PM spars with Move Forward MP during censure debate

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha engaged in an animated verbal exchange, during the censure debate this morning (Thursday), with Move Forward MP Amarat Chokepamitkul, accusing the party of involvement in anti-Monarchy activities which, he said, he finds unacceptable.

Responding to this accusation, which was not specific, Amarat said that the prime minister should not have made such a serious remark without clarification and evidence and asked him to withdraw it, but he refused to do so.

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai then intervened, saying that the censure debate was getting heated and that there was no need for the prime minister to withdraw his accusation, but he warned both sides to be cautious about what they say.

Amarat accused the prime minister of turning a blind eye to the army’s numerous procurement and construction projects which, she alleged, are not transparent and wasteful. She also accused the prime minister of being a tyrant, bent on undermining the democratic system.

The Move Forward MP claimed that several of the army’s construction projects were implemented by handpicked contractors, often before bidding was held or before bid results were announced.

Amarat also referred to Prayut’s nickname “Tu” which, she claimed, means to claim something from another person as his own. This prompted the prime minister to hit back immediately, asking her whether the words “Tu” and “Shorty”, apparently referring to Amarat’s height, bear the same meaning. His retort drew laughter from some government MPs.

The prime minister continued by saying that he didn’t think the two words were synonymous and asked which of the two of them has done more for the good of the country.

At the end of her speech, Amarat held up a mirror, saying that she wanted to present it to the prime minister so he could take a good look at himself, to which he replied he barely used mirrors anyway.

The 4-day censure debate, the fourth and final one for this administration, will wrap up on Friday, followed by a vote in the Lower House on Saturday.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Thai PM hits back at Opposition leader’s allegations in censure debate

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took a swipe at exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, without naming names, in his response to attacks on him by Opposition and Pheu Thai party leader Chonlanan Srikaew at the start of the censure debate today (Tuesday).

Chonlanan accused the prime minister of lacking in leadership, incompetence, abuse of power, lacking vision and of lacking moral legitimacy, among other things. “If Prayut were the brand name of a product, that brand name would be rejected by the people if they listen to the Opposition’s debate,” he said.

He also accused the government of a complete failure to manage national affairs, from the economy, environment and public health to public borrowing, income disparity, illegal narcotics and divisions among the people.

In response to the allegation that he was the root cause of political polarisation in Thailand, the prime minister refuted the claim and told the Pheu Thai party to look back at its history, its mistakes and the “individuals who escaped imprisonment.”

He also said that he does not mind that Chonlanan might have admired someone with whom he used to work, with someone who he thought is smarter than him, and asked Chonlanan to try his best to bring them back to Thailand.

The prime minister went on to say that he has heard Chonlanan’s allegations against him and his government in the previous censure debates and said it is an “old script” adding, however, that he is willing to respond all of them.

Nevertheless, he asked the opposition leader not to compare the government to the vulnerable group, which includes people over 60, those with underlying diseases and the pregnant, noting that this comparison damages the dignity of those people.

He claimed that the government has a vision for Thailand’s future in its 20-year national strategy, which aims to reform the country in all aspects, including economic restructuring through innovation.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, the prime minister claimed that the government had succeeded in containing the spread of the disease, to the extent that its model of success has been applied in other countries.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Thailand’s PM in Bangkok

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, met with Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, and Foreign Affairs Minister, Don Pramudwinai, on Sunday, as part of his Southeast Asia tour.

Prime Minister Prayut said that he is pleased that close bilateral relations with the United States continue, especially as next year will mark the 190th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. He also said that it is important now to push cooperation, not only between Thailand and the United States but also with ASEAN member countries, in areas such as public health and climate change.

Blinken said that the United States is committed to ASEAN centrality and to their own partnership with the region. He also said that he appreciates Thailand’s leadership of APEC, during which a summit will take place in November, and that Thailand is an original member of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

Blinken further stated that this is a very important opportunity for the United States to help shape the economy going forward, in ways that will benefit people both in Thailand and the United States.

Earlier, Blinken met with Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai, when they attended the signing of the Thai-U.S. Communiqué on Strategic Alliance and Partnership and the Memorandum of Understanding to Promote Supply Chain Resilience.

Blinken flew into Bangkok last night for his first official visit to Thailand, following the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia. He will be visiting Tokyo on Monday to offercondolences to the Japanese people, in light of the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Blinken’s visit came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Thailand last week, as part of his tour of Southeast Asia, which includes Myanmar, Thailand, the Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. Such moves by two global-superpowers are an apparent bid to exert and counterbalance their influences in the ASEAN region.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Shinzo Abe, powerful former Japan PM, leaves divided legacy

TOKYO (AP) — Shinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power. Japan’s longest serving prime minister, he was also perhaps the most polarizing, complex politician in recent Japanese history.

Abe, who was assassinated Friday, angered both liberals at home and World War II victims in Asia with his hawkish push to revamp the military and his revisionist view that Japan was given an unfair verdict by history for its brutal past.

At the same time, he revitalized Japan’s economy, led efforts for the nation to take a stronger role in Asia and served as a rare beacon of political stability before stepping down two years ago for health reasons.

“He’s the most towering political figure in Japan over the past couple of decades,” said Dave Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University. “He wanted Japan to be respected on the global stage in the way that he felt was deserved. … He also wanted Japan to not have to keep apologizing for World War II.”

Abe, who died after being shot during a campaign speech, was 67.

Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the attack, which shocked many in Japan, one of the world’s safest nations with some of the strictest gun control laws. Near the suspect was a double-barreled device that appeared to be a handmade gun.

Abe believed that Japan’s postwar track record of economic success, peace and global cooperation was something “other countries should pay more attention to, and that Japanese should be proud of,” Leheny said.

Abe was a darling of conservatives but reviled by many liberals in Japan. And no policy was more divisive than his cherished, ultimately unsuccessful dream to revise Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. His ultra-nationalism also angered the Koreas and China, both wartime victims of Japan.

That push for constitutional revision stemmed from his personal history. Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, despised the U.S.-drafted constitution, adopted during the American postwar occupation. For Abe, too, the 1947 charter was symbolic of what he saw as the unfair legacy of Japan’s war defeat and an imposition of the victors’ world order and Western values.

That constitution renounces the use of force in international conflicts, and limits Japan’s military to self defense, although the country has a well-equipped modern army, navy and air force that work closely with the United States, Japan’s top ally.

Poor public support for the changes doomed Abe’s push, but the goal still enjoys backing from his ultra-conservative supporters.

Abe bristled against postwar treaties and the tribunal that judged Japanese war criminals. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.

He also was a driving force for Japanese conservatives’ efforts to whitewash wartime atrocities and push for an end of apologies over atrocities.

Supporters point to his efforts to raise Japan’s profile on the international stage, and his proposal for a new order of like-minded democracies as a counter to China’s rise, something Washington and others soon endorsed.

Abe was also a big influence on current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s policies, pushing for the bolstering of military capability, including a preemptive-strike capability.

Abe stepped down as prime minister in 2020 because he said the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager resurfaced.

He told reporters at the time that it was “gut wrenching” to leave many of his goals unachieved. In addition to the failure on constitutional revision, he was also unable to settle several other unfinished legacies of the war, including normalizing ties with North Korea, settling island disputes with neighbors and signing a peace treaty with Russia formally ending their hostilities in World War II.

Abe was praised in Washington for his push for a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship, which he saw as a means of bolstering Japan’s defense capability. Japan hosts 50,000 U.S. troops as a bulwark in the region amid tensions with China and North Korea.

Abe charmed conservatives with his security policies because of fears of terrorism, North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons ambitions and China’s military assertiveness.

But there has always been general public support for the pacifist constitution and divided views on amendments within Abe’s governing party. Many lawmakers preferred to focus on economic growth.

Abe said he was proud of working for a stronger Japan-U.S. security alliance and shepherding the first visit by a serving U.S. president to the atom-bombed city of Hiroshima. He also helped Tokyo gain the right to host the 2020 Olympics by pledging that a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” when it was not.

Abe became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52, but his overly nationalistic first stint abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health.

The end of that scandal-laden term was the beginning of six years of annual Japanese leadership change, remembered as an era of “revolving door” politics that lacked stability and long-term policies.

When he returned to office in 2012, Abe vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combined fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.

He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power, bolstering Japan’s defense role and its security alliance with the U.S. He also stepped up patriotic education at schools and raised Japan’s international profile.

Abe left office as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister by consecutive days in office, eclipsing the record of Eisaku Sato, his great-uncle, who served 2,798 days from 1964 to 1972.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

China calls for junta cooperation with Myanmar opposition to resolve crisis

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on Myanmar’s military regime to work with the opposition to resolve the country’s political crisis, days after an ASEAN envoy concluded a visit there without meeting any anti-junta stakeholders.

According to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s official website on Monday, Wang told the junta that Beijing wants to see “reconciliation” in Myanmar and that “all those involved in politics should hold a dialogue for the sake of the people.”

Wang was in Mandalay region’s Bagan city on Sunday to attend the 7th Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Summit, co-chaired by China and Myanmar. China’s Foreign Ministry said Wang met with junta Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin on Monday to discuss reconciliation in Myanmar and informed him that his country can only move forward when political and social stability are achieved.

A statement from the junta following Monday’s meeting said the two sides “discussed ways to work more closely with the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).” The statement did not address China’s call for cooperation with Myanmar’s opposition, and calls by RFA seeking comment from junta deputy information minister, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, went unanswered Tuesday.

Myanmar-based political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe told RFA Burmese that the military regime is seeking legitimacy on the global stage with the help of China after drawing condemnation from its fellow member nations in ASEAN over its Feb. 1, 2021, coup and an ensuing crackdown that has caused the deaths of at least 2,065 civilians, according to Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

“They are aiming for international acceptance of what they are doing at home,” he said.

But Sai Kyi Zin Soe said the junta cannot expect its status within ASEAN to change overnight, even with the help of China, and expects a power struggle will continue with the bloc.

China’s Foreign Ministry has said it “supports the international community’s efforts to protect Myanmar’s interests and reputation,” according to a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A spokesman for the Pro-democracy Strike Committee (Dawei), an anti-junta group, told RFA that the junta is seeking Chinese help because of declining international support.

“The junta has no international support at all … and so they must rely on China,” said the spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “As China is a world power, the regime is relying on it to obtain international recognition.”

Concern for investments

Kyaw Zaw, a spokesman for the office of the president for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), told RFA that Wang attended the Lancang-Mekong meeting in an attempt to “legitimize the junta,” and warned that doing so would be harmful to the country’s economy and development.

“It would be detrimental to regional security, as it would lead to more instability in the area and there will be even more violence in Myanmar,” he said. “The situation would become an obstacle for economic development. The military’s actions are based on violence, and violence does not bring stability.”

Kyaw Zaw said the NUG’s goals are aimed at achieving economic growth for the country and that the shadow government is committed to protecting genuine businesses, while the military is turning economic projects into “battlefields.”

Since the coup, Myanmar’s armed opposition has targeted Chinese investment and development in the country, particularly projects that could earn the junta income it says is used to oppress the people.

At least 77 clashes took place in the 42 townships where the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor project was to be implemented between July 2021 and April 2022, according to research group Institute for Strategy and Policy Myanmar.

Political analyst Ye Tun said China is concerned about its investments in Myanmar as the conflict is unlikely to end any time soon.

“Because of that, they are also concerned about their future investments in Myanmar and their security,” he said.

“That’s why they are pushing for the implementation of the ASEAN agreement,” he added, referring to a Five-Point Consensus agreed to by Min Aung Hlaing at an emergency ASEAN meeting on the crisis in April 2021.

Points agreed to during last year’s emergency ASEAN meeting included an immediate end to violence in the country, the distribution of humanitarian aid, dialogue among all parties, and the appointment of an ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar who would be permitted to meet with all stakeholders. The junta has yet to implement any of the points in the 14 months since the meeting, while continuing its violent crackdown on opponents.

China has become the largest source of foreign investment in Myanmar since the withdrawal of Western businesses following the military coup. However, trade between the two countries dwindled to U.S. $4.3 billion in the 2021-2022 budget year, down from more than U.S. $5 billion a year earlier, according to figures from the junta’s Ministry of Commerce.

‘Sham effort’

Wang Yi’s comments came days after Prak Sokhonn, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations special envoy to Myanmar, concluded a June 29-July 2 trip to Myanmar, during which he met with junta chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and International Cooperation Minister Ko Ko Hlaing.

He also met with seven ethnic armed groups — all signatories of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government since 2015 — and seven political parties that won seats in Parliament in the country’s November 2020 election.

A July 2 statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cambodia, which hosts the rotating chair of ASEAN, said Sokhonn met with Min Aung Hlaing and Wunna Maung Lwin to find a way to work with the U.N.’s representative for Myanmar, stop the violence, release political prisoners, speak with civilians — including Suu Kyi — and access areas where humanitarian assistance is difficult to reach. The statement said he discussed how the U.N. and international NGOs should be involved in humanitarian assistance with the junta’s minister for International Cooperation, Ko Ko Hlaing.

However, the envoy did not meet with any armed ethnic groups that are opposed to the junta’s coup, nor the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won Myanmar’s 2020 election in a landslide victory before being deposed in last year’s putsch.

Kyaw Htwe, a member of the NLD’s Central Working Committee, said Sokhonn’s failure to meet the opposition or other anti-junta stakeholders during his second visit to Myanmar as ASEAN envoy would only serve to legitimize military rule.

“It was a meaningless, sham effort by the junta which showcased it as a sign of goodwill towards Myanmar’s democracy, but the special envoy was only allowed to meet with those who support the military,” he told RFA.

“In fact, history has shown that talks excluding all ethnic groups and [detained NLD leader] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the legal winner of the 2020 elections and who still has the support of the people, have proved futile.”

Rakhine National Party Chairman Thar Tun Hla, who met with Sokhonn, called the special envoy’s visit “unsuccessful,” as it only focused on implementing one facet of the Five-Point Consensus.

“He only informed us that we will be able to do humanitarian work,” he said. “There are five points to the ASEAN consensus. Of the five, he has fulfilled only one and so the likelihood of the trip being a success is low.”

Aid allotment

Thar Tun Hla said that while no other agreements were reached, Sokhonn had revealed that ASEAN allotted U.S. $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Myanmar.

A spokesman for the Karen Social Welfare Group in Kayin state said that Sokhonn’s visit wouldn’t benefit refugees on the ground because he had only discussed humanitarian issues with the military.

“The military is the one causing trouble for our people — everyone can see this,” he said. “[He] only met directly with the military regime [and those they approved], and not the people, so we don’t think it will be beneficial for the refugees.”

During his first visit in March, Sokhonn met with only a few people chosen by the junta. While he held more meetings this visit, political analysts said his failure to meet with key figures, such as Suu Kyi, will not be of much use.

Radio Free Asia Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Former MP questions how a defective Thai parliament building was accepted

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong is seeking answers from the office of the secretary-general of the House of Representatives about how it can accept the delivery of the 12 billion baht parliament building from its builder, Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Public Company, despite its many defects.

In raising the questions, Watchara showed some pictures of an exhibition hall on the ground floor of the building, taken on Friday evening when Bangkok was hit by heavy rain. He claimed that rain water had leaked through the roof onto the wooden flooring of the exhibition hall and several exhibition boards collapsed, forcing workers to mop the floors in several areas of parliament, including the exhibition hall.

He claimed that the frames of two paintings had broken and two aluminium ceiling sheets, each about 1.5 m x 1.5 m in size, had collapsed during the storm. Fortunately, there was no one in the exhibition hall at the time, otherwise someone could have been hurt, he said.

Watchara said he has asked the parliament compound’s security chief, Arun Laipongpaew, why the House secretariat had not reported these defects to the public and whether people who visit the exhibition hall will have to wear crash helmets for their safety.

He claimed that there was an instruction from a senior parliamentary official for all workers and officials to keep their mouths shut and not to disclose this to the media.

The former Democrat MP also claimed that the wooden flooring did not match the contractual specification, as the wood should have been Takhian Thong (hopea odoral), but it is actually Payome (shorea roxburghii) and that the 65 parliamentary committee rooms are not sound proof, as required by the contract.

Watchara said that the Building Safety Inspectors and Officers Association had checked the parliament building and found 198 risk areas.

“Where is the dignity of parliament when the exhibition, to mark the 90th anniversary of Thai parliament, is held in a hall with wooden flooring that does not match the specification?” he asked.

The construction of parliament was supposed to be completed in 900 days, but after 3,351 days, the building is yet to be completed and there are still many defects, said Watchara, adding that the project’s builder notified the secretariat of the House of Representatives last Friday that the building is complete and ready for handover to parliament for formal acceptance.

The office of the secretary-general of the House of Representatives said in a statement today that the exhibition hall is an outdoor space, in line with the architectural design of the parliament building, for energy conservation and better air circulation and that the wooden flooring is water resistant.

During the heavy rain on Thursday, some of the booths belonging to exhibitors in the exhibition hall did collapse due to the strong wind, because they were erected for temporary use only, and they can be reassembled.

The office also claimed that pictures showing water leaking from the roof were old and that the problem was fixed some time ago.

The office also assured that acceptance of the parliament building from the builder will be strictly in accordance with regulations, to ensure that the building is worthy of the cost and will be beneficial to the state.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Pheu Thai party renews call for PM to scrap emergency decree

The opposition Pheu Thai party has renewed its call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to revoke the Emergency Decree, claiming that the special law, which was imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 more than two years ago, is no longer relevant because the status of the pandemic is steadily improving.

Pheu Thai party leader Chonlanan Srikaew said today (Friday) that retaining the law, as the country is moving towards classifying COVID-19 as an endemic disease, will be counter-productive to economic development and rehabilitation of the country, as well as public participation in matters of public interest.

A statement, issued by the party today, said that the decree was supposed to contain the pandemic, but it has been misused, through the issuance of a regulation to control public gatherings and arrests of students and many other people who defied the decree.

The decree has been used for political purposes to restrict freedom of expression and to muzzle criticism of the government, read the statement, adding that there is no justification whatsoever to keep it.

Even without the decree, the party said that the government still has the Disease Control Act to deal with COVID-19.

The Emergency Decree was imposed throughout the country on March 26th, 2020. It has since been extended 18 times and is currently scheduled to expire on July 31st.

Under the law, officials who performed their duties in enforcing the law will be exempt from civil, criminal and disciplinary accountability.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Nepal police fire teargas to break up fuel price protests

KATHMANDU, June 20 (Reuters) – Police in Nepal‘s capital fired teargas and charged at protesters with sticks on Monday to break up a demonstration by students against fuel price hikes, officials and witnesses said, in a sign of growing public discontent over rising inflation.

State-owned monopoly Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) on Monday raised the price of one litre of petrol and diesel by 12% and 16% respectively, prompting fears of broader price hikes.

Around 100 protesters from the All Nepal National Free Student Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of the main opposition Nepal Communist Party (Unified Marxist-Leninist) clashed with police after they were stopped from rallying in Kathmandu.

“This is an act of the government’s sheer irresponsibility,” Girish Thagunna, a protester, told Reuters, referring to the price hike. “This is wrong and should be withdrawn immediately.”

Dinesh Mainali, a police official, said protesters threw stones and damaged a police vehicle but that there were no injuries or arrests.

Fares for public transport and goods vehicles had been increased by up to 7.7% following the fuel price increase, local authorities said.

Nepal‘s 29 million people are facing a surge in food and energy prices, raising the risk of social unrest. Annual retail inflation accelerated to a six-year high of 7.87% in mid-May.

Supplies Minister Dilendra Prasad Badu told a parliamentary committee on Monday that the hike was necessary because of an increase in global oil prices and to help the loss-making NOC to pay for imports.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

Malaysia, Thailand should renew bilateral agreement to deepen cooperation

BANGKOK, June 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa urged Malaysia and Thailand to renew bilateral agreements to deepen cooperation in the field of telecommunications, broadcasting and creative industries.

“I hope an agreement would be signed before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting (in November) to boost bilateral cooperation,” he told Bernama.

Annuar who was on a working visit to Bangkok since last Friday said though it is a brief visit, he was satisfied with the outcome.

“I’am happy that we have learned a lot of things during the visit, including exploring the ties at the officials, ministries and national level,” said Annuar who flew back home on Tuesday.

On Monday, he visited the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) to learn about Thailand’s experience in combating fake news.

Annuar also met the Chairman of NBTC Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck and Director General of Public Relations Department (PRD) Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd where they discussed on various issues and efforts in tackling fake news.

The NBTC is an independent state broadcasting and telecommunications regulator. Its responsibilities including regulate all broadcasting and telecommunication services in the country through formulating a master plan on broadcasting and telecommunications activities and setting criteria and categories of broadcasting and telecommunication services and granting licenses to the broadcasting and telecommunication operators.

NBT, the broadcasting arm of the PRD that operates comprehensive media services comprising radio, television networks.

Meanwhile, Annuar said media literacy could help Malaysia stay ahead in the fight against fake news.

He said media literacy would develop stronger ‘antibody’ or resistance among the community, especially among students in a bid to curb unverified news on social media platforms.

“Fake news is just like a virus… difficult to do away. The best possible method is to build antibody to fight the virus. So, for the government, we have to make sure the people have the capacity to detect misinformation and at the same time encourage the people to disseminate right information.

“We need to educate the people and community as well as collaborate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to curb fake news,” he said.

Annuar said Thailand has been very active in combating disinformation including providing training, organise programme and creating awareness as well as conducting survey and research.

“There are interesting things implemented in Thailand that we have yet to do. Therefore, I have requested MCMC to follow up,” he said.


Duterte’s daughter takes oath as Philippine vice president

MANILA (AP) — Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing populist president of the Philippines, took her oath Sunday as vice president following a landslide electoral victory she clinched despite her father’s human rights record that saw thousands of drug suspects gunned down.

The inauguration in their southern hometown of Davao, where she’s the outgoing mayor, comes two weeks before she assumes office on June 30 as specified in the Philippine Constitution. President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte’s running mate, will take his oath in Manila on June 30.

“I’m not the best or the most intelligent person in the Philippines and the world but nobody can beat the toughness of my heart as a Filipino,” Duterte, who wore a green traditional gown, said in a speech after she took her oath before a Supreme Court associate justice, her hand resting on a Bible held by her mother.

“The voice of 32.2 million Filipinos was loud and clear — with the message to serve our motherland,” Duterte said, referring to the votes she got, to an applause from thousands of supporters.

Fondly called by supporters as “Inday Sara,” the mother of three called for national unity and devotion to God and asked Filipinos to emulate the patriotism of the country’s national hero Jose Rizal. She cited longstanding social ills facing Filipino children, including poverty, broken families, illegal drugs, bullying and online misinformation and asked parents to ingrain in them the values of integrity, discipline, respect for others and compassion.

President Rodrigo Duterte, 77, led the VIPs in the heavily guarded ceremony at a public square near city hall in the port city of Davao, where he had also served as a mayor starting in the late 1980s. His family, hailing from a modest middle-class background, built a formidable political dynasty in the restive southern region long troubled by communist and Muslim insurgencies and violent political rivalries.

Duterte’s presidency has been marked by a brutal anti-drugs campaign that has left thousands of mostly petty suspects shot dead by police or vigilantes. The drug killings are being investigated by the International Criminal Court as a possible crime against humanity.

The electoral triumphs of Sara Duterte and Marcos Jr. have alarmed left-wing and human rights groups because of their failure to acknowledge the massive human rights atrocities that took place under their fathers, including late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte campaigned on a vague platform of national unity without clearly addressing activists’ calls for them to take steps to prosecute the elder Duterte when he retires from politics.

One of the president’s sons, Sebastian Duterte, will succeed his sister as Davao mayor, and another son, Paolo Duterte, won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 9 elections. The outgoing president’s late father was a former Davao governor.

Philippine elections have long been dominated by politicians belonging to the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolized power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited under the constitution. Congress — long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban — has failed to pass the law needed to define and enforce the provision.

While Sara Duterte, 44, refused calls by her father and supporters to seek the presidency, she has not ruled out a future run. She topped pre-elections surveys for the president last year and won with a huge margin like Marcos Jr.

Aside from the vice president, she has agreed to serve as education secretary, although there were talks that her initial preference was to head the Department of National Defense, a traditional springboard to the presidency.

Still, the education portfolio would provide her first national political platform, especially with plans to resume physical classes soon after the country was hit hard by two years of coronavirus pandemic outbreaks and lockdowns.

She thanked her Davao supporters on Saturday and said she decided to hold her inauguration in one of the country’s most developed cities to show her pride as a southern provincial politician who rose to a top national post.

Duterte finished a medical course and originally wanted to become a doctor but later took up law and was prevailed upon to enter politics starting in 2007, when she was elected as Davao vice mayor and mayor three years later.

In 2011, she drew national attention when she was caught on video punching and assaulting a court sheriff who was helping lead a police demolition of a shanty community despite her plea for a brief deferment. The court official sustained a black eye and face injuries and was taken by her bodyguards to a hospital.

Despite her public feuds with her father, Sara Duterte had her hair shaved a year before the 2016 elections as a show of support for his candidacy.

He won the single six-year mandate by a huge margin on an audacious but failed promise to eradicate illegal drugs and corruption in three to six months and constant public threats to kill drug dealers.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)