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The Thai Royal Household said in an official notice that all titles, military ranks and decorations were returned to Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi after she was found “untainted,” implying that she was innocent of previous accusations.

She was accused nearly a year ago of trying to usurp power and prestige from the queen. Sineenat, 35, had previously attempted to obstruct the King’s wife, Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya from being crowned, and had asked to be appointed to the role instead, a royal notice at the time said.

“It is regarded as if she was not stripped of her royal status, her royal military position and military rank and all her royal decorations were never recalled before,” the latest announcement read.

Details surrounding her reappointment are scant. Similarly, it remains unknown where she spent the intervening months. Due to Thailand’s stringent lese majeste law, CNN has limits in reporting the full context surrounding the Thai monarchy and its palace intrigue. The law makes it illegal to insult or defame the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent, and convictions can carry a 15-year prison sentence. Since retired army general and current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power in a military coup in 2014, hundreds of activists have been charged under sweeping laws such as sedition or lese majeste.

Those laws do not appear to have deterred Thais from discussing Sineenat’s royal reemergence on social media. The phrase “free of blemish” was the top trend on Twitter in Thailand Thursday morning, as was the hashtag “ReformTheMonarchy.”

Sineenat is the first royal consort in nearly a century. She was a former army nurse who served in the King’s royal bodyguard unit, and held the military ranking of major general. She spent time in the military undertaking courses in jungle warfare and piloting, according to state broadcaster Thai PBS.

After being named royal consort in July 2019, she held the post for only three months before being stripped of her titles.

While it’s unclear why Sineenat is being reinstated now, it comes at a time of political upheaval.

Thousands of Thais protested last month to demand democratic reforms, and among them were a small but increasingly vocal group that is calling for changes to the monarchy. Expressing any dissatisfaction with the Thai royal family has long been considered verboten, radical and even dangerous — and not just because of the lese majeste laws. The institution is revered with almost religious fervor by many Thais.

Thailand's monarchy was long considered God-like. But protesters say it's time for change

The father of Vajiralongkorn, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reigned for 70 years and was widely seen as a stable father figure who navigated the country through decades of coups and political unrest. He was also beloved by many for his work to improve the lives of ordinary people.

His son, Vajiralongkorn, who assumed the throne in 2016 and was crowned in May 2019, doesn’t hold that same respect or moral authority.

Vajiralongkorn is believed to spend much of his time overseas and has been largely absent from public life in Thailand as the country grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Thailand marked 100 consecutive days with no locally transmitted Covid-19 infections.

Although the absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand in 1932, the monarch still wields significant political influence. Thais are still expected to follow a long tradition of worshiping the royal institution.

“The monarchy is revered, you have to love it unconditionally,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an exiled Thai dissident who is now an associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University.

Calls for change

An estimated 10,000 anti-government protesters young and old packed Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on August 16, calling for democratic reforms, changes to the military-written constitution and for the dissolution of parliament.

Grievances ones whispered in private are now being chanted in public.

However, experts say the calls for monarchical reform could clash with those seeking changes to government — they could could alienate large numbers of protesters. In July, Prime Minister Prayut said he was “worried and concerned about this movement” and warned protesters against violating the monarchy.

His party was banned. He faces jail. But Thailand's Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit vows to fight on

“I feel for our children, youths and university students and I also share their parents’ worries too. But there must be a vigilance about violations, I think people won’t tolerate it and allow an incident like this to happen again,” he said.

Prayut’s military-backed ruling coalition has promised to restore stability to a nation rocked by decades of coups and political crises, but many of the country’s young people feel Prayut’s government has done little to improve their economic prospects, restore democracy, or build confidence in the people.

Young people turned out to vote en masse in 2019, hoping to bring new, progressive, pro-democracy parties into power. But they were thwarted in part by a military-drafted constitution that enabled the generals to keep hold of power via the Senate led by an unelected Prime Minister.

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Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.

The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’

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Tension Has Escalated Between Tory MPs And Marcus Rashford Ahead Of A Vote On Free School Meals

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Tories must face up to their “conscience” today on a vote on extending free school meals over the holidays, Labour has claimed, as footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford ramped up the pressure on politicians to back it.

The challenge from shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq came after another difficult morning for the government as Manchester United star Rashford said he was “paying close attention” to the vote and then got into a Twitter spat with Tory MP Steve Baker over who has the power to introduce the free meals.

Moments later Tory backbencher Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, broke ranks to say she would be supporting Labour’s motion on extending the free school meals until next Easter. Education select committee chair Conservavtive Robert Halfon has urged the government to work with Rashford.

When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions to back the proposal by Labour, Boris Johnson said the government wanted to use the benefits system to support children in the hoildays.

“I want to make sure we continue to support families thoughout the crisis so they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do,” he said. 

Earlier this week government minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that struggling families can claim Universal Credit and that many parents do not like being labelled as being on ‘free school meals’ instead preferring to pay a modest sum of money to a holiday club to provide food.

Siddiq told PoliticsHome: “A lot of the Tories, Don Valley, Bishop Aukland and places like that they’re all a little bit worried. It’s the kind of thing that can be used against them in their patches.

“Even if they don’t walk through the lobbies with us tonight that they put a lot of pressure on the prime minister. And that’s how it happened last time.

“I know it’s not easy to break the whip but some votes are a matter of conscience and this is one of them.

“We’re going to be facing the toughest winter of a generation, there’s coronavirus, the end of the furlough scheme – children are in for a tough ride. Why can’t we just do one last thing for parents so they don’t have to worry?”

She said some Tories she had spoken to directly in Parliament on Tuesday were sympathetic to the issue but they did not want to break the whip.

The vouchers were introduced for the poorest families in August after significant pressure from Rashford. The England striker said today that the situation for children is now worse than in the summer.

The vote at 7pm is on a Labour motion calling on the government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021. They say it would prevent a million children going hungry.

Rashford tweeted that he was paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to “turn a blind eye” to the needs of our most vulnerable children.

He wrote: “2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”

He then got into an disagreement with MP Steve Baker who said Rashford was the one with all the power to make the change on free school meals because he has more Twitter followers that he does, despite Baker being a politician for the ruling Conservative party.

Baker said instead Universal Credit could be boosted to try and help families..

Morris, who was elected in 2010 said that she would vote against her own party tonight because of the economic fall out for people in her constituency.

She tweeted: “The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021.

“This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system.”

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Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia

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image copyrightReuters

image captionThe dam will be the biggest hydro-electric project in Africa

Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.

Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.

The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.

Why is the dam disputed?

Egypt relies for the bulk of its water needs on the Nile and is concerned supplies could be cut off and its economy undermined as Ethiopia takes control of the flow of Africa’s longest river.

Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.

The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.

  • Who owns the River Nile – and why it matters

  • Egypt fumes as Ethiopia celebrates over Nile dam
  • How the Nile’s mega dam will be filled

Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.

Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.

Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.

What did the Ethiopian PM say?

PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.

Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.

“Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind,” he said. “Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future.”

Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.

image copyrightReuters
image captionSudan is worried too – the Blue and White Niles meet in Khartoum

Why did Trump get involved?

The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.

The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.

The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

But Mr Trump also said “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way”.

He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe dam came up in a phone call with Sudan’s prime minister

What is the state of the negotiations?

Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.

But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.

Related Topics

  • Nile

  • Sudan
  • Donald Trump
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia

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