A GREATER COUCAL, Centropus sinensis, Nok Kapood นกกะปูด

I just saw at the back of our house in Bangkok’s suburbs

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Thailand on the road

Why were (or are?) the Thai so uninterested in their surroundings or in others? I was just in Thailand (2007) and I saw a homeless man suffering in his dirt almost at the entrance of Lumphini Park in Bangkok.

I got there after investigating that he had been lying there for over two weeks with hundreds of passers-by a day!

The policemen who have their police box very close by gave him drinks.

I could not watch this and went to the nearby King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital where, of course, no action was taken. They’re only there for patients with money! Then I went to the Red Cross on the other side of the road where they gave me the address of an office in Bangkok.

After I visited that office, fortunately they quickly came into action! Within two hours three people came with me and less than an hour later there was an ambulance!!!

Someone says to me: “I see too much and I think too much”!


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THAILAND: 120 FFP members quit, including failed polls candidates

Former MP candidates and members of the Future Forward Party show the form they have filled to resign as party members at the Office of the Election Commission in Bangkok on Monday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Former MP candidates and members of the Future Forward Party show the form they have filled to resign as party members at the Office of the Election Commission in Bangkok on Monday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

One hundred and twenty members of the Future Forward Party, some of them former election candidates, have resigned, saying the FFP leaders have failed to keep their word.

Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit on Monday confirmed their decision, and said it was their right and that the party had made mistakes. 

The members, led by Nipon Chamchamras, submitted their resignations from the party on Monday.

According to Mr Nipon, who stood unsuccessfully in constituency 2 of Chon Buri province in the March 24 election, losing to the Palang Pracharath candidate, FFP’s leaders did not make good on their pre-election promises.

The party leaders had told them that candidates who failed to win in the polls could become secretaries or consultants to those who did, Mr Nipon said. That had not happened.

“This shows they cannot keep their word even on such a small issue. How could they make good on their promises to the electorate?”  Mr Nipon said.

He said the disgruntled members were not bargaining for positions, there were also other problems involving management and party coordination centres.

Mr Nipon said his group still shared the same ideology, and have faith in the progressive party.

“We joined the party from the start when its name was barely known. We are not looking to destroy it when it is down, and we have not been approached to join other parties,” he said.

Former MP candidates and members of the Future Forward Party show the form they have filled to resign as party members at the Office of the Election Commission in Bangkok on Monday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Mr Thanathorn and party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul have faced more than 20 complaints and court cases between them. The Constitutional Court will rule on Mr Thanathorn’s alleged ownership of  media shares in violation of the election law on Nov 20. Speculation is rife it might not be in his favour. If he is found guilty, it would affect the party.   

Other former candidates who resigned were Puvanart Kartsakul, who stood in Chon Buri’s constituency 3,  and Somchai Nuangchamnong, of constituency 4 in the same province, as well as Vorapoj Boonchanthuek, who failed to win in constituency 13 of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Most of the party members who resigned were lifetime members who had paid a 2,000 baht fee.

Mr Nipon said another group of 30 were also intending to resign on Oct 30.

Responding to the news, Mr Thanathorn said the party was unlikely to be affected.

“We have 60,000 members and we vow to move forward by allowing them to participate and giving them freedom of expression.

“Our party is only 18 months old. Apparently, nothing is perfect. But we will improve, by learning from our experiences and mistakes.”

He admitted there were some flaws in the screening process of MP candidates.

“We had only two months to screen them so we were unable to 100% choose the right people with [the same] ideology,” he said.

Also on Monday, Mr Thanathorn and Mr Piyabutr went to the Office of the Attorney-General to hear progress on two of their cases.

Mr Thanathorn and two party executives were charged with computer crime for saying on Facebook Live late last year the National Council for Peace and Order had exploited its influence to lure veteran MPs to join a party backing Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. Public prosecutors already dropped the charges against him and it is in the process of waiting for police’s opinions whether they agree with the prosecutors.

However, police still have no word on the case and Mr Thanathorn is asked to come back again to hear the progress on Dec 2.

In Mr Piyabutr case, he was charged with contempt of court and computer crime when he read his statement on the Constituion Court’s decision to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party in April.

Police now want to charge him with contempt of court and dropped the computer crime charges against him.


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THAILAND: Will GPS monitoring end the carnage on our roads?

A driver of a public vehicle is required to swipe a card through a GPS-linked reader, to self-verify his identify before driving.

A driver of a public vehicle is required to swipe a card through a GPS-linked reader, to self-verify his identify before driving.

First-time minister Saksayam Chidchob is quickly making a name for himself as a rookie politician with a never-ending store of new ideas.

Not a month has passed without the transport minister, a Bhumjaithai Party list-MP, producing a new brainchild. His ideas range from legalising taxi-hailing apps and increasing the speed limit on highways, to placing regular checkpoints along inter-provincial routes to monitor public vans.

The bold proposals have made Mr Saksayam — the younger brother of veteran politician Newin Chidchob — a household name. Yet some ideas have also drawn fierce opposition.

His push to legalise the Grab ride-hailing app has made him public enemy No.1 among meter-taxi drivers. Meanwhile, safety experts worry his idea to reduce car accidents by raising the highway speed limit from 80kph to 120kph may have the opposite effect.

But his latest brainchild has triggered perhaps the greatest resistance.

Last Monday, Mr Saksayam announced he is considering whether to require all privately owned vehicles, including motorcycles, to install GPS devices that can be tracked by authorities.

The GPS technology will allow a government transport agency to monitor motorists who breach the speed limit, behaviour which is blamed for the majority of road accident deaths.

Motorists and critics have complained of the financial burden of the scheme and questioned its benefits. Many have also raised concerns about privacy.

Faced with the criticism, Mr Saksayam turned to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for support.

According to a Transport Ministry source, the premier agreed with the GPS policy. “After weighing the pros and cons, the prime minister is on the transport minister’s side. He is worried about road accidents.”

Thailand has the highest road fatality rate in Asean and the ninth-highest in the world, losing 32.7 people per 100,000, according to the World Health Organisation.

The GPS dream

As of now, the GPS policy is just an idea. The transport minister has given the Department of Land Transport (DLT) one year to explore the possibility of installing the trackers in private cars and motorbikes. Currently, there are about 40 million cars and motorbikes registered with the DLT.

“It is too soon to say whether the proposal will be put into practice. And if it is adopted, we still don’t know exactly how it will be implemented. The cabinet will have the final say on implementation,” he said.

Mr Saksayam admitted motorists will have to shoulder a financial burden, but said GPS will gradually become more affordable.

The transport ministry estimates that each GPS device will cost about 10,000 baht, with motorists also required to pay annual maintenance costs of between 3,000 and 6,000 baht.

The ministry is studying how it can help motorists with the costs. “We still have many factors to think about, including ways to install the devices and how we can help people,” he said.

Options for implementation

According to Mr Saksayam’s plan, GPS technology can be used in several ways.

One option is to use it to detect motorists who breach the speed limit for two minutes or longer. The installed GPS device will then send data to the government-run server, which will issue a traffic ticket to the wrongdoer’s address. Mr Saksayam apparently got the idea from other countries where it has been adopted.

However, the DLT is also exploring other methods to keep drivers in line with traffic law.

The department’s GPS-embedded vehicle management centre said there are at least two systems that can help alleviate fears of privacy violations.

Critics say the GPS policy will allow the government to locate and identify drivers wherever they go. This would represent an unprecedented level of state surveillance in Thailand.

However, centre director Titipat Thaijongrak argues this does not reflect the government’s actual plans for privately owned vehicles.

“We’re not going to use anything like the GPS tracking system currently installed in trucks and public vehicles,” he said, adding officials only want to limit driving speeds, not locate the drivers.

One option to serve this purpose is “Intelligent Speed Adaptation” (ISA) equipment, Mr Titipat said.

The technology connects with a computer network to monitor speed limits in different areas in order to control driving speeds.

Take community roads and highways as an example. Here speed limits are set at 50kph and 80kph respectively. If a car or a motorcycle exceeds the maximum speed restriction, ISA will alert the driver to slow down.

ISA is already being used in Europe, but only new cars can be equipped with the device, he said.

The other option is “Radio Frequency Identification” (RFID). It works like an Easy Pass card reader, identifying vehicles which carry the card and allowing them automatic entry to expressways.

RFID installed along roads can also read data sent from a device installed in a car or motorcycle to tell whether the driver is speeding.

Success stories

Many countries have already tested GPS technology and found it can play a significant role in ensuring safer driving.

The Australian government found that up to 89% of drivers slowed down after being alerted by ISA devices used in its pilot project, in Illawarra, New South Wales.

A similar outcome was achieved in research by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.

The use of ISA in 2.6 million vehicles has reduced the death toll and severe injuries caused by road accidents, it said.

The device also helped cut fuel use by 4%.

However, despite the satisfactory outcomes, it remains uncertain whether authorities’ commitment to the new technology will remain firm in the face of opposition and whether drivers will finally welcome it.

Is tech the solution?

Using “Big Brother” surveillance technology like GPS to monitor reckless drivers in Thailand sounds promising to some.

Transport Ministry adviser Agachai Sumalee, who is also a professor of transport systems at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has thrown his support behind the proposal, citing European Union studies and standards for the GPS system over the past 20 years.

For Mr Agachai, these are proof that GPS offers a new reliable solution to the chronic problem of unsafe driving in the country.

However, his opponents say the use of technology will not solve the problem at its root.

Instead, the GPS idea is merely another sign that traffic police and laws are failing to keep motorists in check, they say.

“I don’t believe the GPS technology can change behaviour and force Thai drivers to be more disciplined,” said Chaiwat Ketsom, who has driven a car and ridden a motorcycle for the past five years.

“Currently there are speed cameras installed all across Bangkok, but many drivers still don’t respect laws. They even ignore traffic tickets.”


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THAILAND: By-election result shows political situation still uncertain: poll

Election officials count ballots at a polling station in Wat Raikhing School in Samphran district of Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday. (Photo Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Election officials count ballots at a polling station in Wat Raikhing School in Samphran district of Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday. (Photo Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The result of the by-election in Nakhon Pathom province on Oct 23 shows the political situation is still uncertain and subject to change, according to an opinion survey by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, or Suan Dusit Poll.

The poll was conducted on Oct 24-26 on 1,072 people throughout the country to gauge their opinions on the result of the Nakhon Pathom by-election in which Future Forward Party candidate Pairatchote Chantharakachorn was defeated by Padermchai Sasomsap, a veteran politician of Chartthaipattana, a party in the Palang Pracharath Party-led coalition government.

The by-election was called after Jumpita Chantarakachorn, a Future Forward Party MP, resigned due to health problems. Her husband, Pairatchote, campaigned to take her place but failed in her bid.

Mr Padermchai’s election was considered a victory for the government camp.

Asked what the by-election result has indicated, a slight majority — 52.57% — said it shows the political situation is still uncertain and subect to change; 39.40% said it is the voters’ decision and must be respected; and 22.58% thought the result indicates the voters’ decision was based more on their preferences for an individual candidate than for a political party.

Asked how the government’s performance would be affected by the by-election, 44.19% said it would be largely the same as before; 36.33% thought it would perform worse as economic problems have not been solved and the allocation of the 2020 budget has not been settled; and 19.48% believed it would perform better with a majority in hand and more welfare schemes in the offing.

Asked how the opposition would fare, 54.26% of the respondents believed its performance would remain the same as before; 29.52% thought the opposition would improve its performance in order to win public acceptance; and 16.22% believed it would perform worse and face more obstacles.

Asked about the outlook for the Future Forward Party, 37.16% believed the party would adhere to its ideology and stay determined; 32.51% said the election result would cause the party to be more careful in its future moves; and 30.33% said there might be internal rifts in the party, affecting its image and public confidence.


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THAILAND: Toon raises B26m for hospitals as southern run ends


Artiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Kongmalai’s latest run has raised 26 million baht so far to help southern hospitals. (Photo from Kao Kon La Kao Facebook page)

Artiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Kongmalai and his running mates ended their run for hospitals in need of better medical equipment in the southern region on Sunday with donations of at least 26 million baht.

Toon and other runners wrapped up their four-day marathon run covering more than 300 kilometres on Sunday morning on Phuket island.

Latest figures showed the event raised 269 million baht — and the number is still rising as the Kao Kon La Kao Foundation continues to welcome donations to help seven hospitals purchase more equipment for doctors and nurses to help patients.

The charity run started on Thursday in Trang and proceeded along the Andaman coast passing Krabi and Phangnga before arriving at its final destination in Phuket.

The rocker said before starting his latest running journey that the best way to ease the workload of doctors and nurses was for people to exercise more, since that will keep them healthy and away from hospitals.

Toon plans future events for the same purpose in the northern, eastern and central regions in a campaign that will end next year.


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East Asia Summit draft statement skips over Rohingya crisis

Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. (Reuters file photo)

Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. (Reuters file photo)

A draft of the statement to be issued after the East Asia Summit in Bangkok early next month makes no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to a copy of the communique seen by Kyodo News on Sunday.

According to diplomatic sources of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Myanmar strongly pressed that the issue not be included in the statement, which was drawn up by Thailand and will be issued after the Nov 4 summit, which includes major Asian nations as well as others such as the United States, Russia, China and Japan.

Myanmar appears to hold in disfavour interference by the United States, which earlier this year imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders over extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims.

In contrast, according to the draft of the chairman’s statement to be issued after the next weekend’s Asean summit, the leaders reiterate “the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution” to the root causes of the conflict.

Thailand is the current chair of the 10-member Asean, which also includes Myanmar.

At last year’s EAS held in Singapore, the leaders from the 18 countries expressed “concern” about the humanitarian situation and readiness to support the repatriation process. In the previous year’s summit in Manila, they voiced support for humanitarian assistance.

More than 740,000 members of the persecuted ethnic minority group fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a military crackdown on insurgents.

Western and Islamic countries have been particularly critical of Myanmar’s leadership over its perceived failure to act decisively over what has been described as a humanitarian crisis.

The East Asia Summit comprises Asean — which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Meanwhile, summit sources said that the United States is sending David Stilwell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, to attend the EAS.


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BANGKOK: Police station probed for lack of duty officers at night

Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang police station has come under fire after reports that no officers were on duty at night. (File photo from Khlong Luang police station Facebook page)

Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang police station has come under fire after reports that no officers were on duty at night. (File photo from Khlong Luang police station Facebook page)

The Pathum Thani police chief has ordered an investigation into a police station in the province after reports that no duty officers were working late at night.

Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Krissana Pattanacharoen said on Sunday Pol Maj Gen Chayut Marayat, who is responsible for the police force in Pathum Thani province, had assigned a probe into Khlong Luang station in Khlong Luang district after a number of people said they had found no night officers on duty there to take their complaints.

People were seen at the station waiting to file their complaints at 3am on Sunday and an officer arrived at the station in a police vehicle an hour later, according to media reports. District officials took a drug suspect to the station to hand over to police, and when they found no officer on duty, filmed the scene and called the mobile phone number of station chief Termpao Siriphuabarn posted at the station — only to find that nobody was at the end of the line.

Pol Col Termpao later denied the report, saying there was a non-commissioned officer on duty at night. The officer had some words with the district officials and then walked away after he was told the district officials were shooting a video.

“I told him that you should not have walked away from duty like that,” CH7 quoted him as saying.


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THAILAND: Panel head warns PM on oath issue

flouting summons carries legal penalty

Sharp-tongued Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, who chairs the House committee on corruption suppression and prevention, is warning Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha against ignoring the committee’s “order” to clarify his incomplete recital of the oath of office and 2020 budget request issues.

The Seri Ruam Thai Party leader is standing firm in his belief that the incomplete oath-taking during the swearing-in ceremony in July made Gen Prayut ill-qualified to propose the 3.2-trillion-baht budget bill before the parliament this month.

During a live broadcast on his Facebook Page on Saturday, Pol Gen Sereepisuth said the committee will first send “invitation letters” to Gen Prayut, together with his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, summoning them to meet the group. “I’ll give them only two summons,” Pol Gen Sereepisuth said. “If they still don’t come, I’ll issue an order as the commission chairman.” Under the law, a person who ignores such an order is subject to three months in jail and/or a 5,000-baht fine, he said.

However, Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat Thepthai Senpong questioned the committee’s summons, asking how the incomplete oath and budget proposal are related to corruption issues the group is monitoring. If the Prayut administration carries out its budget plan incorrectly, MPs can lodge a motion with House speaker, asking for a censure debate. “I think that will be a more appropriate channel,” Mr Thepthai said.

Gen Prayut said on Friday the oath-taking controversy is over and he will not meet the Sereepisuth committee. On July 16, Gen Prayut led cabinet ministers at a swearing-in ceremony before HM the King at the Ambara Villa in Dusit Palace.

However, he failed to recite the final sentence of Section 161 of the constitution, which requires the oath-taker to uphold and abide by the constitution, prompting questions over the validity of his premiership.

On Sept 11, the Constitutional Court rejected the Ombudsman’s petition asking it to consider the issue. His Majesty the King later offered his moral support to the government in carrying out its duties in line with the oath it had made.


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A revealing Leopard Lacewings in our garden in Bangkok’s suburbs

Photo: A.P. Uni

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