed off in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

                      "Since the situation is so bad outside of Thailand, the biggest risk is that people entering the country will bring the disease in with them, and this could spell disaster for our health system and have a catastrophic impact on the economy," the prime minister said.

                      "That is why we must be especially careful at our airports, train entry points, bus and car entry points, sea entry points and all other places where people enter the country," Gen Prayut said.

                      "I thank the many people involved in ensuring the security of these entry points for their diligence because it only takes a few infected people slipping past them to create great economic and health hardship for hundreds of thousands of others," he said.

                      "And the third consequence of the worsening global situation will be the need for Thais to keep their guard up inside Thailand.

                      "As a result, I may need to introduce additional measures, especially relating to whether and how New Year celebrations should be conducted," he said.

                      Gen Prayut said he will meet with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) this week before making any official announcement.

                      "It is a decision that requires careful thought. But what the world has seen now is that being relaxed about health precautions leads to great economic suffering for everyone in the country."

                      In his statement, Gen Prayut took aim at human smuggling networks that are also to blame for the reemergence of Covid-19 in the kingdom.

                      "As for the networks that bring illegal immigrants into the country, they must be prosecuted without any leniency whatsoever, regardless of whether they are people with official positions. This latest flare-up is primarily due to such illegal immigrants," the prime minister said.

                      "Even though the road to recovery is still a long one, I am confident that if we can still work together, we can continue to be among the least affected countries in the world,'' Gen Prayut said.

                      The cabinet on Tuesday approved draft amendments to the Communicable Disease Act which include giving authorities the right to prosecute anyone who contracts and the virus and exhibits symptoms without seeking medical consultation.

                      Meanwhile, the CCSA on Tuesday reported 427 new cases, including 397 migrant workers, raising the overall total since the start of the pandemic to 5,716.

                      At least 16 of the new transmissions could be traced to a domestic origin, according to the centre.

                      The virus was also detected in 14 people who recently arrived from other countries.

                      Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the CCSA's spokesman, all sixteen locally infected people were linked to the shrimp wholesale market at the epicentre of the new outbreak in Samut Sakhon province.

                      They included five in Bangkok: a 49-year-old female vendor, a male worker, 28, a female government official, 54, and two other female vendors, aged 52.

                      Other locally infected cases were three vendors aged 21-45 in Saraburi, two vendors aged 37 and 42 in Pathum Thani, two vendors aged 36 and 37 from Samut Prakan, a female company employee, 24, in Chachoengsao, a female state enterprise worker, 57, in Nakhon Pathom, a 50-year-old female vendor from Phetchaburi and a female vendor, 48, from Uttaradit.

                      Of the 397 infected migrant workers, 90% were asymptomatic. They were among 2,015 tested people at the market where 44% of tests performed had come back positive, Dr Taweesilp said.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • PM opens Chao Phraya electric ferry route

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday presided over the opening ceremony of the “Mine (Mission no emission) Smart Ferry” project, which features an electric ferry route in the Chao Phraya River and Thailand’s first smart pier at CAT Tower Pier in Bangkok’s Bangrak district, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said.

                        Prayut was accompanied by other Cabinet members, including Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, Transport Minister Saksyam Chidchob and Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta.

                        “During his speech, the PM said this project is part of the government’s 20-year plan to build transport infrastructure nationwide and promote the use of electric vehicles, which will help reduce air pollution, especially the PM2.5 problem, in metropolitan areas,” Aucha said.

                        “The prime minister is also concerned about people’s health in this present Covid-19 situation and has urged everyone to wear face masks and take care of their health,” he said.

                        The premier and other ministers then boarded an electric ferry from CAT Tower Pier to Memorial Bridge Pier to witness the demonstration of the smart pier system.

                        “The Rama V-to-Sathorn electric ferry route will be open to the public free of charge from December 23 to February 14,” Anucha added.:
                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • PM urges Thai people not to panic in wake of new wave of COVID-19 infections

                          Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today called on the Thai people not to be panic over what he described as a new wave of COVID-19 infections and to keep themselves informed with updates from the CCSA and state agencies about the virus situation.

                          In his Facebook post today, the prime minister urged people not to lower their guard and to wear face masks at all times while outdoors, to maintain social distancing, wash their handsfrequently and, importantly, scan the Thai Chana application every time they enter and exit a public venue.

                          Stressing the need to contain the latest outbreak as quickly as possible, the prime minister said that Thailand has experience in coping with the pandemic, has a strong public health infrastructure and good cooperation from the people.

                          He said that health officials have expanded their search for people infected or suspected to be infected in all provinces withbusiness connections to the shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province.

                          He emphasized the need for cooperation from the public, public awareness and the importance of not panicking as the most important defenses against the contagion.

                          Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), meanwhile, has announced the cancellation of year end countdown events and chanting of prayers on New Year’s Eve organized by the administration, BMA spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said today.

                          For other events, such as the one planned at Ratchaprasong intersection, he said the City Hall will seek the organizer’s cooperation in cancelling the events but, if they want to go ahead, he said they must submit their safety plans to City Hall for consideration in advance.

                          The spokesman said that restrictions have also been tightened up at entertainment venues, boxing rings and fresh markets.

                          For pubs and bars, each table must be 1.5 metres apart and no dancing is allowed. For boxing rings, a limit on the number offans will be imposed and all must wear face masks in the stadium at all times and keep socially distanced.

                          Pongsakarn said city officials will check all 472 fresh markets in Bangkok, looking for migrant workers, to assess the risk of infection. All shoppers must scan the Thai Chana application when entering the markets and all migrant workers must wear face masks.

                          All BMA-run schools in Bang Bon, Bang Khun Thian and Nong Khaem districts, which are not far from Samut Sakhon, have been ordered to close until January 4th.

                          Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, in charge of security affairs, has ordered a crackdown on the human trafficking gangs responsible for smuggling people from Myanmar into Thailand, who are being blamed for the second outbreak of infections.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • No national lockdown yet for Thailand, contagion zoning to be imposed – PM

                            The Thai government has decided to impose COVID-19 zoning, in accordance with the number of infections, instead of a national lockdown. Top medical experts say they are confident that the current outbreak is controllable, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, after he chaired a special meeting of the CCSA, held today to address the latest virus outbreak.

                            He said that he had to take a crucial decision for the sake of public safety, public reaction, tourism, the national economy and the people’s happiness over the New Year period.

                            He also said that provincial governors and health officials will decide on the measures to be enforced, in accordance with the severity of the contagion in their respective provinces.

                            The CCSA has defined four zone levels:

                            Red – Maximum control zone, where there are many infections in more than one area.
                            Orange – Controlled zone for areas adjacent to red zones and where there are more than 10 COVID-19 cases and rising.
                            High surveillance zone – Covering areas with fewer than 10 infections and falling.
                            Surveillance zone – Covering areas where there are no infections and no sign of infection.
                            Under these guidelines, Samut Sakhon is classified as a red zone while Bangkok, Ratchaburi, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Songkhram are orange. Movement of migrant workers in or out of a red zone is completely prohibited, while movement of other people and vehicles will be controlled, without causing undue impact on trade and industry, while working from home optimal, said the prime minister.

                            As for the orange zone, the prime minister said authorities could impose restrictions on the operating hours of businesses as necessary and appropriate, adding that they could consider closing business which are deemed at risk of spreading the virus.

                            Provinces classified as high surveillance zones include Saraburi, Samut Prakan, Suphan Buri, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Uttradit, Chachoengsao, Phetchaburi, Phetchabun, Ayutthaya, Phuket, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri, Krabi, Khon Kaen, Chainat, Udon Thani, Phichit, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Sawan, and Ang Thong.

                            All New Year’s celebrations and Children’s Day activities are banned in the red zone, which, so far, includes only Samut Sakhon province.

                            In an orange zone, public activities are permissible, on the condition that the number of participants is limited, among friends and acquaintances or online.

                            Public activities are permissible in the high surveillance zone, but the size of the event must be smaller than usual and with measures in place to reduce crowding.

                            In the surveillance zone, public activities can be held, but the size of the events must be smaller and there must be measures to reduce crowding.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • Prayut cements power in 2020 after fending off eviction effort

                              The anti-establishment movement’s dream of seeing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha ousted from office was shattered at the Constitutional Court in December.

                              The premier was at the centre of a conflict-of-interest case stemming from his occupation of an Army residence despite retiring in September 2014.

                              On December 2, the court ruled that Prayut could continue living in the residence in his capacity as former Army chief – not as premier – as per Army regulations. The court also said that Army regulations allow Prayut other special privileges.

                              The former Army commander has been living in the military residence since retiring a few months after leading the May 22, 2014 coup to oust an elected government.

                              The court accepted Prayut’s defence that he needs to reside within the First Infantry Battalion compound for his own safety and also because the prime minister’s official residence, Baan Phitsanulok, is being renovated.

                              The case had been sent to Constitutional Court by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai after opposition leader Sompong Amornwiwat accused Prayut of breaching the charter by staying on in the Army house.

                              The verdict came amid escalating political tension and growing demands from the anti-establishment movement for Prayut to quit. The protest movement is also calling for a new, democratic Constitution and reform of the monarchy.

                              Though not quite what was expected, the verdict still had a significant impact on Thai politics.

                              Firstly, observers said the ruling in favour of Prayut increased the likelihood of him retaining power at least until his term officially ends in 2023. This is because the premier has the complete support of all state mechanisms – the Army, the Parliament as well as coalition parties, they say.

                              Secondly, the ruling triggered anger among anti-establishment protesters, who have vowed to escalate and prolong their campaign next year until their demands are met. They have also accused the court of double standards and called on the judges to step down.

                              Thirdly, the ruling seems to have boosted Prayut’s confidence in dealing with the ongoing protests. Following his vindication by the court, he appears to be paying less attention to the protesters’ demands.

                              However, despite being spared by the verdict, Prayut has been unable to escape questions about his legitimacy.

                              The PM is facing fresh scrutiny thanks to former Pheu Thai member Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, who has asked the House anti-corruption committee to look into the court decision on Prayut’s living quarters.

                              Ruangkrai accused the premier of violating the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s regulations by accepting assets or benefits worth more than Bt3,000 from any person other than a relative. He said the electricity bill alone in the large house that Prayut has been occupying for six years must be more than Bt3,000 per month.

                              Allegations of a conflict of interest could return to haunt Prayut again, as the opposition is preparing to grill him over the case in a no-confidence debate expected in February next year.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • PM orders probe of Rayong gambling dens blamed for outbreak

                                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered police to investigate illegal gambling in Rayong province, where an illicit casino is thought to be the source of a serious Covid-19 outbreak.

                                “The first punishment will be for ignorance and the next step will be to investigate who owns those casinos,” the premier said on Monday.

                                Rayong police chief Paphatdet Ketphan has been shifted to an inactive post after health authorities tracked more than 90 cases and one death in the eastern province to illegal gambling.

                                Rayong governor Charnna Iamsaeng reported that several people were infected at illegal casinos, contradicting the Rayong police chief’s claim that no such establishments existed in the province.

                                Netizens have ridiculed Rayong police, saying the episode reflects the inadequacy of Thai authorities to deal with the pandemic situation.:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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