relations, ASEAN, and the United Nations Security Council
developments in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia monopolized
all of media attention again in February. The month started with the rejection by the
Criminal Court of a lawsuit against the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiya, the
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, the Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya,
and the Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon for alleged negligence causing the
loss of territory to Cambodia. The
lawsuit was filed by two members of the People?s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Samdin
Lertbutr and Tainae Mungmajon, two of the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian
soldiers on December 29 for illegal entry in Cambodia.
move followed the condemnation by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 31 of
People?s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) activist and Thai Patriots Network (TPN)
coordinator Veera Somkwamkid to eight years in prison and his secretary Ratree
Pipatanapaiboon to six years on
espionage and illegal entry charges.
Thai Patriots Network (TPN) held, together with the People?s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD) a major rally on February 5 to call for their release and the resignation
of the government over his mishandling of the border issue.
although the minister of foreign affairs Mr. Kasit Piromya met with his Cambodian
counterpart Hor Namlong on February 4 and they both agreed not to incite their
people into hatred, the same day, fighting, including exchanges of rocket and
artillery barrages, broke out at the border near Preah Vihear temple. A few
soldiers were reported wounded. One Cambodian and one Thai soldier were
reportedly killed in the clash. Four rangers were arrested and imprisoned in
Cambodian jails, and later released on February 5. The gunfire continued
throughout the weekend (February 5 to 7). The total toll of the four-day
clashes reportedly amounted to two killed and more than twenty injured on the
Thai side, mostly civilians. At least seven Cambodians reportedly perished in
the border clash.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), by the voice of his
secretary-general Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, expressed its concerns at the situation
between Thailand and Cambodia. ?I am deeply concerned about the serious
situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This violent conflict
must be brought under control and returned to the negotiating table as soon as
possible." (Bangkok Post, 06/02) "I
understand that both sides now welcome some form of mediation by the Asean
the ASEAN statement, international involvement in the conflict went even
further when both governments expressed their views to the United Nations
Security Council. A letter accusing Cambodia of instigating the conflict which
led to border clashes and casualties from February 4 to 7, signed by Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, was written in reaction to reports claiming that Cambodian
Prime Minister Hun Sen had asked the Security Council on February 6 to stop the
?invasion of Cambodia? and to send peacekeepers in between the two sides. (Bangkok
Post, 08/02). Meanwhile Thailand reaffirmed its stance on the necessity to
solve the border conflict through existing bilateral mechanisms. A statement
issued by the spokesman for the UN secretary-general said Ban Ki-moon was
"deeply concerned" by the fighting and urged both sides "to
exercise maximum restraint". This statement came in the midst of mounting
concerns about the situation expressed by Singapore, China, ASEAN, the UN
Security Council, and other organizations.
instance, China issued a statement saying "China hopes that the two sides
will exercise calmness and restraint, resolve disputes through consultation,
and prevent the situation from escalating." Singapore expressed "deep
concern" over the deadly border battles. "We urge Thailand and
Cambodia to resolve their differences through negotiations". "This is
important both for their long-term relationship, as well as in the broader
interests of Asean." (The Nation, 08/02)
February 14, the UN Security Council convened a meeting to discuss the
Thai-Cambodian border conflict. The UNSC expressed its support for an ASEAN
mediation of the conflict and deferred the mediation efforts to Indonesia, in its
quality as chairman of the ASEAN, represented by the Indonesian Minister of
Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa.
UNSC nevertheless called for a permanent ceasefire and urged all parties to
resolve the conflict peacefully and show maximum restraint.
the UNESCO issued a statement (08/02) saying it will send a mission to inspect
the site of Preah Vihear following claims that it was damaged during the
firefight. Thailand's Joint Boundary Commission chief, Asda Jayanama, met with
UNESCO in Paris on the same day to explain the Thai position on the temple,
namely to demand that the listing of the temple on the World Heritage Site be
put on hold.
Particularly interesting is the
innovative role played by ASEAN in the mediation of the conflict. On February
10, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan declared: ?The Asean chair's attendance at the UNSC
meeting represents an evolution of Asean's efforts to resolve bilateral
disputes among its members as provided for by the Asean Charter, (?) This is
particularly important as it will set a precedent for future Asean dispute
settlement mechanisms?. (ASEAN secretariat, 10/02). On February 22, at the
occasion of the Asean meeting of ministers of foreign affairs held in
Jakarta, Thailand extended an
invitation to Indonesia to send 15 observers to the Thai-Cambodian border.
On February 19, four days after a new
eruption of violence at the border left five Thai soldiers wounded, a temporary
ceasefire agreement was reportedly signed between Hun Manet, eldest son of
Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, and Thai Army Chief of Staff General Dapong
Rattanasuwan. The agreement included several points including no mobilisation
of troops, no increase in troops or heavy weapons, no confrontation and no
construction in disputed areas. The next day, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
denied reports that Thai and Cambodian military figures signed a ceasefire
agreement. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya explained that what was reported was
only a discussion between military authorities, the results of which would have
to be referred to higher authorities for any further action. Kasit said that it
was like sending subordinates for a discussion so they could report to the
higher-ups. Any formal discussions would have to involve the defence ministers
of the two countries, under the framework of the General Border Committee. He
also stressed that Thailand will resolve this matter bilaterally with Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said that the agreement was
not a formal document, but rather the outcome of an informal meeting between
military leaders. The Thai-Cambodian
Joint Border Commission meeting, initially scheduled for February 27, was
postponed as a result of the incidents between the two countries.
February 11, the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate
passed the bill to amend Section 190 of the Constitution (lifting the necessity
of a parliamentary approval before the signature of international treaties and
conventions) in the third reading with a vote of 397:19. The drafting of an organic law is now
needed to specify which treaties will require a parliamentary approval prior to
their signing. The opposition, the Pheua Thai, boycotted the process. The same
joint house session also deliberated the amendment to Sections 93-98. The
amendment was passed in its third reading with a vote of 347:37 with 42
abstentions. It raises the number of seats
in the lower house from 480 to 500 in total, reducing the number of
constituency MPs from the current 400 down to 375 elected on a single-member
constituency first-past-the-post vote, and increasing the number of party-list
MPs from 80 to 125 in the new system. During the vote, about 2,000 yellow-shirt
protesters reportedly marched from their rally site near Ratchadomnoen Nok
Avenue to Royal Plaza, in defiance of the Internal Security Act (ISA) barring
them from doing so (cf. infra).
issues: The Internal Security Act
People?s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and its allies, the Thai Patriots Network
(TPN) and Santi Asoke, have blocked part of Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue and
Phitsanulok Road since Jan 25 to protest against the government's handling of
the border dispute with Cambodia. On February 10, the prime minister called on
the protesters to open up traffic lanes at the rally site.
call followed the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in certain key
areas in Bangkok, approved by the Cabinet on February 8. The ISA's Section 18
enables the prime minister, with the approval of the cabinet, to prohibit
people from entering or leaving particular areas and buildings at certain
times. The ISA took effect in seven districts of Bangkok (Pom Prap (Sattru
Phai), Dusit, Pathum Wan, Wang Thonglang, Watthana, Ratchathewi and Phra Nakhon
districts in central Bangkok) on February 9. The
ISOC (Internal Security Operations Command) was in charge of the
implementation. Under the law areas can be declared restricted zones, providing
for the police to rightfully remove protesters from these areas. National police chief Wichean Potephosree, who
heads the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) set up to
enforce the Internal Security Act, ordered on February 10 the dismantling of
the rally site around Government House.
of yellow shirts
February 15, 10 yellow-shirts were summoned for violating the CAPO?s order to
clear roads surrounding Government House in the name of the ISA. They are co-leaders
of the PAD movement, including Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul,
Prapan Khoonmee, Panthep Puapongphan, Rak Rakpong (Samana Pothirak, leader of
the Santi Asoke sect), Suriyasai Katasila, Terdphum Jaidee, Pibhop Dhongchai,
Amorn Amornrattananond and Tossapol Kaewthima. They were due to report to the Metropolitan
Police Division 1 headquarters within seven days, by Feb 22, and they complied
with the summon. The Thai patriots Network (TPN) filed a lawsuit against the
Cabinet for its resolution to impose the ISA.
in the month, on February 2, a key-member of the People?s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD), former senator Karun Saignam, was arrested on charges related
to the seizure of the Suvanabhumi airport in 2008.
police chief Pol Lt-Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang, chief investigator who recommended
the indictment of suspects in two cases related to yellow-shirts protests at
Suvanabhumi airport and Don Muang airports in 2008, reportedly resigned from
the investigation on February 11, complaining that he has put much effort into
the investigation without support from the Royal Thai Police, and that he has
been subject to criticism and pressure
that has affected his family (the announcement came after PAD filed a civil
case against Somyot, seeking 220 million baht in damages for alleged defamation).
On February 15, police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said Pol Lt-Gen Somyot
Pumpanmuang would not be replaced.
of red shirts
The verdict against Daranee
Charnchoengsilpakul, alias Da Torpedo, for the crime of l?se-majest? during her
speeches made at the red-shirt stages in Sanam Luang on January 18, June 7 and
June 13, 2008, was nullified by the Appeal Court on February 9 for procedural
reasons; Daranee had been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Daranee had challenged the verdict on grounds
that the fact her trial was held in camera violated the 2007 Constitution?s
provisions in Section 29 and 40 for free, fair, and open trial. In the previous
trial process, upon learning of prosecutors? request for trial in camera,
Daranee reportedly asked the Criminal Court to forward her challenge against
closed proceedings to the Constitution Court, but the Criminal Court failed to
do so; now, the Criminal Court will forward the petition, and if the
Constitution Court rules in Daranee?s favor, the prosecution can request a new
Criminal Court trial. Meanwhile,
Darunee, who was sentenced on August 28, 2009, remains in custody and still
faces the original criminal charges, but can request to be freed on bail
pending the Constitution Court ruling.
The same day, Thida Thavornseth, UDD
leader, filed another request with the Criminal Court for the release on bail
of seven red-shirt co-leaders being detained on terrorism charges in Bangkok
Remand Prison. She offered 600,000 baht as surety for each of the seven
suspects: Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, Nisit
Sinthuprai, Kwanchai Sarakham, Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai and Yoswaris
Chuklom or Jeng Dokchik.
February 13, red-shirts gathered in front of the Criminal Court to call for the
release of their detained comrades. The seven
red-shirt leaders and a supporter of the UDD detained on terrorism charges
since the middle of last year were released on bail on February 22, under the
condition that they do not instigate unrest nor leave the country. Natthawut
Saikua, Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, Nisit Sinthuprai, Kwanchai
Praipana, Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai and Yoswaris Chuklom and Phumkitti
Sukjindathong were thus freed.
same day, Surachai Danwattananusorn or Sae Dan was arrested on charges of
lese-majeste for remarks made in the context of a red-shirt rally in December.
Truth for Reconciliation Commission, appointed by the government to seek ways
for reconciliation among Thais after the incidents of April-May and chaired by
Kanit Na Nakorn, held its first public hearing on the 1st of
February. The sub-committee in charge of the hearings is responsible for
hearing testimonies of the various actors in the April-May riots. Each Tuesday
of the month, the sub-committee, whose chairman is Somchai Homlaor, invited
members of the security forces, representatives of the Department of Special
Investigation (DSI), families of victims, rescue volunteers, witnesses and
other relevant people to tell their account of the events happened during the April-May
riots. Each session looked into a different incident, with the exception of the
first session, which was conceived as a venue for foreign diplomats and
international NGOs to express their expectations at the reconciliation process.
Human Rights Watch (HRI), Amnesty International (AI), the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Crisis Group (ICG) all
reaffirmed their attachment to a reconciliation process leading to the
recognition of responsibilities for the 91 deaths occurred during the riots.
included an overall view of the conflict on February the 1st, Tha
Thaicom Satellite Incident on the 9th of April 2010 on February 8,
the encounter at the Kok-Wua intersection on April 10 on February 15, and the
death of Mr. Hiro Muramoto on the 10th of April on February 22.
Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart is continuing his efforts as a
mediator between political parties in an attempt to bring about reconciliation
continuing expectations of an early dissolution of the House of Representatives
in May, political parties in February continued the search for the best
candidates among their ranks. The Phuea
Thai Party, formally led by Yongyuth Wichaidit, picked Mingkwan Saengsuwan, a
party-list MP, to prepare and lead a no-confidence debate against the
government. Facing the prime minister, whose eloquence in the House is widely
recognized, the no-confidence debate is seen a leadership test for Mingkwan. Thailand?s
system of ?constructive motion of censorship?
(the motion of no-confidence must include the name of a successor to the
prime minister in case of success of the censorship vote), means that Mingkwan will
be named as the replacement prime minister in the censure motion. However,
Mingkwan drew criticism from observers and his own party members for his
performance in the debate about the 2012 supplementary budget on February 16;
critics complained he relied too heavily on slides, lacked substantial
information, used dated information, and had weak delivery. Voices were raised
to propose that Chalerm Yubamrung lead the censure debate instead of Mingkwan. But
Charlem headed the last censure debate against Abhisit, which failed, and
so finally Mingkwan Saengsuwan was
chosen to lead the censure debate to take place in March. It will target 10
Cabinet members including the prime minister and focus on three aspects of the
government?s actions: the crackdowns on protesters on April-May last year and
the handling of the prosecution of protesters, corruption and abuse of
authority, and the management of economic and foreign affairs.
the next general election can take place, the prime minister made it clear that
a few conditions have to be reached first. They include the need to write
organic laws in accordance with the constitutional amendments passed earlier in
the month, and the parliamentary approval of the 2012 budget bill.
was quoted on February 4 by the Bangkok Post as saying ?I don't intend to stay
on and complete my tenure," (?) When the time is right and a general
election can be peacefully held, this government is ready to step down and
return the power to the people. This year is the last year of this
parties organized fundraising events to prepare them to cope with the costs
induced by election campaigning.
The Democrat Party held what was described as a soft
launch of an election campaign policy package. The four-point policy package
promised to increase minimum wage by 25 percent within two years; to form a
2,500-man task force to tackle drug problems; to provide education loans to
250,000 students; and to issue community land deeds to farming communities,
benefitting about 250,000 farmers.
February 17, 67 of the 74 appointed senators of the 150-member Senate resigned
(one day before their terms were to end) so that they could be re-appointed
without technical breach of the law prohibiting them from holding their post
for two consecutive terms. The Senate could still manage quorum after the
resignations, but many of the Senate?s 23 committees were left nearly empty, so
the Senate decided to temporarily suspend quorum requirements for its
committees so they could continue to operate.
renewed calls for a radical change of the handling of the insurgency in the
three southernmost provinces of Thailand, including calls by four Democrat MPs from
Yala and Pattani to replace Army Chief to take responsibility for increased
violence in the deep South (Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reportedly
quickly reprimanded the MPs and apologized to the army chief), casualties amounted
to at least ten people. In the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat they
included: a village security team member (08/02, Yala), the family of a teacher
? three people- (10/02, Pattani), an army sergeant (17/02, Pattani), among
other villagers (18/02 and 22/02, Narathiwat).
February 19, 17 people were injured after suspected insurgents opened fire on a
karaoke bar in Narathiwat. As the police rushed to the scene, a car bomb was
then detonated by mobile phone. On February 21, in Yala province, the explosion
of a car bomb killed one and injured 12.
into the deaths during the April-May riots
Department of Special Investigation (DSI), in charge of the investigation into
the 91 deaths occurred during the April-May riots last year, completed its
report on the investigation into the death of Japanese journalist Hiroyuki
Muramoto at the end of the month. The DSI?s findings unveiled in the new report
contradicted earlier findings by the same agency. Whereas the DSI concluded in former
reports that troops were likely to be behind the death of the Japanese envoy,
it concluded on February 28 that his wound indicated he probably died from an
AK-47 bullet, while troops in charge of clearing the crowds were not using this
Disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit
developments unfolded in the five-year long struggle of the legal case involving
the disappearance of lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004. On February 7
(or 8?) , The Appeal Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Pol. Maj.
Ngern Thongsuk, one of the five police officers who were seen forcing the
lawyer into a car before his disappearance. The police officer was sentenced on
January 12, 2006, to three years in jail, was released on bail in September and
reportedly killed in a landslide. His body was never found. Although relatives
of the police officer filed a petition to recognize him as a missing person,
his body was not found, so, as in the case of Somchai Neelapaijit, he is not
entitled to be recognized as ?dead? before a certain time has elapsed. The
Appeal Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant on grounds of failing to show
up to hear its verdict in the Somchai disappearance?s case and attempt to
escape the court. Thailand has not yet ratified the United Nations Convention
for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which provide
legal protection and rights to justice for the families of disappeared people,
a juristic category which does not exist at present under Thai law.
February 7, the National Reform Committee (NRC), chaired by Anand Panyarachun, issued
a set of proposals to bring about reconciliation in the country by reducing
inequalities. Land reform was prioritized as one of the major reforms to be
undertaken. As the Bangkok Post puts it, ?The
land reform proposal consists of five policy measures: restricting property
ownership to 50 rai a family; setting up a national land database; establishing
a land bank to buy unused land and reallocate it to landless farmers; imposing
a progressive land tax to discourage large-scale landholding; and zoning land
for agriculture?(Bangkok Post, 13/01). Figures show there were 889,022 landless
farmers nationwide in 2004, while 517,263 more farmers had land but not enough
for cultivation and more than 811,000 farmers occupied plots without title
deeds. A common problem in Thai rural areas and especially forests is the
friction between the right of communities to use the land, enshrined in the
constitution, and the law which prohibits people without proper land titles to
use the resources provided by the land. As a result, cases of poor farmers
entangled in lawsuits with local officials for illegal encroachment are common.
February 16, an alliance of thousands of poor people began a protest in front
of the parliament to voice their demands for genuine implementation of the
government's pro-poor policies, joining 300 villagers from Chaiyaphum, Ubon
Ratchathani and Buri Ram who had already been camping in front of the Forestry
Industry Organisation (FIO) for nearly two weeks.
long-lasting saga about the allocation of 3G licenses has not yet come to an end. The contract details between True and CAT were
forwarded to the Attorney-General at the beginning of this month for scrutiny.
The Office of the Attorney-General on February 10 asked the CAT Telecom board
in a letter to clarify conditions under which the deal with True Corp was
agreed upon. As summarized by the Bangkok Post, the OAG claims that the CAT
deals with True to pave the way for their joint development of the 3G-High
Speed Packet Access (HSPA) service seemed to have been made in an unusually
hasty manner and some contracts still lacked key details.
way in which the deals were made has raised doubts over whether there was an
attempt to circumvent the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act and prevent a
fair bid process that would maximise benefits for CAT.
five of 12 members of the TOT Plc executive board tendered their resignations
as TOT prepared (reportedly under pressure from the government, notably
Information and Communications Technology Minister Chuti Krairiksh), to demand
compensation from Advanced Info Service for past amendments to concession
agreements; the resigning members reportedly fear that AIS will take legal
action against them in retaliation. Shortly thereafter, the boards of TOT Plc
and CAT Telecom formally decided to take legal action against the 2003 Thaksin
Shinawatra cabinet, seeking nearly 100 billion baht in damages stemming from
the imposition of an excise tax on telecom service (the report said TOT and CAT
would not seek damages from private telecom firms because the excise tax
dispute has already been referred for arbitration). TOT Plc and CAT Telecom
then, however, submitted claims to the Central Administrative Court seeking
about 80 billion baht from the Finance Ministry (their 100 percent shareholder)
for losses caused by mobile phone concession holders deducting telecom excise
tax from concession fees; CAT said, in its case filing, that the Thaksin
cabinet did not hold a position in any state agency, so the Finance Ministry is
liable for damages.
of cooking oil in the country, reported at least since last month, reached unprecedented
levels this month. Authorities launched an investigation, led by the Department
of Special Investigation (DSI) on whether oil refineries were handling the imported
crude palm oil in line with the country?s regulations. Amid speculation that the refineries were
hoarding crude palm oil stocks to take advantage of the shortage in the
market, the DSI went down south to
inspect stocks at 10 refineries. It found no irregularities.
few days earlier, on February 22, the National Oil Palm Policy Committee,
chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, rejected a proposal by
Bhumjaithai Party Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai, to ban palm oil exports
for three months.
of importing bottled palm oil as proposed by many researchers, the Cabinet set
up a fund to subsidize palm oil so as to keep its retail price at 47 baht a
litre. The subsidy takes the form of a five-baht subsidy to palm oil refiners receiving
import quotas for 30,000 tonnes of crude palm oil.
measures taken to deal with the situation of palm oil shortage, people are only
allowed to purchase one bottle per day.
about rising commodity prices have been increasingly voiced in the media
throughout the month of February.