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.”


Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

Updated 16 July 2019
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Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

  • Iceland spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the Philippines' deadly anti-drug crackdown
  • Philippine police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016.

MANILA: The Philippine president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva showed “how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs.”
Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte “is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland” for initiating the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan” resolution.
Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Philippines’ highest-ranking lawmaker said on Monday a UN resolution to probe the country’s bloody war on drugs should be ignored, and its chief backer Iceland be investigated instead for human rights abuses in allowing abortion.
“They have more unborn babies that they have aborted or killed. There are more killings in abortion than the drug pushers who are fighting the police,” Senate President Vicente Sotto told ANC news channel.
The Nordic nation lacks moral grounds to lecture the Philippines on human rights, Sotto said. “So we should disregard that resolution.”
His remarks are the latest in a series of comments from lawmakers urging the government to not cooperate after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate thousands of deaths under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.
Police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016. Critics and rights group said authorities summarily execute suspects, which the police deny.
“The criminals can fight back, the babies cannot. What human rights are they talking about?” Sotto said, adding that drug dealers that fight back and destroy families lose their human rights.
His comments about abortion echoed those made by incoming Senator Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Rights groups, which hailed the UN vote as a step toward accountability, point out that the bloody anti-narcotics campaign is marked by systematic cover-ups, planted evidence and impunity.
The president’s spokesman on Monday warned countries not to meddle with the state’s affairs.
“All incidents in the war on drugs are tallied, recorded. All they have to do is ask us, not to pre-judge us,” presidential spokesman Spokesman Panelo told a regular news conference. “It behoves them to render respect to a sovereign state.”
Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland as an ice-eating nation without understanding of his country’s problems.