Thailand faces uphill fight over gold mine closure

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File photo: Chatree gold mine.

national November 04, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

Legal expert says use of article 44 by junta failed to take into account provisions under Australia-Thailand FTA.

THE THAI government faces a formidable legal challenge in its dispute with Australian firm Kingsgate Consolidated Limited over the controversial closure of a gold mine in Phichit province operated by Kingsgate’s subsidiary, according to a Thai academic.

Following the failure to settle the dispute with the Thai government in the aftermath of the decision last Decembern by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to close the gold mine in Phichit, Kingsgate decided to start arbitration proceedings against Thailand under the Australia-Thailand Free Trade Agreement.

Kingsgate operated the Chatree gold mine under the management of its subsidiary Akara Resources whose operations were closed following the NCPO order on January 1.

To recover the substantial losses it had suffered, the firm appointed international law firm Clifford Chance to represent it in the arbitration proceedings with Dr Andrew Bell being its lead barrister.

“The board of Kingsgate considers that the company has excellent prospects of successfully recovering very substantial damages against the Kingdom of Thailand, and will vigorously prosecute its claim,” the statement said.

As the government had used its special powers under Article 44 of the interim charter to close the gold mine, Decharut Sukkumnoed of Kasetsart University wrote on his Facebook page that the Thai government may face a tough legal problem.

Though the Thai-Australian free trade agreement empowers the Thai government to suspend a project, the action has to be taken according to legal and other procedures stated in the bilateral agreement that ensure fairness to all the concerned parties.

There must also be full disclosure of documents and other evidence to support the action.

However, the Article 44 order appears to have not followed the procedures established in the bilateral agreement. In addition, the reasons provided by the NCPO for the closure were brief and, according to Decharut, there were insufficient scientific and academic documents to substantiate the order.

Decharut said there is much scientific and academic evidence on this matter, but the dearth of its inclusion as direct support for the special NCPO order could become a factor leading to a legal defeat in the arbitration proceedings.

The academic also said it was unfortunate that Thai citizens could not challenge the legality of orders issued under Article 44 of the charter but foreign investors could do so based on the bilateral agreement with Thailand.

However, the Industry Ministry said the government is ready to protect the country’s interests in the arbitration proceedings.

Pasu Loharjun, permanent secretary of Industry, said residents had filed complaints against the gold mining operation for a long time due to its alleged impact on the environment and people’s health. This led the NCPO to issue the order on December 13, 2016 to resolve the conflict by suspending all gold mining operations nationwide so that agencies concerned could tackle the problems and take remedial measures.

However, Kingsgate Consolidated of Australia, which is the major shareholder of Akara Resources that holds the gold mining concession, said it had suffered as a result of the order and had sought consultations with the government on April 3 under the bilateral Thai-Australian free trade agreement.

Pasu said the government had earlier appointed a multi-agency committee to negotiate with the Australian firm to settle the dispute based on the best interests of the country and residents of the affected areas.

The committee also ensures that there is fairness for all stakeholders and any settlement is consistent with the national reform and strategy on mining operations as stated in a recently enacted law.

The government wants to ensure that there is a balanced approach with all stakeholders’ interests taken into account, covering social, community, environmental, public health, economic, income distribution, and sustainable development aspects.

Pasu said the new law on mining and related operations will lead to more efficiency and transparency in the management of the mining industry in Thailand. The government is prepared to settle the dispute under the international arbitration process sought by the Australian firm.

He said the arbitration process is consistent with the bilateral agreement with Australia and so far the Thai government has not accepted any demands from the Australian firm.

 

Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Just relax about Cabinet: PM

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File Photo: Prayut

politics November 04, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday urged the public to not get worked up about the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, while stating that there would definitely be a Cabinet shakeup to integrate their working.

The upcoming reshuffle, the fourth under the Prayut administration, folฌlows the abrupt resignation of General Sirichai Distakul as Labour Minister on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn yesterday shrugged off concerns that work at the Labour Ministry – including foreign labourฌer registration – would be disrupted.

His comments were in response to General Surasak Kanchanarat taking over the ministry following the resigฌnation of General Sirichai.

“There is nothing to worry about, everything will follow normal work procedure,” Tanasak said.

Tanasak said ministers have been working effectively and any reshuffle of the Cabinet would be up to the PM.

Tanasak said registration of foreign labourers would continue and are set to be completed by the end of the year.

Sirichai’s departure came amid longheld speculation that Prayut’s postcoup government needed to regฌister a strong economic performance ahead of the election set to be held next November.

On Wednesday, Sirichai and three other Labour Ministry staff members resigned shortly after Prayut employed his powers under Article 44 to shift Varanon Peetiwan from his post as directorgeneral of the Department of Employment to deputy permanent secretary of the ministry.

The resignation was confirmed on Thursday in an announcement by the PM’s Office, published in the Royal Gazette.

Sirichai was among Army generals who had gained prominent positions in the military government as a memฌber of the juntaappointed National Legislative Assembly and a permaฌnent secretary to the Defence Ministry before being appointed to the Labour Ministry in 2015.

He is the first minister in Prayut’s Cabinet to resign before a reshuffle.

 

Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Loy Krathong Festival lights up the sky and waterways across the nation

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national November 04, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

LOCATIONS SET as Loy Krathong Festival venues across the nation became lively yesterday with locals and foreign tourists enjoying the festivities.

Major provinces saw crowds watching parades of giant floats representing government and private agencies, beauty pageant contests, and stage performances, while many sent off Krathong floats onto rivers and ponds as an apologetic gesture to the Goddess of River.

In Bangkok, city police deputy chief Pol Maj-General Panurat Lakboon said police would provide security at 71 locations across the city as Bangkok celebrated Loy Krathong.

Officials in Thai traditional clothing bring the paraquin containing the Fai Phra Luek (royal flame) and Phra Prateep lanterns from His Majesty the King and all members of the royal family to the ceremonial stand within Sukhothai Historical Park yesterday to mark the official start of the Loy Krathong Festival.

Panurat also led officers to ensure that safety measures were in place at “Asiatique The Riverfront”, which expected the city’s largest festival turnout of about 30,000 people, followed by Chulalongkorn Pier with about 5,000 revellers and the area under the Rama 8 Bridge with another 4,000 revellers.

A foreign tourist takes a selfie with the “Phang Prateep” baked-clay candle display at the Three Kings’ Plaza on Thursday evening, as the Loy Krathong Festival is officially launched with an impressive performance of 300 traditional dancers.

Panurat instructed officers at all Bangkok precincts to watch out for youth street racers who might create disturbances during the festival, especially at known locations, including Kaset Nawamin, Bang Na-Trat, Chaeng Wattana, Kanchanapisek, and Rama IV roads.

Teachers and some 200 students of Podaeng Wittaya School in Kalasin’s Yang Talad district join a Loy Krathong Festival celebration yesterday as they place flower-filled floats onto a makeshift pond made of old sacks and tent canvas in the middle of the school’s football field. The school’s swimming pool isn’t yet repaired almost a month after a flood subsided after ravaging the area for months.

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, General Surasak Karnjanarat, has urged all ministerial agencies to encourage people to use more environmentally-friendly materials for their floats in the festival. He also urged people to use smaller floats and to share floats to reduce the amount of garbage that city workers have to dispose of the next day.

One report said that out of the 929,329 Krathong floats collected in Bangkok after the festival in 2008, a total of 811,332 – or 87 per cent – were made of banana stalks/leaves or other natural materials and 117,997 (13 per cent) out of polystyrene foam. After authorities campaigned for more natural or environmentally-friendly materials, the number made of polystyrene dropped gradually until 2016.

A follow-up report showed that of 661,935 floats collected after the festival in Bangkok, 617,901 (93.7 per cent) were made of banana stalks/leaves or other natural materials and only 44,034 (6.7 per cent) from polystyrene

Down South, Songkhla’s Hat Yai district was buzzing with a large number of Malaysian and Singaporean tourists enjoying the celebrations. Festivities were held at two main venues – a celebration in nostalgic flare featuring food from four regions at the Bang Hak Pier Near Khlong U-tapao, and a celebration under a “Thai Temple Fair” theme at the Nakhon Hat Yai Municiplaity Park.

Up North, Chiang Mai City municipal mayor Thatsanai Boorabupakorn led officials to attend a rite yesterday morning to give various offerings to supernatural beings ahead of the grand celebration later at night.

Chaing Mai people – as well as those in the upper North – call the festival “Yee Peng” (full moon of Lanna lunar calendar’s second month), and decorate houses and temples with beautifully illuminated lanterns and light small baked-clay candles to worship the “Three Gems” of Buddhism.

People also launched floating lanterns into the night sky to get rid of misfortune – the activity that earlier prompted Chiang Mai Airport to reschedule and cancel some flights between yesterday and today as a safety measure. A large number of lanterns in the sky could be a danger to aviation.

Chiang Mai authorities’ have announced that fire lanterns can only be released during Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals between 7pm and 1am.

 

Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Civilian killed, four others wounded in southwestern Baghdad blast

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Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) A civilian was killed, four others were wounded in a bomb blast in southwestern Baghdad, a security source said on Friday.

“A bomb went off in the morning near a market in al-Radwaniya region, southwest of Baghdad, leaving a civilian killed and four others wounded,” the source told AlSumaria News.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added that security troops cordoned off the blast scene. “The victim’s body was transferred to forensic medicine, while the wounded were taken to nearby hospital for treatment.”

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

114 Iraqi civilians were killed, while 244 others were wounded as result of terrorism, violence and armed conflicts, according to a monthly release by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), issued on Wednesday.

Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate, coming in the first place with 177 civilian casualties (38 killed, 139 injured). Anbar province followed with 36 killed and 55 injured, and then Kirkuk with 18 killed and 33 injured.

The Iraqi capital has seen almost daily bombings and armed attacks against security members, paramilitary troops and civilians since the Iraqi government launched a wide-scale campaign to retake Islamic State-occupied areas in 2016.

 

Source  :  Iraqi News

Paramilitary official: Iraqi troops unlikely to attack Peshmerga at disputed regions

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Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) A senior paramilitary official has ruled out possibilities that Iraqi federal troops attack the kurdish Peshmerga at the disputed regions in Nineveh and Kirkuk.

Speaking to reporters in Nineveh on Friday, Hadi al-Ameri, secretary-general of Badr Organization said, “Iraqi security services have no intentions to attack the Kurdish brothers.”

“We don’t seek fighting the Kurds. They are our people. Brothers in Erbil should be aware of this and order withdrawal of Peshmerga to the administrative borders of Nineveh,” he added.

“We hope that security prevails at these regions [disputes areas in Nineveh] in an easy way like what happened in Kirkuk,” Ameria said.

Badr Organization is a major component of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Shia-led alliance of paramilitary troops fighting Islamic State militants alongside the Iraqi government.

PMF sources say Ameri, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhanids, deputy chief of the PMF, lead a huge attack last week in disputed regions in west of Duhuq, however, Peshmerga managed to repulse the attack.

On Thursday, two Iraqi and Kurdish military delegations have convened in Mosul for talks over Iraqi troops deployment at disputed regions between Erbil and Baghdad. News circulated, earlier on the day, said Iraqi troops have been on high alerts in west of Mosul, after Erbil was declared to have stepped back from an agreement between with Baghdad.

This came after Kurdistan Regional Government had proposed joint Iraqi-Kurdish deployment at Khabur strategic border crossing between the region and Turkey, with participation of observers from the U.S.-led Coalition.

Since Kurdistan held its independence referendum on September 25, Baghdad had declared intentions to retake areas disputed on with Erbil.

Iraqi government forces approached the southern borders of Erbil, capital of semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, after taking over Kirkuk province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in October, fulfilling instructions made by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to retake those regions.

 

Source  :  Iraqi News

Three policemen killed in Islamic State attack, west of Diyala

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Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Three police personnel were killed, while three others were wounded as Islamic State launched at attack in west of Diyala, an official said.

“Militants infiltrated from Hamreen regions in Salahuddin toward Udhaim dam to attack security checkpoint and al-Safra exit using mortar missiles and other weapons,” Abdul Jabbar al-Ebeidi, head of Udhaim town, told Baghdad Today on Friday.

“The attack left three containers burnt, three persons, including police officer, killed and others wounded,” he added.

Ebeidi blamed the attack on “security vacuum in regions between Diyala and Salahuddin from the north of Udhaim.”

Earlier on the day, a security source said security troops, backed by air cover, headed to the exit after the attack to control the situation there.

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

114 Iraqi civilians were killed, while 244 others were wounded as result of terrorism, violence and armed conflicts, according to a monthly release by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), issued on Wednesday.

Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate, coming in the first place with 177 civilian casualties (38 killed, 139 injured). Anbar province followed with 36 killed and 55 injured, and then Kirkuk with 18 killed and 33 injured.

The Iraqi capital has seen almost daily bombings and armed attacks against security members, paramilitary troops and civilians since the Iraqi government launched a wide-scale campaign to retake Islamic State-occupied areas in 2016.

 

Source  :  Iraqi News

Sharjah Union Fortress parade showcases UAE forces might

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Filed on November 3, 2017

A massive gathering of citizens and expatriates were spectators to the military exercise

The second edition of Union Fortress show, the largest-ever live military demonstration by the UAE Armed Forces, took place in Al Khan area in Sharjah on Friday. The military parade was organised to show its role in safeguarding the security, as part of the UAE Flag Day celebrations.

The event was attended by Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Executive Council; Sheikh Abdullah bin Salim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah; Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs; Lieutenant-General Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and senior officials from the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

A massive gathering of citizens and expatriates were spectators to the military exercise, which showed capabilities of the Armed Forces including its code of conduct, equipment and training to defend the nation and its people. Military helicopters and fighter aircraft showed feats on the sky while armoured vehicles moved on the roads and armed boats steered through the waters of Al Khan. The show emphasised the readiness, courage, and professionalism of the forces to confront regional threats and challenges.

An official at the organising committee of the event said the military parade carried out by the ground forces, naval, air forces and the Presidential Guard, embodied the courage, dedication and professionalism of the members which is the shield and sword that protects the national gains of UAE. “Thanks to our wise leadership, the Armed Forces have become a maker of heroes because of their central role in promoting cohesion, national identity, patriotism, and consolidating the unity of the Union in various tasks.” Thousands of UAE nationals and expatriates applauded the world-class tactical, strategic professionalism and extreme performance levels of the members of the Armed Forces, expressing pride in their ability to carry out quick and flexible missions to defend and protect the UAE and the wider Arab region.

The show concluded with the introduction of the Emirates Knights Team in the skies where the Free Jump team from the special operations made a 5,000ft jump using the canopy canals, allowing them to land accurately wherever they wanted. The gathering also enjoyed the entry of cavalry team, carrying the flag of the UAE, raising the banner of the nation, saluting the oath of allegiance to the leadership of the UAE.

War-like situation on show

The Union Fortress show began with a set scene where a VIP convoy was exposed to a terrorist attack. The public saw how the special guards dealt with the attack through an aerial reconnaissance. The public also saw an air raid using F-16 and Mirage aircraft, evacuation of the hostages using the aerial evacuation basket and the withdrawal of the forces.

The second scenario showed how an Emirati delegation was protected during a car bomb explosion. The delegation was on the way to visit the headquarters of the UAE soldiers working outside the borders of the homeland on a military mission. The Presidential Guard, assigned to protect the delegation, blocked the attack and transferred the VIPs away from the scene of the clash.

However, the convoy was ambushed by another group that used booby-trapped vehicles and began direct shooting to stop the procession and took them as hostages. The air escort team engaged with the hostile group while the naval forces remained stationed in the boats. The General Command of the Armed Forces managed the crisis and launched a drone to trace the kidnappers and terrorists. The aircraft managed to detect the location of the hostile forces where the hostages were taken. The Armed Forces carried out a qualitative and sophisticated operation to rescue the hostages with the contribution of all combat units and rapid land and sea intervention.

The gathering also saw live scenes of the soldiers rescuing the hostages. Fires were executed from long distances without drawing attention of the enemies and the special forces expanded to infiltrate the area using rubber boats and then moved to the mainland.

The airborne elements entered the operation on Bell helicopters with snipers dealing with the hostile targets from the sky. The soldiers on the ground intervened to deal with the target and engage in direct elimination, hence rescuing the hostages. They were evacuated to a safe area with advanced medical facilities.

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com

 

Source  :  The Khaleej Times