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July 2015 : Interim Constitution Amendment Endorsed

  • Interim Constitution amendment effective
  • Selection of legislation reform committee suspended
  • Public Assembly Act enforced
  • NLA accepted Reserve Forces Bill on its principles
  • A joint committee appointed to reconsider Krabi coal-fired power plant
  • Fuel consumption increased
  • New Copyright Act enacted
  • 40 billion baht injected into Village Funds
  • 7% VAT to continue for one year
  • Drought and flood in July

    Interim Constitution amendment effective

    On 15th July, the amendment of the 2014 provisional charter was effective when the bill was published in the Royal Gazette. The principle was to pave the way for a national referendum on the draft constitution.

    Other revisions include allowing former politicians who had already served their political bans to join the Cabinet and other related agencies; extending the time frame of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to revise the second draft of the new charter to 90 days; the provision calling for the dissolution of the National Reform Council after voting on the new charter to make way for a reform mobilization committee; and the provision calling for a new CDC to be established in the event the public referendum rejects the draft charter.

    Selection of the legislation reform committee suspended

    On 15th July, the Prime Minister suspended the selection process of the legislation reform committee until the drafting of the new constitution completed on reasons the new charter might be differently from those previously promulgated. Moreover, the current provisional charter provided reforming committees overseeing legal and justices, therefore, the selection process should be suspended simultaneously as the termination of the current legislation reform committee. Meanwhile, the legislation reform committee should support functions of the Council of State or perform any function endows by the prime minister, and under supervision of the prime minister.

    Public Assembly Law enforced

    On 14th July, the Public Assembly Law was effective after the Bill was published in the Royal Gazette. The Act should be noted on several sections as follow:

    Section 7 second paragraph: No public assembly shall be held within the National Assembly, the Government House and the Courts; provided that, the specific place for public assembly is provided therein.

    The Courts under paragraph two mean the Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice, the Administrative Court, the Military Court and other Courts established by law.

    Section 8: No public assembly shall obstruct gateway of, impede the performance of duties of, or hinder access to service of, the followings:
           (1) State agencies office;
           (2) Airport, wharf, rail station or any other public transport station;
           (3) Hospital, education institution and religious establishment;
           (4) Embassy or consulate of foreign State or office of international organization;
           (5) Other places as notified by the Minister.

    Section 27: Whoever violates section 7 or section 8 shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding six months or to a fine of not exceeding ten thousand Baht or to both.

    Section 31 : A promoter who fails to comply with section 15 (4), (5), (6) or (7) or a participant who fails to comply with section 16 (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) or (8) shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding six months or to a fine of not exceeding ten thousand Baht or to both.

    If the commission of an offense under paragraph one causes unusableness, temporarily or permanently, of public transportation system, communication or telecommunication system, generation, production or transmission system of electricity or irrigation, or any other public utility system, the promoter shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding ten years or to a fine of not exceeding two hundred thousand Baht or to both.

    NLA accepted Reserve Forces Bill on its principles

    On 17th July, the National Legislation Assembly accepted on principles of the Military Reserve Force Bill and appointed a 19-member extraordinary committee to read the Bill. The Bill stipulated a Military Reserve Force Committee with authority to summon Thai males trained as Military Reserve Force (MRF), for additional training and military service if needed.

    Thailand has compulsory military service which applies to all male citizens who have turned 21 years old. Some volunteer to serve in their countrys armed forces and others are subjected to a random draft lottery. However, male youths who do not want to try their luck in the draft lottery or volunteer for the armed forces can choose to participate in MRF training, which requires them to take part in 20 weeks of training annually during their high-school years.
    According to the draft bill, the MRF Committee will be headed by the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister. It will dictate all policies regarding the conditions and regulations of the MRF, such as the call to service and length of service, including penalties for those who ignore calls to serve the military.

    A joint committee appointed to reconsider Krabi coal-fired power plant

    On 24th July Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suspended a plan to build a 800MW coal-fired power plant in Krabi province and appointed a joint committee comprises of representatives from the Energy Ministry, the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the National Reform Council, the National Legislative Assembly and Krabi residents to reconsider the plan. Meanwhile, during the reconsideration EGAT would not sign any contract that has legitimate binding or effective to the plan.

    The resolution came after a protest in both rally and written statement endorsed by 27,346 individuals and 17 civil society organizations requesting:
    1. A revoke on the EIA and EHIA.
    2. A suspend of the bidding of the power plant and pier.
    3. Appointment of a committee to consider a proposal plan to build a palm oil power plant that generate power supply for 3 years.

    EGAT first built a 60 MG coal-fired power plant in Krabi in 1964 and in 1995 the plant was temporary closed before turned into a 340 MG fuel oil plant since 1997. Regarding to the rising prices of fuel oil, EGAT planned to turn back to coal and increase capacity to 870 MG. The agency assured the plant would use a clean-coal technology.
    The plan was protested since a pier, for transport of coal from abroad, is to be constructed on the estuary of Krabi River. Krabi is affluent on its beautiful beaches and islands that generate income from tourism. The pier and coal transfer would be a threat for environment and ecology particularly to the coral reef and sea-grass field in the area. Moreover, though the first coal-fired plant was closed for 32 years, liquid running from its mine is still running off to pollute the nearby water resources, swamp land and mangrove forest.

    Fuel consumption increased

    The Department of Energy Business unveiled a 6-months statistics of 2015 (January to June) daily consumption in benzene and diesel fuel have increased to 25.77 and 61 million liter respectively. The increase was due to the decreasing selling prices. While benzene consumption was 14.04% higher, the increase in diesel was 2.69% but number of vehicles using diesel has increased at 4.53%.

    New Copyright Act endorsed

    A new Copyright Act BE. 2558 would be effective on 4th August with principles to:
    1. Establish a framework for Right Management Information (RMI) and to safeguard the copyright owners from being altered or deleted.
    2. Safeguard technological measures used by the copyright owners from being copied or access into the works.
    3. Define the exceptional performances of temporary replication.
    4. Add liability of the Internet Service Provider (ISP).
    5. Add exceptional performance of copyright violation in regards to the selling or copying of copyright works.
    6. Add ethic rights to the performers.
    7. Add fines upon violation of copyright.
    8. Allow the court to seize or destroy goods that violated copyright either they are reproduced, imported or violation to rights of the performers.

    40 billion baht injected into Village Funds

    On 23rd July, the government launched a measure to revitalize economic function of the low income groups by ordered the Government Saving Bank and the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to inject 40 billion baht into the Village Fund and Urban Community Fund schemes. The money would be loaned to members at a maximum of 5% annual interest rate and loan period shall not exceed 5 years.

    7% VAT to continue for one year

    On 14th July, the cabinet resolved to retain a 7% VAT for another year, from 30 September 29 September 2016.

    Drought continued

    On 29th July the cabinet approved measures to fight drought in short and long term. 9 water saving measures are to be urgently implemented and in the long term, promotion of efficiency and values must be instilled among people.
    Though more than 2,000 rainmaking operations were conducted, there was inadequate rainwater to fill up all major dams and nevertheless not enough to release for consumption and ecological safeguard. Paddy fields in many districts countrywide went dried and crops perished and later were the orchards. As surface water became shortage, the authorities dug 1,000 wells and pumped underground water to survive the plants but the supply was inadequate and the water quality was too good to be used for agriculture.

    Water transport was terminated when the rivers were too low and water supply was also shortage. Only 259 million cubic meter of water reserve in Bhumipol Dam was equivalent to only 2.69% of its total capacity. While 8 million cubic meters was required daily to meet the water release for consumption and ecological safeguard, only 2.14 million cubic meter ran into the Dam daily, therefore, the release was dropped to 7 and 5 million cubic meter respectively.

    The Agricultural Ministry allocated 160 million baht budget for temporarily job employment in the Chao Phraya basin so the farmers could suspend their rice planting. Loans payment to the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives was extended on both principle and interest for another 12-18 months.

    Though there are more than 3,000 small reservoirs in the countryside but they are ill-maintain or not properly developed after handed down, from Agriculture Ministry, to local authorities.

    Inland fisheries, tourism industry and road infrastructure were severely affected from drought. Lengthy of roads along the dried-up canals cracked and split. In some area the pavement was 3-4 meter different.

    Thailand Research Fund researcher Sucharit Koontanakulwong presented statistics of that between May 2014 to May 2015 Bhumipol and Sirikit dams had a total reserve of 30%. The number was considerably low due to rainfall in the three previous years was less than average. Normally the reserve should be approximately 45% of its capacity to sustain the year round agriculture and household consumption. The Irrigation Department anticipated rainfall in 2015 normal or average so a total of 1,000 million cubic meter water was released for dry-season rice cultivation. Due to rainy season came late not until the end of June, drought problem was enhanced from shortage of water in dams and reservoirs.

    The lack of water release from dams made salt water ran up further in the Chao Phraya River. When the ration, 0.46 gram per liter, was much higher than the alerting point, the Water Authority stopped pumping water from the River to make water supply.

    Pathumthani Province was mostly affected and the authorities used truck-transport to supply water to the residents. Some communities along Rangsit Canal deepened their waterway to improve the flow.

    Group of farmers in Kampangpetch Province demanded the authority to open the water gates so water would run into their paddy fields. The water gates were closed to preserve water for consumption. More than 200 pumps were installed at the gates regardless to it was prohibited by the authority. The conflict was resolved when officers were deployed to explain the situation.

    From the middle of July, there were some rainfall in many areas to relief drought but it was insufficiently flow into dams and reservoirs. Heavy rain, in despite, fell on the non-catchment mountainous areas and caused flash flooding and landslides in built-up areas such as Nakorn Ratchasrima municipal. The city went submerged after heavy rain fell.

    There used to be a total of 171 million rai of forest area in Thailand but currently it was diminished to only 99 million rai nowadays. Deforestation was due to several reasons including the forest was used for building infrastructure; irrigation waterways, dams, reservoirs, agriculture, wood lot, mining, roads, power plants, education etc.

    This drought situation led the government to revise the water management plan, being used since 2014. Revisions are to focus on 12 short term activities, in 2014-2016, such as increase of water resources and irrigation canals, digging more canals, demarcation of monkey-cheek swamp land, enlarge reservoirs capacity etc., and between 2017 to 2026, agricultural land would be enlarged and development of irrigation system in the agricultural area.

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