Thailand News

Prosecutor defers decision on Krisda Mahanakorn case against Panthongtae

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The special public prosecutor has deferred a decision on the money laundering case against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s only son, Pangthongtae “Oak”, and two trusted aides until October 10.

The prosecutor was initially due to deliver its decision today on the charges against the three accused, Panthongtae, Mrs Kanchana Honghern, former secretary of Khunying Potjamarn, Thaksin’s ex-wife, and her husband, Wanchai.

Mr Prayuth Petkhun, deputy spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General, said the special prosecutor had demanded more evidence on some issues from the inquiry officers of the Department of Special Investigation.

The three accused did not show up before the prosecutor but assigned their lawyer to see the prosecutor instead.

The trio were charged by DSI officials with money laundering in connection with a substantial amount of loan lent by the state-run Krung Thai Bank to the Krisda Mahanakorn real estate company.

Northern people warned of early arrival of cold and dry seasons

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As several northern provinces continue to be battered with torrential rain which is expected to taper off by the end of this month, the northern meteorological centre on Wednesday issued a warning to northern farmers to conserve water, saying that cold season will come soon to be followed by dry season starting early next year.

Mr Methi Mahayotnan, director of the northern meteorological centre, said Wedesday that combined volume of rainfall in the northern region this was estimated to be less than 600 mm which is about 50 percent less than normal.

He said the rainy season for the North would end sooner with rain expected to ease by the end of this month and substantially ease next month with the onset of the cold season to be followed by dry season.

He warned that the dry season next year might last for a long period of time, hence, people in the region, especially farmers, should use their water sparingly.

The hydro-electric Bhumibol dam in Tak province is 61 percent full and only five million cubic metres of water are being drained downstream each day to conserve water for use in the dry season.

The Chiang Mai irrigation office has also take steps to conserve water at Mae Ngad Somboonchon and Mae Kwang Udomthara dams which are now 56 percent and 38 percent full in preparation for the long summer, said Mr Methi.

JD.com CEO arrested on allegation of rape: police report

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MINNEAPOLIS/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The founder and chief executive of Chinese retailer JD.com Inc, Richard Liu, was arrested in Minneapolis last week following an allegation of rape, according to a public information report released by police on Tuesday.

Liu, identified in the report by his Chinese name Liu Qiangdong, was released from custody on Saturday without being charged, and he returned to China.

Earl Gray, a Minnesota-based lawyer for Liu, said on Monday that the Chinese businessman has denied any wrongdoing and that he did not expect his client to be charged.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Joseph Friedberg said, “They are not going to charge in this case. There’s no credible complaint.”

Liu made a high-profile visit to Bangkok in November last year and met with Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-on-cha as part of his efforts to promote his company’s investments and pursue partnerships with local businesses in Thailand.

Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said on Tuesday that if there were any charges against Liu they would not be filed until completion of a criminal investigation that would not occur before Friday.

The police report shed a bit more light on the nature of the accusation, which authorities had previously left vague. It said the alleged offense was “criminal sexual contact – rape,” and said domestic violence was not involved.

It gave no further details, but Elder said the alleged attack reportedly occurred at 1 a.m. local time on Friday, and that Liu was taken into custody later that evening.

Elder declined to disclose whether any accuser was cooperating with police. “I wouldn’t address that. That goes to the investigation,” he said.

JD.com Inc’s stock fell as much as 7 percent on Tuesday, hitting an 18-month low, reflecting investor uncertainty. Shares in China’s second largest e-commerce company closed down 6 percent at $29.43 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq and were steady after hours.

JD.com’s rules require Liu, who holds nearly 80 percent of the company’s voting rights, to be present at board meetings for the board to make decisions, although it was not clear if he has to be physically present or could participate by teleconference.

The company counts Walmart Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and China’s Tencent Holdings as investors. It faces stiff competition from rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd at home.

“If this spirals as a media focus, negative attention could offset some of the positives associated with endorsement by Walmart and Google,” analyst Rob Sanderson of MKM Partners said.

“Negative publicity could also compromise JD.com’s ability to attract international brands to its marketplace, which has been a top focus of the CEO over the past two years or so,” Sanderson said.

Liu lost a court battle in Australia in July to keep his name out of a sexual assault trial. Liu was not accused of any wrongdoing in that case, according to a court document.

The case involved a person who had been a guest at a party hosted by Liu at his home in Sydney 2015 who accused another guest of sexually assaulting her at a hotel. The defendant was found guilty of seven offenses.

Typhoon kills 10 in Japan, boats move stranded passengers from airport

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TOKYO (Reuters) – A powerful typhoon killed 10 people in western Japan and an airport company started to transfer some 3,000 stranded passengers by boats from a flooded airport, the government said on Wednesday, as more than a million homes were without power.

Jebi, or “swallow” in Korean, was briefly a super typhoon and is the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years. It follows heavy rains, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people this summer.

About 3,000 tourists stayed overnight at Kansai Airport in western Japan, an important hub for Japanese companies to export semiconductors. Television footage showing people lining up to buy food and drinks at a convenience store in the airport.

Airport officials began transferring the stranded passengers to nearby Kobe airport by high-speed boats and buses on Wednesday morning, the government said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said about 300 people were injured. It was uncertain when the airport would reopen and some roads and train lines in the affected areas were still closed, he said. About 1.2 million homes were without power.

“The government will continue to do everything possible to tackle these issues with utmost urgency,” Suga told a news conference.

Many chip plants operate in the Kansai region. Toshiba Memory, the world’s second-largest maker of flash memory chips, was monitoring developments closely and may need to ship products from other airports if Kansai remains closed, a spokeswoman said.

She said the company was not expecting a major impact because its plant in Yokkaichi in central Japan had not been affected by the typhoon.

It could take several days to a week to reopen Kansai airport depending on the damage, the Yomiuri newspaper quoted an unidentified person in the airline industry as saying.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, criticized for an initially slow response to devastating floods in July, posted repeated updates on the rescue efforts at Kansai.

Jebi’s course brought it close to parts of western Japan hit by rains and flooding that killed more than 200 people in July but most of the damage this time appeared to be from the wind.

Ruling against Reuters reporters a severe blow to Myanmar press freedom: CAJ president

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The seven-year jail sentence handed down on two Reuters journalists in Myanmar on Monday is a big step backward for press freedom and a travesty of justice in the country, Thepchai Yong, president of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists said Tuesday.

Thepchai also called for regional and international media organizations to join hands in showing their support for the two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and their families in their most difficult time.


“The ruling against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is a betrayal of Myanmar people’s hope that their country is on its way to becoming a democratic society,” he said.


Thepchai defended the two Reuters journalists for following their professional duty in investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims and said that their arrests and jailing came as a severe blow to press freedom in the country.


“What happens to the two journalists goes against the principle of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists whose main objective is to promote a healthy, free and responsible press,” he said.


The Confederation of ASEAN Journalists, one of Southeast Asia’s oldest press organizations, was set up in 1975with an aim of promoting free and responsible press and forging cooperation among its regional members.  Its current membership covers major media organizations from eight of the ASEAN countries.  The Myanmar Journalists Association, which currently has an observer status, has applied to join the confederation.

Pharmacists want old drugs law

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The pharmacy council and pharmacy faculties of several universities have voiced their support for the retention of the existing Drugs Act which allows doctors, dentists and veterinarians to be eligible to dispense drugs besides pharmacists.

Representatives of the pharmacy council and pharmacy faculties met public health officials led by Dr Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, permanent secretary of public health, for about three hours on Tuesday to discuss the new drugs bill proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

After the meeting, Dr Jesada told the media that the pharmacists were concerned with two issues.

Firstly, other professionals besides pharmacists, doctors, dentists and vets will be able to dispense drugs which the pharmacists are afraid will compromise public health.

The second issue of concern is the addition of a new group of drugs which still lacks clear-cut rules and affect safety of consumers.

FDA deputy secretary-general Surachoke Tangvivat explained that, according to international standard practice, there are three types of drugs:  drugs which are under special control, dangerous drugs and common household drugs – all of which require prescription for dispensing.

Human error blamed for August 31 crash of e-banking system

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Human error was blamed as the cause of the crash of the e-banking system of five commercial banks, causing temporary disruptions of electronic transactions on August 31.

Thai Bankers Association president Pridi Daochai told a press conference on Tuesday that the crash of the e-banking system of Siam Commercial Bank, Thanachart Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Kasikorn Bank and Bank of Ayudhya was caused by human error.  He said those responsible for the incident did not follow established working procedure.

He maintained that disruption of electronic transactions did not cause any financial damage, but delayed banking services, causing inconvenience to bank customers who were used to smooth and fast service.

He said the use of electronic transactions by bank customers has multiplied since the introduction of PromptPay system and the waiving of fees for digital money transfers, with the volume of mobile transactions averaging 1,000 transactions per second.

The TBA president assured that the banking system is capable of handling e-banking transactions several times of the volume of the transactions and banks are now expanding the capacity for the future.

Over 7,000 people to attend “Wild Boars” thank you party

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More than 7,000 people, including about 3,400 from Chiang Rai province alone, have accepted invitations to attend the reception to be hosted by the government on the courtyard of Dusit Palace and at the Royal Plaza on Thursday to thank all those who took part or contributed to the search and rescue operation that saved the lives of the young 12 soccer players and their coach trapped in Tham Luang cave during June-July.

His Majesty the King has graciously allowed the use of the courtyard of the Dusit Palace by the government to host the reception, which is offically known as “United As One.”

Pol Lt-Gen Kraiboon Suadsong, commissioner of strategic affairs of the Royal Thai Police, said the reception venue is divided into two zones – one on the courtyard of the palace and the other at the Royal Plaza.

Parking space has been arranged at Sanam Luang and the Supreme Court and Thammasat University.

About 3,400 people from Chiang Rai province, including about 2,000 from Mae Sai district where Tham Luang cave is located, will leave the northern province by bus on Wednesday night and are scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at about 2 pm on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Chiang Rai’s creative media committee has arranged for two rounds of interviews with the 12 Wild Boars boys and their coach for local and foreign media on Thursday between 1-3 pm at Siam Paragon and on September 15-16 in Chiang Rai.

Media representatives are required to submit written questions in advance to the screening committee by 4 pm of Wednesday.

Cabinet endorses local election bills

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The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the six bills for elections of local administrators and members of local administrative councils, paving the way for local elections nation-wide to be held after the national elections.

Among the highlights of the bills is that the Election Commission has the authority to initiate investigation of alleged election frauds without having to wait for complaints.

Under the bills,  the number of votes gained by successful candidates must be  more than the wasted votes — votes cast for none of the candidates.  And those who are found guilty of electoral fraud will face a ten-year political ban.

Government spokesman Lt-Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there would be two rounds of elections for local administrators and members of local administrative councils, with the first round to be held in 40 provinces and the rest of 36 provinces to be held in the second round.

He said the six bills would be sent to the National Legislative Assembly which will take between 2-3 months to pass them and then another three months before local elections are to take place.

Powerful typhoon hits western Japan, killing at least six

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan issued evacuation advisories for more than a million people and canceled hundreds of flights as Typhoon Jebi sliced across the west on Tuesday, killing at least six people.

Jebi – whose name means “swallow” in Korean – was briefly a super typhoon and is the latest storm to hit Japan this summer following rains, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people.

Television footage showed waves pounding the coastline, sheet metal tumbling across a parking lot, cars turned on their sides, dozens of used cars on fire at an exhibition area, and a big Ferris wheel spinning around in the strong wind.

As the typhoon made landfall, a 71-year-old man was found dead under a collapsed warehouse, likely due to a strong wind, and a man in his 70s fell from the roof of a house and died, NHK public television reported, adding more than 90 were injured.

Broadcaster TBS put the number of deaths at six.

Tides in some areas were the highest since a typhoon in 1961, NHK said, with flooding covering one runway at Kansai airport in Osaka, forcing closure of the airport and leaving tourists stranded.

“This storm is super (strong). I hope I can get home,” a woman from Hong Kong told NHK at the airport.

The strong winds and high tides sent a 2,591-tonne tanker crashing into a bridge connecting Kansai airport, which is built on a man-made island in a bay, to the mainland. The bridge was damaged but the tanker was empty and none of its crew was injured, the coast guard said.

The storm made landfall on Shikoku, the smallest main island, around noon. It raked across the western part of the largest main island, Honshu, near the city of Kobe, several hours later, before heading out to the Sea of Japan in the evening.

The center of Jebi was at sea north of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, at 7 p.m. (1000 GMT) and heading north-northeast, NHK reported.

Evacuation advisories were issued for more than a million people at one point, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Wind gusts of up to 208 km/h (129 mph) were recorded in one part of Shikoku.

Around 100 mm (3.9 inches) of rain drenched one part of the tourist city of Kyoto in an hour, with as much as 500 mm (20 inches) set to fall in some areas in the 24 hours to noon on Wednesday.

Video posted on Twitter showed a small part of the roof of Kyoto train station falling to the ground. Other video showed roofs being torn off houses, transformers on electric poles exploding and a car scudding on its side across a parking lot.

More than 700 flights were canceled, along with scores of ferries and trains, NHK said. Shinkansen bullet train services between Tokyo and Hiroshima were suspended and Universal Studios Japan, a popular amusement park near Osaka, was closed.

Some 1.45 million households were without power in Osaka and its surrounding areas at 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) Toyota Motor Corp said it was cancelling the night shift at 14 plants.

The capital, Tokyo, escaped the center of the storm but was set for heavy rains and high winds.

Jebi’s course brought it close to parts of western Japan hit by rains and flooding that killed more than 200 people in July but most of the damage appeared to be from the high winds.

Princess Chulabhorn sends  medical team to treat flood victims in Laos

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Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn has ordered the Princess Chulabhorn College to arrange a 25-member medical team from Chulabhorn Hospital to be dispatched to Laos to provide medical treatment to flood victims on Wednesday and Thursday.

The team which includes pediatricians, emergency doctors, general practitioners and tropical diseases doctors and nurses will be based at the health office of Sanamxay township in Attapeu province.

About 200 Laotians receive medical treatment at the Sanamxay hospital and at an adjacent field hospital of the Lao People’s Army.  Most of the patients suffer from stress and stomach diseases.

On the night of July 23, a saddle dam of the Xepian-Xe Namnoy power project collapsed releasing a huge mass of water cascading downstream and swamping many villages in Sanamxay township, resulting to over 30 deaths and over 6,000 people displaced.

Attapeu provincial governor Led Xaiyaporn said that he felt grateful to the Thai Royal Family and the Thai people for their assistance to the flood-affected people.

Meanwhile, a temporary shelter will be handed over to about 140 families of people displaced by flooding from the dam collapse tomorrow.

The shelter houses 140 accommodation units suitable for 3-4 people each was built.  Each unit is equipped with an electric fan, electricity supply and a balcony to prepare food.

Mr Piangkham Kiangsitthilat, a contractor for the housing project, admitted that the design of the housing unit might not correspond with the Laotians’ traditional farming lifestyle.

Two more housing units of similar design are expected to be completed next month and handed over to the displaced people.

Health minister to meet pharmacists to resolve conflicts over new drugs bill

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Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn was to meet with representatives of pharmacists today to discuss conflicts arising from the new Drugs Bill proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The minister said Monday that president of the Pharmacy Council, three candidates for the Pharmacy Council presidency and deans of 15 pharmacy faculties have been invited to the meeting today with the minister and officials concerned.

Asked whether there is a split opinion among the network of pharmacists regarding the new bill, Dr Piyasakol merely said that all concerned parties have good intention toward the public and they may have different opinions.

Pharmacists have voiced strong objection to the new bill which seeks to allow medical staff apart from qualified pharmacists to dispense drugs.  They suspect that this will open a loophole for investors to hire unqualified personnel to operate pharmacies and, hence, cut cost for hiring qualified pharmacists which will not be beneficial to the public.

Gen Prayut says he will decide on his political future when the time comes

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Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-on-cha today again refused to spell out his political future but said he will make a decision at an appropriate time.

Speaking to reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Gen Prayut said his decision will be based on his commitment to protect the interest of the country and the people.

Gen Prayut noted that after a royal endorsement of the two electoral bills, which is widely anticipated to be sometimes next week, the restrictions on the political activities will be eased to pave the way for the long-awaited election.   “The election should bring about a government with good governance,” he said.

In answering a question, Gen Prayut said he will announce his decision on his political future at an appropriate time.  Gen Prayut’s political role both prior to and after the election has been a big question mark and he has been evasive in discussing it.

“But my decision will be based on my commitment to protect the interest of the country and of the people in accordance with the 20-year national strategy,” he said, referring to the mandatory national strategy designed by the military junta as a framework for next governments in running the country.

“That’s all I can say at the moment. And please stop asking me this question,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan reiterated his support for Gen Prayut to return as prime minister after the election “for the sake of continuity.”

But Gen Prawait declined to discuss his own political future.

Bhumjaithai party refutes claim it pays for new members

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Election campaign has yet to start. Yet, some political squabbling has already begun.

The Bhumjaithai party has threatened to sue a former Pheu Thai leading member in the Northeast for defamation after the latter asked the Election Commission to dissolve the party accused of hiring people to apply for memberships.
Bhumjaithai deputy secretary-general Supachai Jaisamut on Monday dismissed the accusation made by Mr Suporn Atthawong, alias Isan Rambo for his political bravado, as false and ill intention to discredit the party.
He insisted that the two men, Pornchai Amnuaysap and Veerasak Wangsupakitkoson, whom Suporn said were being paid by the party for apply for memberships, offered to apply as poll candidates for the party on their own and that the party has not considered their application.
Suporn yesterday submitted a request with the Election Commission to consider dissolving the party for violating the electoral law. Suporn, once a staunch pro-Thaksin politician, has announced he is aligning himself with the pro-military junta political groups and supports Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-on-cha’s return to power after the election.   

    

 

How many monitor lizards at Lumpini Park? It depends on whose count

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The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has no objection to a plan of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to hold an exhibition of monitor lizards in the Lumpini park so that members of the public can get to know the reptiles better.

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwangmuang said Monday that the City Hall agreed with the proposal for the two organizations to conduct a census of the population of the monitor lizards in Lumpini Park as the two of them have different estimates of the numbers of the reptiles, with the parks department saying there are about 160 while the City Hall believing there are about 400.  But whatever the numbers,  monitor lizards have been a common sight at the city’s biggest public park for years.  
While insisting that the city administration has no problem with the planned holding of an exhibition about monitor lizards in the park, the governor said he was not sure that the public would accept the idea because there are people who despise the reptiles.  Many Thais still have a belief that monitor lizards or “hia” represent bad luck.  
However, he suggested that the public should be allowed to provide their feedback about the planned exhibition. He insisted that the parks department should be responsible for catching the reptiles while the City Hall has the duty to prevent them from harming or scaring park visitors.

Reuters reporters’ sentencing, as it unfolded in the courtroom

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YANGON (The Irrawaddy)  — For possessing the phone number of an officer in an ethnic armed group, the itineraries of visits to Rakhine by Pope Francis and Vice President U Myint Swe, and police reports of violence in northern Rakhine State, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment by Yangon’s Northern District Court on Monday morning.

 

The colonial-era Inn Sein Court Building was crowded with diplomats, reporters, activists and the accused’s relatives, who were on hand to see the resolution of a case that has been closely monitored by both the international and local communities since the surprise arrest of the pair in Htauk Kyant on the outskirts of Yangon on Dec. 12, 2017. Before their arrest the pair was investigating the massacre of 10Rohingya men in Rakhine State’s Inn Din village by a group of local villagers, police and Army troops. The following month, the Army announced that seven soldiers had been sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in a remote area of Myanmar for participating in the mass killing.


The killings happened during the military’s month-long clearance operations of Rakhine State’s Rohingya communities following militant attacks on security outposts. The United Nations says the military crackdown has sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.


Since their arrests, the two journalists have appeared at numerous trial hearings. This Irrawaddy reporter was allowed to witness the handing down of the verdict in a 50-foot-wide courtroom with a CCTV camera mounted in each corner. As the session began, Northern District Court Associate Judge U Ye Lwin entered the room, then read submissions from the prosecutor and defense lawyers, statements from suspects Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the findings of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). This took one-and-a-half hours.


The judge said CID officers had found on the reporters’ mobile phones the travel itinerary and security deployment information relating to Pope Francis’ visit in November 2017, and the travel itinerary for Vice President U Myint Swe’s trip in August 2017. He said both of these were considered top secret documents.


Defense lawyers had earlier claimed that reports of the violence in northern Rakhine State and the itineraries of the pope and the vice president were not secrets as they had already been published in newspapers. The judge announced that this argument was invalid because the newspapers only carried brief announcements the visit of the vice president to northern Rakhine. He also said the classified documents of security forces referring to security reinforcements, causality reports and arson attacks in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township that were found on the reporters’ mobile phones had not been published in newspapers.


Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, who was a key witness in the case, earlier testified that his superior officer Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko ordered him and his colleagues to arrest the reporters and charge them with violating the Official Secrets Act, but the prosecutor declared him a hostile witness and abruptly sentenced him to one year in prison for violating police discipline.


Judge U Ye Lwin cited the News Media Law’s Article (6) (a), drafted by former information minister U Ye Htut. It states that journalists can request documents from authorities with the exception of orders or instruction letters containing information on security matters, including statistics, photographs and records. He also cited the Media Code of Conduct’s section (3) (b), which deals with the way media professionals handle sensitive information.


He said the classified documents from security forces found in their possession and on their mobile phones showed that the two suspects had violated both the News Media Law and Code of Conduct repeatedly. He said it also had to be taken into consideration that the content of the documents was related to security matters and could be useful, either indirectly or directly, to insurgent groups.


“The suspects did not act as ordinary journalists; they acted together with the intent of harming the interest of the state or state security,” U Ye Lwin said.


He concluded that these facts, as well as the attitudes of the suspects and the submissions of the prosecutor constituted sufficient evidence that the suspects breached the Official Secrets Act’s Article 3 (1) (c). He sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment for violating the Act, adding that their time in detention so far would count towards their sentence.


Myanmar Press Council (MPC) member U Myint Kyaw pointed out that Article (6) of the News Media Law enshrines the rights — rather than the restrictions or potential legal punishments — of media organizations, and suggested that perhaps the judge had interpreted the law as he wished. While acknowledging that he is not a legal expert, U Myint Kyaw said that inappropriately citing the News Media Law and Media Code of Conduct while sentencing the Reuters reporters was “dishonest”.


U Myint Kyaw said, “Some lawyers say there might be a danger of classified [documents] falling into enemy hands if the arrest occurred in an armed conflict situation,” as opposed to being arrested in Yangon, as the Reuters reporters were.


Within a few seconds of the announcement, police led the convicted pair away in handcuffs. As they did, the mother of Kyaw Soe Oo wept in the courtroom.


Wa Lone raised his hands and told his Reuters colleagues in the courtroom: “It’s OK. You know what we did. I have no feeling [about this conviction]… I believe in justice and democracy.”


Before he and Kyaw Soe Oo were escorted to Inn Sein Prison, he cried out, “We were unfairly treated” and “We are sentenced now for having the phone number of [Arakan Army (AA) official] Ko Nyo Tun Aung. And we are jailed for possessing the travel itinerary of vice president U Myint Swe [to northern Rakhine]. Is this fair for us? This is directly threatening and violating the freedom of the press in Myanmar as well as the democratic system.”


AA Vice Chief of Staff Nyo Tun Aung could not be reached for comment for this article by press time on Monday.


Defense lawyer U Than Zaw Aung told reporters that the defense consistently told the judge that a map related to Pope Francis’ trip in the reporters’ possession was not an official document issued by the Myanmar government; in fact, it was downloaded from a German website. Moreover, details of the trip of the vice president to northern Rakhine State could easily be found on social media. However, the judge even included these points in his conclusions and cited them in his decision to imprison the pair for 7years, the lawyer said.


Defense lawyers said they would appeal the decision to a higher court.


“We are total disappointed with today’s conviction. This conviction shows that we are in a bad condition, despite the appearance that the country is heading for a functioning democratic system, freedom of expression and rule of law,” U Than Zaw Aung said.


Criticizing the judge’s citing of the Media Law and Code of Conduct in his conclusion, Myanmar Press Council (MPC) member U Myint Kyaw said that maintaining secret information is the responsibility of official organizations; being found in possession of these documents should not be a problem, he said. If a media organization publishes the information, the relevant ministry can complain about the report if it finds a factual problem.


U Myint Kyaw said the case was “apparently a trap” set by police, pointing to the fact that the documents were given to the reporters by police, who then arrested the pair immediately. Moreover, he pointed out that simply finding out the phone number of a top AA leader and the travel itinerary of Pope Francis should never be considered possession of state secrets.


“If they really label such kind of information as top secret, then more than 100 journalists could be arrested. This is nonsense. If they want to do so, they can put us all behind bars.” – By Moe Myint of The Irrawaddy

 

 

Hundreds stranded as Purple Line train service disrupted during evening rush hours

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Several hundreds of mostly office workers were stranded at Taopoon train station of the Purple Line train this evening after its service was temporarily suspended due to technical problems.

Many passengers who disembarked from the Blue Line sky train at the final station at Taopoon train station in order to connect with the Purple Line to travel to Bang Yai found to their frustration that service was temporarily disrupted as officials tried to fix the problem.

The number of passengers waiting on the platform kept increasing with every Blue Line sky train arriving at its final station at Taopoon to dislodge its passengers for connecting their journey via the Purple Line.

The Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority later said that the service disruption was caused by heavy rain which caused the electricity distribution system to malfunction.

Service resumed at about 7.30 pm.

Heavy rain in the evening which coincided with rush hours caused traffic congestion in most parts of Bangkok.  Several roads were also flooded, making traffic even worse.

Premchai’s wife asks for ivory tusks to be tested to determine ages and legal status

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Italian-Thai Development Corporation boss Premchai Karnasuta’s wife, Mrs Kanitta, has asked the Criminal Cour for permission to have her four impounded  elephant ivory tasks to be sent for carbon tests to determine their ages and legal status.

Mrs Kanita, through her lawyer, made the request with the court when she, Premchai and a close aide, Ms Wandee Sompoom, were present at the Criminal Court this morning to attend a pre-trial hearing to examine documents related to the four impounded ivory tusks.

The trio are facing charges of possessing four African ivory tusks without proper license, illegal import of the tusks and concealing the tusks for personal keeping.

The defendants have asked for the four ivory tusks to be sent to Chulalongkorn University and the Medical Science Faculty of Mahidol University to be subjected for tests to determine their ages and legal status.

The court asked the public prosecutor whether he had any objection to the defendants’ request and he said no.  The court then ordered the prosecutor to contact the police inquiry officers in charge of the case to have the four tusks to be brought before the court on October 8 before they were to be sent for scientific tests.

Mrs Kanita earlier claimed that the four ivory tusks were inherited from her family in 1987.

Gen Chatchai is confident current flooding is not a serious problem

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Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikalaya today tried to play down the impact of floods that have been hitting many provinces as the average amount of rainfalls across the country this year are still below normal level.

He said areas that have experienced abundant rains this year are the same areas that were hit with  excessive flood water last year.   And there are still many areas which have remained dry without rains for months, prompting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to order cloud-seeding operations to bring artificial rain to these areas.

As a contingency  plan, however, the deputy prime minister said farmers along Chao Phraya river basin, known as the rice bowl of the country, have been informed that their paddy fields will need to be used as water catchment areas to cope with northern runoffs expected this month when more rainfalls are anticipated.

General Chatchai said as a compensation, fish fries would be released and with the arrival of the dry season next year,  there would still be water in the farmland as well as fish that would be ready for consumption or for sale by the next dry season.

Mother asks CSD police to probe daughter’s death suspected to be an act of foul play

Thai PBS English News -

The mother of a woman who was found dead in her own car with her head covered with a plastic bag in the northeastern province of Amnart Charoen earlier this year has asked the Crime Suppression Division police to investigate the incident after local police ruled it as a suicide.

Accompanied by an activist lawyer, Mr Ronnarong Kaewpetch, president of the Campaign for the Restoration of Social Justice Network, 51-year old Ms Buathong Sopaloon, went to the CSD headquarters on Monday to lodge a complaint.

The victim, a 33-year old Ms Duangchan Thaweepan, who reportedly made a living as a money-lender, was found dead on back seat of her car on a road in Lue-amnart district of Amnart Charoen on April 4.  Her head was covered with a plastic bag and the driver’s seat was adjusted backward in a reclining position.

The Lue-amnart district police concluded that the victim committed suicide.

Ronnarong told the CSD police that he suspected the victim died of foul play because there was also a wound above her left eye, indicating that she might have been assaulted. 

Ms Buathong, meanwhile, told the police there was no reason for their daughter to commit suicide, noting that the latter was a joyful person and would normally tell those close to her whenever she had problems.

The complaint was accepted for consideration.

Sidor

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