Thai opposition urges rejection of pro-junta coalition

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army general, seized power in 2014, the second military coup in a decade. (AP)
Updated 29 May 2019
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Thai opposition urges rejection of pro-junta coalition

  • Negotiations are going on two months after the election
  • In order to govern, a majority in the House of Representatives would be necessary

BANGKOK: Thailand’s main opposition Pheu Thai party on Wednesday urged other parties that contested a March election to reject a coalition offer by a pro-army party seeking to keep the ruling junta chief as prime minister.
The appeal came as pro-junta Palang Pracharat’s bid to cement a coalition government faltered when at least two of its presumed allies — the pro-establishment Democrat Party and Chart Thai Pattana — expressed new reservations and conditions.
Negotiations are going on two months after the election, held nearly five years after the then-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power from a Pheu Thai government in 2014, the second military coup in a decade.
Pheu Thai, which leads the seven-party Democratic Front alliance that has accused the junta of manipulating the election, seized on the two parties’ reluctance and urged unity against military dominance of government.
“It is not too late for any party to change their mind,” said Pheu Thai’s secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai.
No one party won a majority in the House of Representatives in the election, but Palang Pracharat has an advantage under junta-written electoral rules that require the 250-seat upper house Senate, appointed by the junta, to vote along with the 500-seat lower house for prime minister.
That effectively gives Palang Pracharat a 250-seat advantage in the race to the 376 votes — a majority of members of both houses of parliament — it needs for its bid to ensure Prayuth stays on as prime minister.
But in order to govern, a majority in the House of Representatives would be necessary.
Palang Pracharat would need to ally with almost all the non-aligned parties to get the 251 seats it needs in the lower house.
The Democrats — bitter opponents of Pheu Thai in the past — have said that amending the post-coup constitution would be a condition for joining any Palang Pracharat government, Democrat spokesman Rames Rattanachaweng said late on Tuesday.
And Chart Thai Pattana member Varawut Silpa-archa also said that Palang Pracharat has not yet agreed to his party’s unspecified conditions.
“What we proposed has not been answered,” Varawut said, adding, “If we are unable to join the Palang Pracharat coalition then we are ready to perform our legislative duty in parliament.”
Palang Pracharat’s leader Uttama Savanayana told reporters on Wednesday that his party was willing to wait for agreement.
“We are confident that we can still form a government but at this time we are talking about policies with other political parties as well as how to best use our personnel. At the end I believe a deal can be reached.”


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 21 July 2019
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.