PHUKET MEDIA WATCH– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket's international community
Hopes for Ramadan peace hold
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Thai authorities and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hope that the initiative taken by the government and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), aimed at cutting on violence in the deep South, will yield results from the first day of Ramadan.
Hopes of seeing calm in the predominantly Muslim region are a result of the latest talks between the authorities and the BRN, said National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabutr.
Malaysian authorities said the BRN called off their plan to hold a press conference on the peace initiative in Kuala Lumpur yesterday for reasons that were unclear, but Thai authorities believe the move to reduce violence is still on, he said.
OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu yesterday welcomed the initiative between the government and the Muslim group to engage in a ceasefire during the holy month.
Ihsanoglu was briefed on the initiative and other developments in the region during his meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday.
He encouraged both sides to abide by the principles of the "ceasefire" and expressed hope that it would lead to further peaceful developments and increased confidence-building measures towards the ultimate resolution of the conflict in the South. The OIC is ready to be a partner in the process so that peace, security, economic development and prosperity could be enjoyed by all peoples of southern Thailand, he said.
However, Paradorn said that if any violence were to occur during the period, investigation of the incidents would be conducted promptly and completed within 48 hours in order to ascertain which group was responsible.
The security measures for keeping peace and order during Ramadan will be based on the guidelines provided by of the Office of Sheikul Islam, he said.
Sheikhul Islam is known in Thai as Chularatchamontri, the holder of the office of top Islamic religious leader.
There are three small intensively operative groups in the region and the neighbouring country has nothing to do with them, Paradorn said.
Related agencies are discussing the BRN's demands and have sent the Thai guidelines for action to the BRN via the Malaysian facilitator, he added.
However, a day ahead of Ramadan, chaos continued yesterday, as suspected insurgent sympathisers hung cloth banners accusing the Thai authorities of insincerity and calling Thailand "the colony hunter Siamese".
Some areas also had walls vandalised with a similar message, while five hoax bombs were reported in Pattani.
The banners, written in Malayu with the Rumi script, were discovered along roads in many locations in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, as well as in Songkhla's Chana, Thepha and Saba Yoi districts.
Thai authorities pulled down the banners, and tried to collect fingerprints and DNA in the hope of identifying those who had made them and put them up.
A military spokesman, Colonel Pramote Phrom-in, said the authorities needed to maintain their forces in the deep South to keep peace. Officials did not use violence in the area, but carry out their operations within the rule of law and the principles of human rights to act against those who use violence.
Authenticity of audio clip needs to be checked: PM
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The audio clip that some believe is a recording of Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra discussing the appointment of top military brass should be examined for its authenticity before any conclusion can be drawn, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday.
Yingluck, who is also defence minister, said it's unclear at this stage if a committee would be set up for the task as it depends very much on the due process of the bureaucratic system.
"[We're] in a mode where everything is politicised. I want people to differentiate things," she said.
When asked if she fears the clip will affect the administration and the execution of its policies, Yingluck said it might have some effect if people continued politicising everything. She went on to urge the public to give the government some time to prove itself.
When asked if this issue had disturbed her at work, Yingluck dismissed the idea, saying she was doing her best to carry out her duties, and asked for cooperation. However, she refused to say if she had spoken to her brother Thaksin since the clip was made public.
When asked about the rumours of a possible military coup, the premier replied that Thais should look at other countries suffering military coups and see if it is truly beneficial. She added that she believes nobody would want to harm their own society.
In a related development, Air Force commander-in-chief Air Chief Marshal Prajin Jantong said the supreme commander, General Thanasak Patimapra-korn, will discuss the leaked audio clip with the Navy and Army chiefs so they can take a common stance on the matter. Prajin added that the issue discussed in the clip would not necessarily manifest into reality. He also denied reports that the top brass was colluding with the government to maintain their positions.
Asked whether he trusted the deputy defence minister, Prajin said all will be made clear and that the armed forces needed stability to continue their work. He went on to say that the clip needed to be authenticated first. As for the rude prefix Yuthasak allegedly used when referring to him in the clip, Prajin said it was all right, as the deputy defence minister was his "older brother" and boss.
When asked if the armed forces could accept Thaksin's return to Thailand provided he quits politics, Prajin said people should look at both sides of the issue. First, he said, the people should be united and love one another, and secondly, the law would have to be upheld in the cases Thaksin faces.
Yuthasak was initially scheduled to hold an unofficial meeting with top brass to discuss the October military reshuffle, but now the meeting might get postponed to August 15.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democrat Party is calling on the authorities to have the clip independently verified by the Institute of Forensic Science and Dr Pornthip Rojanasu-nand in order to add weight to the findings.
Separately, Green Politics Group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila said most people believe the clip is real and many wonder if the government will indeed take the steps suggested in the recording. He went on to say that government interference in the appointment of top military brass will lead to the return of a social and political divide.
Suriyasai suggested that the best solution would be for the deputy defence minister to quit and not be replaced. He also warned that any attempts made by the military top brass to help Thaksin return to Thailand would destroy the integrity and honour of the armed forces. Suriyasai said the silence of many generals after the clip was leaked has led to fears that the military might be under greater control than the public is aware of.
Not hard to find if Thaksin clip is real: Forensic Cop
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The sophisticated technology of today could quickly and easily determine if the two men in an audio clip conspiring to bring former PM Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand were actually Thaksin and Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha.
"If a clip is fake, you can see that the graph will rise and fall," Pol Lt Colonel Watcharat Chalermsuksan, a director at the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS), said yesterday.
Software like "Audacity" offers an easy and straightforward technique to dissect audio material by showing a sound graph, he said.
Besides the voices, listening to background noise can be a giveaway. Fake clips do not have the same background noise, he said.
"It is also easier to determine whether a clip is doctored if we have the original," he said.
The clip that has gone viral has become another hot potato for the government.
While many believe it is genuine, Pheu Thai MPs claim it was made to sabotage the Yingluck government.
Audio frequency analysers have been widely used by various industries for some time, while the government can turn to the National Police's Scientific Crime Detection Institute and the Justice Ministry's CIFS for forensic investigation.
However, it is harder to detect a voice modified to sound like a specific person.
The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre is developing a program to check voice authenticity that is 100 per cent correct.
The centre's equipment is 80 per cent accurate in terms of voice manipulation analysis.
Assoc Prof Sathon Vijarnwannaluk from Chulalongkorn University said it was more |difficult to determine if a voice is genuine or edited than to check if an audio clip is doctored.
"It may be easier to detect a manipulated voice in a spoken word but it is harder to detect it in a sentence,'' he said.
Examples of people whose voices have been imitated are popular Buddhist monk Phayom Kanlayano and even Thaksin, he said.
DSI wants status and passport of millionaire monk revoked
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Department of Special Investigation is pushing for the termination of Luang Pu Nenkham's status as a monk and the cancellation of his passport.
"We will officially ask the Supreme Sangha Council and the National Office of Buddhism to do this," DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said yesterday.
He was speaking after his agency decided to take over the case against Luang Pu Nenkham, abbot of Wat Pa Khanti Dhamma in Si Sa Ket.
The controversial monk has remained in France since the scandal involving him emerged last month.
Tarit said the cancellation of Luang Pu Nenkham's passport would mean the French authorities would have to deport him.
He will also write to Supreme Sangha Council secretary Nopparat Benjawatananun, who is also head of the National Office of Buddhism, requesting the termination of Luang Pu Nenkham's status as a monk.
Nopparat said the process to terminating his monastic status could be completed within two days.
"The National Office of Buddhism will also be asked to contact the Foreign Ministry to arrange the revocation of his passport," Tarit added.
The DSI chief said Luang Pu Nenkham would face legal action for eight alleged offences, including the spread of false information in a way that caused damage to the public and having a sexual relationship with a minor.
"He has clearly violated Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act by claiming to have met Indra, and that the god had instructed him to build a big Emerald Buddha," Tarit said, referring to the online assertion by the monk that has attracted donations for the casting of the statue.
On the monk's alleged sexual relationship with a girl, he said the DSI and other officials would today conduct DNA tests on an 11-year-old boy whose mother claims Luang Pu Nenkham is his father, as well as the controversial monk's parents.
"We should have the DNA test results within 24 hours."
He said that DSI would also investigate Luang Pu Nenkham's alleged involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering and the ownership of vehicles linked to tax-evasion scams.
Tarit said his department would ask the Anti-Money Laundering Office to freeze the monk's assets, including his bank accounts.
Meanwhile, the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) received evidence yesterday that Luang Pu Nenkham had often travelled to the town of Mae Sot, on the border with Myanmar. "We will investigate to see if he is also involved in drug trafficking," ONCB chief Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said.
In related news, Ubon Ratchathani's Wat Tai Phrachao Yai Ong Teu abbot Phra Raja Thammakosol said the temple would give Luang Pu Nenkham until Friday to give himself in or else it will cut him off from its supervision.
The Centre for Monks and Novices' Travel Aboard Control also said they would check the monk's itinerary and if the monk does not return as scheduled or does something to tarnish the Thai Supreme Sangha Council, the centre would block him from ever leaving the country again.
Cop runs 20km to thank spirit-sleuth
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A Kanchanaburi policeman who said spiritual guidance had helped him solve a case delivered on his vow to run 20 kilometres to pay thanks at a temple yesterday.
Pol Sub Lieutenant Puree Teanprapakul, a detective at Tha Rua Police Station, yesterday revealed that he had prayed to Luang Phor Dam of Wat Takram-aen, seeking guidance for his team's efforts to track down the person who hurled a stone at a moving pickup on June 8, seriously injuring a first-year university student who was a passenger.
In return, he vowed he would run from his police flat to the temple.
The suspected stone-thrower, Wichai Pukheng, was arrested on July 5.
"The whole team should get the credit for the arrest," Puree said, "My votive run was just about my personal belief".
Puree started off on his run from his flat at 6am. He reached the temple three hours and 10 minutes later, after being cheered on along the 20km route by his wife and children and neighbours.
32 monks disrobed for substance abuse
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The monastic chief of Saraburi's Ban Mo district yesterday disrobed 32 monks whose urine test results showed positive for substance abuse.
The district's monastic chief and Wat Makham Riang abbot Phra Kru Supatammakoon said his office, local officials, health officials and volunteers had jointly organised surprise inspections on monks at the district's 27 temples. So far, 32 monks including two abbots were discovered with purple-coloured urine test results. They were disrobed and sent to various rehabilitation centres, where they will be enrolled in a 9-day rehabilitation programme, the district's monastic chief said.
He added that in order for these disrobed monks to be ordained again, they must obtain approval from local officials including police to make sure they have completely recovered. Should a monk be caught for a second time, he would be disrobed again and convicted.