Prayut orders a review of ailing welfare card project

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business November 11, 2017 01:00


Key ministers told to resolve problem of slow implementation of aid for low-income thais

PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha has demanded that government agencies review and improve the welfare cards project that was launched in October, which aims to support 11.2 million low-income Thais, an informed source says.

The Commerce Ministry and Krung Thai Bank (KTB) have been blamed for the slow installing of Electronic Data Capture (EDC) equipment at cooperatives across the country.

Prayut has asked key ministers – in Finance, Commerce, Transport, and Energy and related agencies – to review the project which is in its first three months of implementation. The welfare cards were introduced to support individuals whose annual income is below Bt100,000.

The money is intended to cover monthly spending on basic necessities such as food, cooking gas and transport.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, have been assigned to coordinate with related ministers and officials on several issues. This includes the next round of registrations, increasing the subsidy, expanding welfare coverage and increasing the number of shops where the cards can be used for goods.

Prayut also wants to impose measures that will prevent misuse of the cards or corruption. Somkid previously asked the Finance Ministry to consider more support for the poor who register under the welfare card scheme.

He suggested that agencies provide job training for people aged between 18-60 years old. The government is expected to announce a job training project and other additional assistance next month that will kick off early next year.

The Government Savings Bank (GSB), the Labour Ministry and Commerce Ministry will be responsible for arranging job training for people living in big cities.

For the poor who live up-country, GSB, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) have been instructed to introduce deposit and lending products for the poor. This would include a higher interest rate than market rate for deposits, while they will pay a lower rate for loans. The aim is to assist the poor to set up their own businesses.

Job training for farmers

Prayut also asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and the Interior Ministry to fund job training or job creation for the low-income group. The Agriculture Ministry was also assigned to help farmers who suffer from lower prices for their products, by introducing new crops or alternative farming businesses.

Prayut wants ministries and related agencies to submit their plan to the Cabinet for approval soon.

An informed source at the BAAC said that after one month of card distribution, the bank has allocated 94 per cent of the cards to 6,160,000 eligible people who registered with the bank. About 300,000 have not yet shown up to receive their cards which must be picked up within a year.

Critics have said the welfare card project is not well designed. Somchai Jitsuchon, an economist at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said that those who have registered for a welfare card may not actually be poor. He said the number of poor, according to National Economic and Social Development Board data, is about 4-5 million.

As well, critics on social media have said the project would only benefit large shop owners as small operators do not have EDC machines which process the welfare cards.

Shops that receive welfare cards must be approved by the Commerce Ministry and installation of the EDC must be approved by the KTB.

A source in the BAAC said that the bank needs 589 EDC machines for its cooperative shops, but so far it has only 91.

The GSB says that so far it has distributed 2.6 million cards and 3 million people have registered .


Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Public can reply to Prayut’s 6 questions in person starting on Monday

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File Photo: Prayut

politics November 11, 2017 01:00


FROM MONDAY on, people of Bangkok will be able to answer PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s six questions at Damrongdhamma centre at the Interior Ministry and 50 district offices across the province.

The structure of the questionnaire requires that respondents physically show up at the centres, verifying themselves with national identification cards, and then write down their answers on forms, said Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda yesterday.

The pattern would follow much of the earlier “four questions” also previously launched by Prayut in which he claimed he was seeking the public’s thoughts about politicians and elections in light of next year’s general election.

The questions, however, have been slammed for being inaccurate in reflecting public opinion due to their unscientific methodology, and for having an underlying agenda of self-justification for the junta.

Former deputy PM Chaturon Chaisang said that the questions could be interpreted as hinting that the ruling junta wants to stay in power past the next election, through giving their support to a political party that would form a junta-backed government.

“From charter drafting, [to] holding a referendum to curbing political powers, Prayut’s bloc has done them all to achieve their goal,” Chaturon said in his Facebook status on Thursday.

“The only reason why he would have to launch such questions would probably be to ensure that they will gain public supports to carry on their plan, given that their administration performance isn’t satisfactory and their popularity declines,” the Pheu Thai Party’s key figure wrote.

One of the six questions asks if it the junta or the PM himself could support any party given that Prayut won’t compete in the election. Chaturon responded that this would be an abuse of power as state officers must remain politically neutral and not use their authority for their political benefit.

While the questions ask whether the election of “old-faced politicians” would be good for the country, the NCPO still maintains its political ban of five or more people, thus creating a barrier to new political faces emerging, he went on.

The questions also tend to justify the junta’s performance on combating corruption as well as following its draft national reform and strategy scheme.

“Any government will have to carry on [the reforms and strategies] by constitutional and legal mechanisms,” Chaturon said. “These functions should not be up to any specific group, without a check-and-balance system, like what the NCPO is now doing.”

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that he would next week discuss holding local elections with the Interior Ministry and the Constitution Drafting Commission next week.

However, as the NCPO order still hinders political activities, Wissanu said that the discussion would focus on amending related laws to support those elections.

“Voting in some local areas might need to be done after the general election,” the deputy said. “And to prevent conflicts, political bans may not be ‘unlocked’ in all areas simultaneously. We will have to see after the laws are amended.”


Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Only summary of politicians’ assets ‘will hurt anti-graft fight’

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politics November 11, 2017 01:00


GRAFT BUSTERS fear the provision in the new National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) organic bill that the agency only publicly publish a “summary”, not a detailed report of the assets declared by political office holders and commissioners of independent bodies, could weaken transparency and cripple public scrutiny of corruption.

The bill has already passed the first reading by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) earlier this month and is currently being revised by an ad hoc committee before returning to the table again for the second and third readings.

Mana Nimitmongkol, director of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), said the new provision would unnecessarily undermine scrutiny of corruption by the media and the general people.

In the past, the media and the people could help scrutinise politicians, as they were allowed to see the complete reports, he said. More than half of the scrutiny had been initiated by the public, and the government agencies took them from there, he added.

“Remember, the people have more eyes and ears than a handful of busy government officials,” Mana pointed out.

Jade Donavanik, an adviser to the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) responsible for the initial draft, said the new provision was the result of the drafters’ opinion that it could help lighten the workload of the NACC.

Jade explained that in reality, the general people as well as the media did not really use the detailed report. He pointed out that of the 500 asset items, people usually were interested in and highlighted only 10 or 20.

Although the NACC would only produce and publish a summary of the assets, Jade said people and the media could still have access to the detailed assets list. This, however, might require a little paperwork, he said.

Mana did not agree with the argument that publishing the detailed assets list would impose a huge burden on the NACC.

“Everything is provided by the politicians,” he said. All that the NACC has to do is disclose the papers to the people, Mana added.

Review of suggestion likely

Despite the contention that people could still have access to the report, Mana was concerned that there might be some conditions. For instance, they would perhaps allow only stakeholders or people affected by the matter, he added.

Jade, who is a member of the ad hoc committee revising the NACC bill, said this provision was not found to be controversial at all in the meeting. However, since it had received the media attention maybe when the committee discusses the stipulation again in detail, they could reconsider it, he added.

Another CDC member, Chartchai na Chiangmai, provided another reason for the controversial provision, saying there must be a balance between transparency and privacy.

Chartchai rejected the notion that this would compromise the transparency secured in the old law, which requires political holders taking or leaving office to report their assets, which would be later released in detail to the public.

The drafter said the NACC is given the authority by the new charter to handle the issue, including determining who must report their assets. By law, the NACC would be required to scrutinise the assets in detail and safeguard the information in case irregularities occur.

Since the 1997 Constitution, Cabinet members have been required to declare their assets when entering and leaving office to the NACC to reveal them to the public. Several politicians had been scrutinised because of this law such as the late Maj-General Sanan Kachornprasart who was later ousted from his interior minister post and banned from politics for five years for making a false declaration of assets.




Controversial points surrounding the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) organic bill

  • Declaration of assets by government officials at all levelsMany legislators viewed that only higher-ranking officials needed to report their assets to the NACC. The rest could report to their superiors only. Otherwise, the agency would have too heavy a workload.
  • No publication of the complete assets listThe law requires not only political office holders but also |commissioners in independence agencies, as well as judges of the Constitutional Court, to disclose their assets. However, the controversial point was that the detailed list would not be open to the public. Critics are concerned this might undermine public scrutiny of potential corruption.
  • Checks and balancesThe bill tasks the Office of the Auditor-General with scrutinising the NACC. It is concerned that the anti-graft agency might lose its |independence and its work might be compromised. The NACC argued that there were already existing measures to efficiently prevent |misconduct and fraud. But the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), which drafted the bill, insisted that the NACC must be held in check by other agencies, too.
  • Resetting the commissioners to square oneThe CDC held on to its principle that any commissioners failing to meet the new qualifications set out in the Constitution should be |dismissed. However, opponents fear the reset could affect the NACC’s work. The agency was working on many cases and requiring the new commissioners to take up all the work might prove too difficult.

Source  :  The Nation Multimedia

Twelve IS militants killed, injured in artillery shelling, east of Salahuddin

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Salahuddin ( Twelve Islamic State militants were killed and injured as they attempted infiltration toward eastern Salahuddin, a security source said on Friday.

“The artillery of Al-Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces] shelled Islamic State militants who attempted infiltration from Hamreen mountains toward Tuz Khurmatu region. Three militants were killed, while nine others were wounded,” the source told Baghdad Today.

The militants, according to the source, “attempted fleeing toward west of Tuz Khurmatu and north of Diyala to launch attacks.”

In October, Iraqi troops announced imposing full control on Hamreen mountains that stretch out between Diyala and Kirkuk provinces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and the Joint Operations Command declared in September the launch of first phase of operations to liberate Hawija and eastern Shirqat, located north of Salahuddin.

The Iraqi army said in September 2016 its forces recaptured the western coast of Shirqat, located south of Mosul, on the west bank of the Tigris river, after being surrounded for months by Iraqi troops and the pro-government Shi’ite militias.

Having recaptured Hawija in Kirkuk, Mosul and Tal Afar in Nineveh as well as Annah and Qaim towns in Anbar, Iraqi troops still have only western Anbar’s towns of Rawa and Qaim remain under the militant’s control.


Source  :  Iraqi News

Policeman killed in western Baghdad bomb blast: Source

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Baghdad ( A policeman was killed in a bomb blast in western Baghdad, a security source said on Friday.

Speaking to Baghdad Today, the source said, “a bomb placed under a car of a lieutenant general from the traffic department exploded in the evening in al-Amiriya, west of Baghdad, which caused his death.”

“Security troops transferred the victim to forensic medicine department and conducted investigations,” the source, who preferred anonymity, added.

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.

The total figure marked a decline from last month’s, which reached more than 500 civilians. The victims went down from 196, while the injured decreased down from 381.


Source  :  Iraqi News

Drone downed in central Kirkuk, security source says

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Kirkuk ( A drone has been downed above governmental building in central Kirkuk, a security source said on Friday.

Speaking to AlSumaria News, the source said, “a drone that was flying above governmental building toward Atlas street in central Kirkuk has been downed by the Counter-Terrorism Service.”

“Investigations have been conducted to identify the drone’s type and work and whether it was for taking photographs,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, added.

Security services banned drones, last year, for security reasons, as they were used by Islamic State militants for surveillance and taking photographs of military targets.

Sabah al-Noaman, spokesperson for the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service, denied on Thursday news on confrontations with gunmen in Kirkuk, saying situation under control. This came after several news reports mentioned that unidentified gunmen opened fire against a patrol of joint troops in the region, located east of Kirkuk without casualties reported among security personnel.

On Sunday, two suicide attacks took place in central Kirkuk, leaving a civilian killed and 21 others wounded.

Operations were launched in late September to liberate Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, before Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced freeing the town in October.

Iraqi troops managed to retake several Islamic State strongholds including Mosul and Tal Afar in Nineveh, Hawija in Kirkuk and Annah and Qaim in Anbar.


Source  :  Iraqi News

Man held for reckless driving in Khor Fakkan

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Filed on November 10, 2017
After watching the video on various social media, the police found details about the driver.

The driver was caught after following the broadcast of a video footage showing him driving at a high speed and doing stunts on the road.

The Khor Fakkan Police have arrested an Emirati for speeding and driving in a reckless manner at late night.

The driver was caught after following the broadcast of a video footage showing him driving at a high speed and doing stunts on the road.

According to Colonel Mohamed Abdallah Al Oabd, director of the Sharjah Police’s Eastern Region section, after watching the video that was broadcast on various social media, the police managed to find details about the driver and his car plate number.

“We have formed a criminal investigation department team to arrest the erring motorist and he will be charged with endangering his life and the life of others. We will not spare any efforts in ensuring road safety and arresting any violator found exposing the lives of road users to danger.”


Source  :  The Khaleej Times

UAE ready to become world’s future capital: Sheikh Mohammed

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Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on November 10, 2017 | Last updated on November 10, 2017 at 11.51 pm
TWO VISIONARIES: Sheikh Mohammed and Klaus Schwab in Dubai on Friday. Meetings of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum open today.

The second annual meeting of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum, (WEF) begins in Dubai today

The UAE has what it takes to become the world’s future capital, said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. “It has kept pace with technology and made life easier for people as the world enters its next phase of growth, the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

The future is easy to forecast when countries embrace data and technological advances and use them for development, Sheikh Mohammed said on the eve of the second annual meeting of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum, (WEF) which begins in Dubai today.

“This data helps in empowering citizens and is no longer just study material in research centres and academic institutions,” he said.

Earlier, speaking to Khaleej Times, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum (WEF), hailed the UAE for its innovative ideas and said the country’s visionary leadership has a clear vision for the future.

For over 10 years, he said the UAE has been a hub for WEF’s annual meetings. “Today, here in Dubai, I am proud that our collaboration is entering its most exciting phase yet, and look forward to working with the country and its leaders as they look to build a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Schwab said.

“I am already very satisfied with the contribution they are making to the work of the Forum. In addition to their role as advisory bodies for the Forum’s initiatives, the Councils are increasingly finding ways of collaborating with our new centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.”


Source  :  The Khaleej Times