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  • PM challenges opposition to meet him in court with evidence of any alleged wrongdoing

    Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in parliament today (Wednesday) that he is fully aware that opposition MPs are trying to provoke him with unfounded allegations of involvement in the human trafficking of migrant workers from Myanmar.

    He said that he is not, however, the kind of person who is easily provoked, as he challenged the opposition to find the evidence and produce it in court.

    Responding to allegations of involvement in human trafficking, delays in vaccine procurement and addiction to power, the prime minister dismissed as completely groundless the allegation that he and his two comrades in arms, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, received bribes from human trafficking gangs.

    He also denied the allegation that he exerts complete control over the CCSA, in his capacity as the head of the administration, claiming that members of the CCSA have been working as a committee, as has been in practice in other countries.

    He insisted that he is not addicted to power, but prefers to work as a member of a team, in which everyone can express their views openly.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • Kao Klai party told it will be blamed if Thailand doesn’t get vaccines due to its MPs criticisms

      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha warned the opposition Kao Klai (Move Forward) party that it must be held accountable if Thailand fails to receive the COVID-19 vaccines it has ordered because of the criticism of his government’s vaccine procurement plan by Kao Klai MPs during the censure debate.

      “Mark your own words if there is a problem, you will be held responsible. If they (the vaccine suppliers) do not send us (the vaccines) as agreed because of this (censure debate), there will be problems,” said the prime minister, apparently in response to criticism from Kao Klai MP Wirote Lakkhana-esorn.

      Wirote criticized the government for delays in the procurement of vaccines and accused the prime minister of resorting to the lèse majesté law to gag those who criticize the government’s vaccine procurement program.

      Wirote’s speech prompted strong protests from two Palang Pracharat MPs, Paiboon Nititawan and Sira Jenjakha, forcing House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to intervene and ask the Kao Klai MP to withdraw his reference to the monarchy.

      Instead of withdrawing his words, Wirote went on to accuse the prime minister of using the monarchy as a shield to deflect criticism regarding the vaccine program. He also accused him of covering up his mistakes, which have caused delays in the arrival of the vaccines.

      Wirote’s remarks drew more protests against from Paiboon and Sira, with the latter warning that he would move to sit close to Wirote to make sure that the Kao Klai MP does not repeat the remark.

      Defending himself, the prime minister said that he is worried over the repeated criticism of the vaccine program, warning that it may cause the suppliers to halt delivery of the vaccines, because they don’t want to see their products become a political issue in Thailand.

      He warned opposition MPs not to cause any problem which could disrupt vaccine deliveries.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • Prayut, ministers survive no-confidence vote/Cabinet members sail through no-confidence motion/Thai PM and nine ministers survive opposition censure motion

        The government easily defeated the opposition's move to censure 10 Cabinet ministers.

        After four days of the censure debate from February 16 to 19, Parliament held the no-confidence vote at 10.30am on Saturday.

        The votes cast for and against the Cabinet members were:

        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha: 272 for, 206 against, 3 abstain

        Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan: 274 for, 204 against, 4 abstain

        Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul: 275 for, 201 against, 6 abstain

        Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit: 268 for, 207 against, 7 abstain

        Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda: 272 for, 205 against, 3 abstain

        Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan: 258 for, 215 against, 8 abstain

        Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin: 263 for, 212 against, 5 abstain and one did not vote

        Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob: 268 for, 201 against, 12 abstain, and one did not vote

        Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee: 272 for, 206 against, 4 abstain

        Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow: 274 for,199 against, 5 abstain and one did not vote: - -

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • I enjoyed the story below…….
          • PM walks out of parliament chamber in apparent protest at not being listened to

          Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha abruptly cut short his explanation of the southern economic zone project and walked out of the parliament chamber on Thursday afternoon, apparently upset that a group of MPs were not paying attention to him.

          “I think I will stop here because no one is listening, but laughing. That is enough, thank you,” said a disappointed prime minister before he left the chamber during the censure debate this afternoon.

          The prime minister took to the floor to make a clarification, after Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Boonyamanee defended an allegation, by Kao Klai MP Prasertpong Sornnuwat, that he abused his power in the interests of his people and himself, by forcing villagers in Jana district of the southern province of Songkhla to sell their land in areas covered by the southern economic zone project.

          He claimed that the land conflict took place before he took on the responsibility for the project and dismissed the allegation as completely groundless. He insisted that the project is intended to improve the quality of life of the local people.

          Speaking in his capacity as the supervisor of the police and the strategy for the southern development project, the prime minister said the problems in the south are complicated, but his government is determined to solve them, to bring about prosperity to the region and to improve the lives of the people there.

          He dismissed the Kao Klai MP’s allegation, that there has been no progress in the southern economic zone project, maintaining that the it is now in the preparatory stage and it will take time to progress, noting the importance of infrastructure development, which must be ready before investors make decisions on whether to invest in the zone.

          He insisted that implementation of the project must be transparent and can always be checked.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • Prayut to get first Sinovac shot despite claiming it is unsuitable for those above 60

            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has offered himself up as the first person in Thailand to take the Sinovac vaccine in a bid to boost public confidence.

            This is after he had previously announced that only people below 60 should take this inoculation.

            Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday that the Covid-19 vaccine is a sensitive issue and needs to be thoroughly explained to the public. He added that the vaccine management team is under a lot of pressure in relation to this issue.

            “I haven’t hidden anything but need to find the right time to explain my decisions. There are concerns about untoward occurrences, like what happens if the plane carrying the vaccines crashes? If the vaccine does not arrive, it will not be the government’s fault, because we have completed our side of the job,” Anutin said.

            Meanwhile, Dr Paisan Dankhum, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, said the registration process for Sinovac is close to completion and should be ready once the first lot of 200,000 doses arrives on Wednesday.:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • Opposition to take legal action against PM, commerce and education ministers

              Thailand’s opposition parties have decided to file criminal litigation and ethical misconduct charges against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit and Education Minister Nuttapol Teepsuwan, opposition leader Sompong Amornvivat announced Monday.

              Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Secretary-General Prasert Chanthornruangthong said that the prime minister will face charges of malfeasance in office for abusing his authority, while Mr. Jurin will face charges of corruption and malfeasance and Mr. Nuttapol will be charged with gross ethical misconduct and corruption.

              Kao Klai Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat said that the opposition is determined to file the charges, with the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, to protect the public interest.

              Pracha Chart Party Leader Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said that, once the Supreme Court accepts the opposition’s cases for consideration, the prime minister and the two ministers must cease performing their duties.:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Thai PM wants quick cabinet reshuffle to fill the vacant posts

                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Thursday that the cabinet reshuffle must be done as quickly as possible as the vacant posts need to be filled so that work can continue uninterrupted.

                When asked whether the cabinet shakeup would be limited to just the three empty seats or whether there would be a broader reshuffle, he said that he was thinking about that as well.

                Three cabinet seats are vacant after Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam were automatically stripped of their posts, in accordance with provisions of the Constitution, after they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms by the Criminal Court for their roles in the mass protests by the PDRC, held to oust the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014-15.

                Since the three ousted ministers are members of the Palang Pracharat and Democrat parties, the prime minister said the parties must decide on the replacements and then submit their nominees to him for finalization.

                Asked whether there will be any change to the ministerial quota among the coalition parties, the prime minister said that this issue has not been discussed.

                Meanwhile, it is reported that about 80 Palang Pracharat MPs have signed a letter, addressed to the prime minister, demanding that the party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, have full authority to choose the replacements for the educational and DES portfolios.

                The move was intended to pre-empt a reported attempt by the prime minister to appoint outsiders.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • Prayut to get jab on Sunday

                  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will get the first shot of Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca on Sunday while Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul will receive the vaccine from Sinovac.

                  Dr Sopon Mekthon, chairman of the government's sub-committee on Covid-19 vaccine management, said Gen Prayut and Mr Anutin were scheduled to be vaccinated at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute on Sunday. This follows the Department of Medical Sciences approving the release of the jabs and efficacy certificates for the vaccines from the companies, Dr Sopon said. Vaccination for priority groups in targeted provinces will start on Monday with details to be provided by the Department of Disease Control, he said.

                  Myanmar police launched a crackdown overnight in a Yangon district after breaking up a protest to oppose a military appointed local official, as the World Bank halted payments to projects in the country that were made after the Feb 1 coup.

                  Sources said doctors recommended that Gen Prayut be inoculated with the viral vector vaccine from AstraZeneca, while Mr Anutin and Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha would receive vaccines from Sinovac.

                  Quick shot in the arm: Nurses rehearse the Covid-19 vaccine administration process at Bang Khunthian Hospital for the Elderly before the inoculation programme kicks off nationwide on Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

                  Mr Anutin on Thursday told village health volunteers nationwide via teleconference that the arrival of 317,600 doses of vaccines from the two companies on Wednesday bodes well for Thailand's success in combating Covid. "The vaccines are for Thais and those living in the country,'' Mr Anutin said, adding the first batch of vaccines are free of charge with the government paying for them and other management costs. "Anyone who charges for the vaccine will face legal action," the minister said.

                  He said the 200,000 doses from Sinovac were delivered to Thailand under the terms agreed upon between Thailand and the company, while the delivery of 117,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was the result of negotiations by National Vaccine Institute director Dr Nakorn Premsri, and permanent secretary for public health Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit.

                  The shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine came as a surprise since there had been no mention before of that make being imported. The delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine was a back-up plan in case the other company failed to come through, Mr Anutin said. Another 800,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine will arrive from China next month and 1 million more in April, he said.

                  The balance of vaccines for Thais in 2021 will be AstraZeneca's, made locally by Siam Bioscience, with 26 million doses to be available from May to June and a further 35 million doses afterwards, he said.

                  Dr Nakorn said on Thursday the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine was ahead of schedule because the Public Health Ministry and the company shared a common goal of containing the second wave of the outbreak so Thailand would recover quickly from the crisis. The cooperation from AstraZeneca allowed Thailand quicker access to vaccines than the original schedule and the vaccines which were shipped to Thailand came from the company's global production line, and in line with its commitment to ensuring wide and equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, Dr Nakorn said.

                  "The AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived in Thailand must receive a lot release certificate from the Department of Medical Sciences before distribution to priority groups designated by the Department of Disease Control," Dr Nakorn said.

                  He also said the AstraZeneca vaccine was the first Covid-19 vaccine to receive the Food and Drug Administration's conditional approval for emergency use on Jan 20. On Feb 15, the World Health Organisation also listed AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, enabling global access to the vaccine, Dr Nakorn added.

                  Thares Karasnairaviwong, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support, said more than 1.5 million village health volunteers were instructed to educate people about the Covid-19 vaccination. They were also told to find out the number of people in the priority groups which will get the vaccines and send the information to provincial communicable disease committees to work on the distribution of vaccines, Dr Thares said.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • Prayut not ruling out big cabinet reshuffle

                    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday did not rule out the possibility of a major cabinet reshuffle after three cabinet ministers were sent to jail and lost their posts as a result.

                    When asked if only three posts left vacant would be filled or other major changes were to take place, Gen Prayut said he was thinking about it.

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                    He also said the focus would be on the vacant posts and when their replacements were proposed he would decide if they were appropriate or required any further changes.

                    Three posts that must be filled in the reshuffle are digital economy and society (DES) minister, education minister and deputy transport minister.

                    DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam were found guilty by the Criminal Court on Wednesday of charges related to street protests to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.

                    Gen Prayut said the cabinet would next week endorse people who would assume caretaker roles in the affected ministries pending a reshuffle. He added the shake-up would be made as soon as possible but he was under no pressure to find replacements.

                    The prime minister said the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, of which Mr Buddhipongse and Mr Nataphol are members, and the Democrat Party, to which Mr Thaworn belongs, would recommend replacements.

                    When asked about the possibility that the government coalition partners might might seize the opportunity to swap their ministerial quotas, he said the matter had not come up yet.

                    Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday he would leave it to Gen Prayut to decide on the line-up and that he would not nominate anyone.

                    Gen Prawit also said allocation of cabinet portfolios among the coalition partners remained unchanged amid reports that cabinet posts could be redistributed.

                    A source in the PPRP said efforts are under way to reallocate the cabinet posts among the PPRP, Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties.

                    According to the source, it is reported the Bhumjaithai wants to negotiate for more cabinet seats while the Democrats may lose one or two seats.

                    It was rumoured that Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat of the PPRP wants to swap his post for the deputy transport portfolio.

                    Another source in the PPRP said that a group of 13 PPRP MPs who are based in the southern region is prepared to lobby for a cabinet seat in the upcoming reshuffle.

                    Among the PPRP key figures reportedly lobbying for changes in the cabinet line-up include Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow and Deputy Labour Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat.:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • Jabs rollout on course, Prayut won't be first

                      Thailand will roll out Covid-19 vaccination on Sunday as planned but the person who will get the first shot will not be the prime minister.

                      Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Saturday that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha could not get the country’s first shot at the discretion of doctors.

                      The first batch of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines that arrived Thailand on Wednesday has passed the Department of Medical Sciences' quality tests and are ready for delivery to state hospitals, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

                      “Besides, the AstraZeneca vaccine [shipped to Thailand on Feb 24] has not been endorsed by the Medical Science Department. AstraZeneca has yet to submit documents and samples,” Mr Anutin said.

                      Gen Prayut, however, will preside over an event to be held at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute on Tivanon Road in Nonthaburi at 7.30am.

                      The vaccine to be used on Sunday will be the Chinese-made CoronaVac developed by Sinovac Life Sciences, which can be used on people aged 18-59. Gen Prayut is 66.

                      Kiattibhum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, is reportedly scheduled to be the first person to be vaccinated, followed by frontline medical workers and others in high-risk groups.

                      Mr Anutin said whether he would also get a shot on Sunday would depend on doctors’ discretion as well.

                      “It doesn’t matter who get the shots first. Safety prevails and doctors will make the decisions,” said Mr Anutin, who will go to Samut Sakhon after the event to supervise the start of inoculations in the country’s hardest-hit province.

                      Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said later that five ministers had agreed to get shots on Sunday: Mr Anutin, Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on, Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome, Deputy Education Minister Kanokwan Vilawan and himself.

                      Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department, said CoronaVac was being sent to 18 target provinces in all. The first 13 provinces will get 200,000 doses at 32 hospitals.

                      Meanwhile, AstraZeneca issued a statement on Saturday saying that even though the vaccine is now physically present in Thailand, it can only be used once the company completes all steps in the quality assurance process, expected to be completed in the second week of March.

                      “AstraZeneca is working extremely hard for the Thai people, and actively collaborating with the Ministry of Public Health so that the vaccine can be delivered and be made available for use on the same day as completion of the Quality Assurance process,” read the statement.

                      The country received its first batch of vaccine on Wednesday — 200,000 doses of CoronaVac. The vaccine procurement plan calls for another 800,000 doses to arrive in March and 1 million more in April.

                      Sinovac Life Sciences is 15% owned by the Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group.

                      While the government says it is looking at the possibility of making deals with more providers, for now it is counting on AstraZeneca to supply the rest of the country’s needs in 2021.

                      The first AstraZeneca doses, made locally by Siam Bioscience under a technology-transfer agreement, are scheduled to be made available from June to August (26 million) and from September to December (35 million).

                      However, 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca arrived on Wednesday. Authorities would not say where they came from, saying only they were part of the National Vaccine Institute’s procurement plan.

                      Images of the crates showed labels indicating they came from South Korea, where SK Bioscience is the contract manufacturer for AstraZeneca. Thai officials did not confirm it.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • Prayut, Prawit disagree over candidates for cabinet reshuffle

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is said to be at loggerheads with Prawit Wongsuwon, his deputy PM and leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), over the imminent cabinet reshuffle.

                        A source has told the BangkokPost that Gen Prayut wants to bring in professional experts but Gen Prawit is hoping to hand the coveted posts to members of his party.

                        A cabinet shake-up appears inevitable after three ministers were jailed on Wednesday and lost their posts as a result. The next day, Gen Prayut was asked if only the three posts left vacant by the prison sentences would be affected. He replied that the immediate focus would be on the vacant posts and only later would he decide if any further changes were also necessary.

                        The three ministerial posts that must be filled are digital economy and society (DES), education and deputy transport -- DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam were found guilty by the Criminal Court of charges linked to street protests to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.

                        Among outsiders being eyed by the prime minister is one of his advisers, Pirapan Saliratha-vibhaga, who is tipped to land the post of education minister, the source said.

                        However, this prompted a group of 90 PPRP MPs to sign a petition declaring their support for Gen Prawit to decide which members of the party should be nominated for the cabinet posts, the source said.

                        Wirach Ratanasate, chief government whip and a PPRP list-MP, confirmed that the 90 MPs wanted Gen Prawit to act decisively after news emerged of outsiders being approached to join the cabinet.

                        Mr Wirach said Gen Prawit had not known about that but played down the reports.

                        "When he [Gen Prawit] learned about it, he told party members to calm down and said the party's executives would hold a meeting next week," Mr Wirach said. The meeting, set for Tuesday, is certain to discuss the imminent reshuffle.

                        Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, said the primary goal of the next reshuffle could be to build bridges between the PM and PPRP ministers left unhappy with their current posts as a result of the previous reshuffle.

                        Mr Wanwichit said Capt Thamanat Prompow, a Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, could receive a ministerial post because criticism of him in the past had decreased drastically and he had since worked harder to work closely with colleagues.

                        He also said the reshuffle could become a peace offering to the Bhumjaithai Party to maintain unity among coalition partners after six MPs in the PPRP abstained instead of backing Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, in the crucial no-confidence vote on Feb 20.:

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • Cabinet shake-up brings headache for PM Prayut, opportunity for Thamanat

                          A Feb 24 Criminal Court verdict has placed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in a situation he was dreading — the need for a Cabinet reshuffle he reportedly tried to delay as long as possible to avoid shock waves in his fragile coalition.

                          However, with three of his Cabinet members now sentenced to jail, the PM can no longer postpone the big shake-up.

                          Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam were found guilty of crimes stemming from their roles in anti-government protests between November 2013 and May 2014.

                          Under the Constitution, the prison sentences resulted in the three Cabinet members losing their ministerial seats immediately, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs.

                          The trio were key figures in the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which led protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Turmoil stemming from the protests culminated in the May 2014 military coup.

                          Nataphol and Buddhipongse – both former Democrats – are now members of the coalition-leading Palang Pracharath Party, while Thaworn is from the Democrat Party.

                          The sudden vacuum brought by their automatic dismissal has caused ripples in the government and coalition parties involved — setting off intense lobbying and deal-making.

                          Headaches are inevitable for Prayut and his deputy premier — Palang Pracharath leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan — as rival factions and coalition partners vie for the coveted Cabinet seats up for grabs.

                          Much more:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • Containers piled outside barracks to block protesters

                            Police have piled shipping containers outside the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok to block pro-democracy protesters from approaching the barracks on Sunday in their latest rally against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

                            The containers were laid out on the inside traffic lanes of Vibhavadi Rangsit Road where it passes the military compound ahead of a protest march from Victory Monument.

                            The demonstrators, led by the Free Youth group, are targeting the prime minister's residence inside the barracks to air their discontent over double standards in the judiciary system after four leading activists were denied bail by the Court of Appeal on Saturday.

                            Protest leaders cried foul after seeing protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and seven other key members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee -- the group that organised sometimes violent demonstrations that helped overthrow the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014 -- walk out of Bangkok Remand Prison on bail on Friday after they were sentenced on multiple charges, including terrorism and insurrection.

                            Four protest leaders -- Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem -- have been detained since Feb 9 on lese majeste and other charges.

                            Barbed wire forms a barricade on a pedestrian bridge over Vibhavadi Rangsit Road outside the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

                            The Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) had earlier planned to deploy only 600 personnel at the rally, but that number has since swelled to about 2,000.

                            MPB deputy commissioner Tawichai said on Sunday police decided to install containers to prevent the marchers from entering the army camp, which is a unit of the King's Guard, and to fend off possible violence.

                            The containers are blocking traffic on the inside lanes of the road and Pol Maj Gen Piya said the protesters would not be allowed to occupy other lanes open to traffic.

                            Protesters started converging at Victory Monument before marching to the barracks, which is about three kilometres away.:
                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • Prayut defends cops over rally

                              Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday defended the way police handled the anti-government rally on Sunday in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment barracks, King's Guard, insisting crowd-control measures were in compliance with international standards.

                              Riot police from the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) used tear gas and water cannon to block the protesters from approaching the prime minister's residence in the barracks.

                              They also fired rubber bullets at the protesters during the clash, with MPB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra admitting on Monday that rubber bullets were used to quell violence before the situation spiralled out of control.

                              In defence of police actions, Gen Prayut said the protesters had advanced into police and restricted areas and assaulted police officers, so officers needed to respond to the situation.

                              "I insist the crowd-control measures were in accordance with international standards and police did not violate the protesters' rights," Gen Prayut said.

                              The prime minister took to task some media outlets for what he claimed were unbalanced reports about the clashes between the protesters and the police, saying they only carried reports about police's use of force against the protesters.

                              Gen Prayut also expressed sympathy for police who were told to exercise restraint in the face of violence and ended up injured.

                              Thirty-three people, 23 police and 10 protesters, were confirmed injured during Sunday's rally and 22 protesters were detained by police. A police officer, Pol Capt Wiwat Sinprasert, of Thammasala police station, died of a heart attack while on duty.

                              The rally was organised by Restart Democracy (REDEM) -- the latest incarnation of the Free Youth group that had previously rallied against the government and campaigned for reforms of the monarchy.

                              Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday the situation called for the use of rubber bullets and police actions were in line with standard procedures.

                              He said it was not yet time to call in troops to join police in crowd-control operations.

                              National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk said police actions were not intended to disperse the protesters but to arrest those who physically assaulted officers.

                              He noted that the Sunday's protest was different from previous rallies in that some demonstrators started off by attacking police.

                              "We've discussed it several times that we will enforce the laws where necessary. If the protesters didn't harm officers or destroy barriers, we wouldn't have had to act. And the protesters, they were unable to control each other," he said.

                              When asked about police's choice of crowd-control weapons, Pol Gen Suwat said the tools were deployed based on the situation and rubber bullets and batons could cause serious injuries if they were not used properly.

                              "The weapons have their own functions and the situation dictates which one should be used," he said, noting that batons could not be used against protesters who used slingshots to launch stones at police.

                              Pol Lt Gen Phukphong said some of the demonstrators also rallied outside Din Daeng and Suthisarn police stations and set fire to police cars. He said a total of 90 police were injured in the clashes with 27 being treated at Police General Hospital.

                              Of 22 detained protesters, 18 were sent for questioning at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathum Thani while four others, who are youngsters, were taken to Suthisarn police station and their cases would be heard in the Central Juvenile and Family Court.

                              The opposition Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties on Monday slammed the use of force against the protesters and called on police to follow international standard procedures in crowd-control operations.

                              Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome criticised the use of rubber bullets, saying they were fired at random, not at specific targets.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • Prawit reveals reshuffle plan/PM set to consider cabinet nominations

                                Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) Prawit Wongsuwon said he has submitted nominations of candidates for cabinet posts to the prime minister for consideration.

                                Gen Prawit said he has named two candidates for ministerial posts under the party's quota, a reference to the vacancies for education minister and digital economy and society (DES) minister.

                                The posts were left vacant after Nataphol Teepsuwan, the former education miniser, and Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the former DES minister, were removed from office as a result of their convictions related to their leading roles in 2014, in anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee activities.

                                The source said Mr Nataphol will likely be replaced by Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn, a party list MP, and Mr Buddhipongse by Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome.

                                The shift will involve Mr Itthiphol freeing up the culture portfolio with Trinuch Thienthong, the PPRP MP for Sa Kaeo, likely succeeding him as culture minister, according to the source.

                                The possible cabinet changes have prompted intense speculation among party members.

                                Apart from Mr Buddhipongse and Mr Nataphol, Thaworn Senneam, the Democrat Party MP, lost his post as deputy transport minister over his conviction in the PDRC case.

                                The trio were among 26 people convicted by the Criminal Court over their roles in the PDRC protests which culminated in the May 2014 coup.

                                Gen Prayut said on Wednesday that he has the power to decide on candidates nominated by coalition parties to fill the vacancies. "There should not be any problem. Wait and see. It won't be long,'' he said.

                                Asked whether he would be upset if he got the chop in the cabinet shake-up, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin, who is the PPRP's deputy leader, said he would leave the matter to be decided by the prime minister.

                                Mr Suchart, Mr Nataphool and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit received the least backing when MPs voted at the end of the four-day censure debate on Feb 20.

                                Ramate Rattanachawent, spokesman for the coalition Democrats, said that after the by-election in Nakhon Si Thammarat Constituency 3 scheduled for Sunday, a meeting of party executives and MPs would be held to choose the candidate to fill the cabinet post left vacant by Mr Thaworn.

                                The by-election is to be held because the Constitutional Court in January stripped Thepthai Senpong, a Democrat, of his MP status.:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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