Top Thai royal aide sacked for ‘evil acts’

Since ascending the throne, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has axed a number of powerful palace officials from his father’s era. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017
0

Top Thai royal aide sacked for ‘evil acts’

BANGKOK: A senior Thai royal official has been sacked for “evil acts” including having an extramarital affair and forcing his alleged mistress to get an abortion, the palace said, the latest top aide to be axed under King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Vajiralongkorn, 65, took the throne one year ago following the death of his widely revered father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.
He has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity but remains insulated from any criticism by one of the world’s harshest royal defamation laws.
Since ascending the throne the new monarch has axed a number of powerful palace officials from his father’s era.
The latest aide to fall from grace is Distorn Vajarodaya, a senior official in the Royal Household Bureau who served as Grand Chamberlain under the late King Bhumibol and was often seen by the ailing monarch’s side during the final years of his reign.
A statement published by the Royal Gazette late Friday stripped Distorn of his royal decorations and listed his alleged wrongdoings — including having an extramarital affair, “forcing” his mistress to get an abortion, and then coercing her into marrying another man.
“When the woman got pregnant for the second time, he forced her to have another abortion but the woman refused. So he forced her to get married with another man she hadn’t had a relationship with,” the statement said.
Distorn was also accused of “using the King’s name to avoid taxation in importing a foreign vehicle” to replace a damaged royal car.
The aide also allegedly ordered staff to forge documents about a donation to a royal foundation he chaired.
Thailand’s lese majeste law, which criminalizes insulting the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison per offense, makes it impossible to publicly counter such charges.
Many of those purged from the new monarch’s inner circle have been charged with lese majeste and jailed.
In one of the most dramatic episodes, Vajiralongkorn divorced his third wife in late 2014 after half a dozen of her relatives were charged with lese majeste — and later jailed — for allegedly abusing their royal ties to him.
All media inside Thailand must heavily self-censor when reporting on the royal family to avoid falling foul of the defamation law.


France immigration bill sows seeds of dissent in Macron party

Updated 19 April 2018
0

France immigration bill sows seeds of dissent in Macron party

  • France's right-wing opposition say the bill is too soft but left-wing parties and NGOs have branded it repressive
  • France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, bucking the general trend in Europe, where the number of asylum seekers halved between 2016 and 2017

PARIS: The French parliament votes Friday on a tough immigration bill that has sparked rumblings of revolt within President Emmanuel Macron’s party, with several MPs openly challenging his plans to speed up deportations of failed asylum-seekers.
The government argues that tighter controls are needed to check the rise of anti-immigration populists, who are on the march across Europe from Berlin to Budapest after suffering a setback in last year’s French elections.
“I fear that if we do not resolve the problem facing us... others will do it without any humanity,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said earlier this month.
The bill aims to both cut waiting times for asylum applications — from around a year currently to six months — and make it easier to deport those turned down as “economic” migrants.
The right-wing opposition say the bill is too soft but left-wing parties and NGOs have branded it repressive.
“We cannot take on the misery of the world,” Macron, who campaigned as a champion of open borders but has adopted a tough line on migration since taking office, said in an interview with BFMTV on Sunday.
Macron pointed to the “ticking bomb” of population growth in Africa, wars and climate change among factors that would continue driving migration to Europe in the years to come.
Faced with an “unprecedented” wave of arrivals the government would focus on welcoming those whose lives were at risk in their country of origin, he said firmly.
France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, bucking the general trend in Europe, where the number of asylum seekers halved between 2016 and 2017.
A shortage of accommodation means many wind up on the streets of Paris, or the northern port of Calais, a gateway to Britain, where a squalid camp housing thousands of migrants was razed by the state in late 2016.
A February survey by pollsters BVA showed 63 percent of voters felt there were too many immigrants in France, home to around six million people who were born in another country.
On Monday, France’s human rights ombudsman Jacques Toubon slammed the “unacceptable conditions” facing around 1,000 migrants packed into a new tented camp along a canal in northeast Paris.
“We cannot remain on this path which is unworthy of France’s welcoming tradition and increasingly difficult for some of our fellow citizens,” Collomb, one of the more hawkish figures in Macron’s left-right administration, argued in parliament this week.
The bill doubles the time that failed asylum seekers can be detained to 90 days, making it easier to deport them.
It also reduces the time they have to lodge their application from 120 to 90 days and gives them just two weeks to appeal if unsuccessful, a period slammed by NGOs as far too short to gather more evidence in support of their claim.
Once accepted, however, refugees will be given more help to integrate, by, for instance, gaining the right to work and being given more French classes.
The government has defended the legislation as balanced but several members of Macron’s usually compliant Republic on the Move (LREM) party have vowed to reject the bill or abstain when it is put to a vote Friday.
“This bill stigmatizes foreigners,” Francois-Michel Lambert, a LREM lawmaker representing the southern Bouches-du-Rhone region, told BFMTV.
Delphine Bagarry, an MP representing Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told France Inter radio that while she supports the need to shorten the agonizing wait for asylum, “it cannot be at the expense of their right to a defense.”
Fearing that any sign of weakness could embolden dissidents to break ranks on other issues, party leader Richard Ferrand has threatened LREM naysayers with expulsion.
But the bill is expected to pass, despite strong opposition from far-right leader Marine Le Pen — the runner-up to Macron in last year’s election — and the conservative opposition Republicans.
The Republicans’ hard-line leader Laurent Wauquiez charged that Macron’s presidency was on course to legalize “a million more immigrants” by 2022.
Right-wingers have also argued that provisions allowing underage refugees to bring siblings to live with them in France will have a “pull effect” on migration.