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Newin softens combative tone

Posted by arnon_k On October - 18 - 2010 5 COMMENTS

Coalition works to end rift over graft charges

Newin Chidchob, de facto leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, has ordered members of his party not to bicker with the Democrats over allegations of irregularities in a computer leasing scheme.

Mr Newin had earlier been angered by the allegations, which targeted members of his party, and had questioned why the Democrats seemed to be trying to expedite the inquiry into the purchase.

Mr Newin’s announcement came after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the coalition party should leave the government if it no longer wanted to be a part of it, a Bhumjaithai source said.

“I don’t want to remove anyone. But if they feel like parting company, they should tell me,” Mr Abhisit said.

Bhumjaithai had not contacted him formally to say it was unhappy being a part of the coalition, he said, although he had heard through the media that its members were disgruntled.

Mr Newin was reportedly upset that the Department of Special Investigation had implicated Chavarat Charnvirakul, Bhumjaithai’s official leader and the interior minister, in alleged irregularities related to the 3.49 billion baht scheme to lease computers for the Provincial Administration Department.

The DSI is a Justice Ministry department overseen by the Democrat minister, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.

Mr Newin earlier aired his displeasure in a telephone conversation with Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban.

He told Mr Suthep that Bhumjaithai might consider withdrawing from the government, a coalition party source said.

Still, key figures from the two parties yesterday were in talks to mend the broadening rift.

The DSI has found links between Mr Chavarat and his close aides, Thani Samartkij and Saksayam Chidchob, Mr Newin’s younger brother, and alleged irregularities in the computer leasing scheme.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission will decide whether to take up the case for further action.

Mr Newin was reported to be under the impression that the DSI was pushing ahead with the case with unusual haste.

Mr Abhisit yesterday denied his Democrat Party was bent on persecuting anyone.

He said it was Mr Chavarat who proposed the holding of an inquiry to look into the computer case. The Office of the Auditor-General joined the investigation with the cabinet’s approval.

Mr Chavarat must now decide if he will go ahead and lease the computers.

Mr Abhisit said he was not offended by reports that Bhumjaithai was finding faults in state projects the ruling party had undertaken.

Democrat MP claims videos set out to destroy party

Posted by arnon_k On October - 18 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Democrat Party MP Wirat Romyen claims video footage appearing to show him arranging for a staff member of the Constitution Court to lobby the court on the party’s behalf is a carefully prepared plot to destroy the Democrats.

The opposition Puea Thai Party yesterday released the footage which it says shows the Democrat Party attempting to influence the court ruling in the case in which it is accused of misusing election funds. The Democrat Party could be disbanded and its executives banned from politics for five years if found guilty.

Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit played the video footage to reporters at his party’s head office. He also told a news conference one clip showed Mr Wirat talking with Pasit Sakdanarong, secretary to the president of the Constitution Court.

One clip, uploaded by “ohmygod3009″ to YouTube, shows three people. One appears to be Mr Wirat asking for the help of Mr Pasit to persuade members of the Election Commission, in particular its chairman and political party registrar Apichart Sukhagganond, to testify in court in favour of the Democrat Party.

Mr Wirat is a Democrat executive and a member of the party’s legal team charged with fighting the allegations of impropriety.

Other clips feature a meeting of court judges talking about the procedures of the case.

Mr Wirat yesterday identified the person he is seen speaking with as ”Mr P”.

He said Mr P contacted him through Worawut Nawapokin, an adviser to the lower house committee on local administration chaired by Mr Wirat. Mr Worawut is seen with the two men in the clip.

The Ranong MP said he agreed to meet Mr P at a Bangkok restaurant on Oct 7 because Mr P was a secretary to the president of the Constitution Court.

Mr Wirat said he did not notify other members of the legal team, including the team chief Chuan Leekpai, about the meeting.

But he said it was now clear he had been set up as a hidden camera was trained on him throughout the meeting.

Mr Wirat said Mr P had tried to ask him ”leading questions”.

Prime Minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said there was no need for his party to lobby the court because it had already explained the facts and information regarding the election fund case.

He said the party’s legal team were satisfied with the progress they have made on the case.

But Mr Abhisit said efforts had been made to discredit the legal proceedings involving the case.

”The court must step forward to provide a clarification on this issue,” he said.

EC commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham described the whole affair as ”frightening” and asked that the Constitution Court clarify what had occurred.

”I believe it must be an insider [who made this video],” Ms Sodsri said.

”It’s impossible for outsiders to have made the clip.”

House committees in strife over staff

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 1 COMMENT

President inquires into questionable hirings

Outsiders appointed to work on parliamentary committees are to be investigated by a panel to see whether they are qualified for their posts or have been hired as a special favour.

The inquiry, ordered by parliament president Chai Chidchob, follows growing criticism of the questionable background of some appointed staff and nepotism by committee members.

Scepticism was raised when Democrat MP Watchara Petthong reported that a chief red shirt guard, Aree Krainara, who faces charges of terrorism in connection with political violence, served as an academic attached to the lower house panel on political development, mass media and general public participation.

That set off a string of allegations that some appointees are family members or close associates of politicians and have nothing to contribute to a committee.

Mr Chai said yesterday he would raise the issue with government chief whip Witthaya Kaewparadai and opposition chief whip Witthaya Buranasiri and work out ways to prevent inappropriate appointments.

“The issue has cast the parliament in a bad light and made it a subject of criticism,” he said.

Mr Chai said the heads of all house committees would be asked to be careful when appointing outsiders to serve on their panels to succeed those whose terms expired on Sept 30.

Mr Watchara yesterday questioned the appointment of red shirt leader Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphum as adviser to deputy house speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai. He said Mr Wiputhalaeng served on Col Apiwan’s political working group in 2008 and 2009 with a monthly salary of 10,000 baht.

Mr Wiputhalaeng is among four red shirt leaders indicted on charges of laying siege to the Si Sao Thewes home of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda in July 2007.

Col Apiwan said yesterday Mr Wiputhalaeng was removed from the committee on May 1 when political tension heightened.

He said he proposed Mr Wiputhalaeng’s removal and the red shirt leader agreed to vacate the post.

Col Apiwan said he did not know the red shirt leader until they were detained in connection with the siege of Gen Prem’s home.

“I could sense that he was a good man. He is an upholder of democratic principles, which is the reason I asked him to work,” he said.

Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan yesterday defended Mr Aree’s track record, saying he was a former staff member of Ramkhamhaeng University and was qualified to hold an advisory post.

He said Mr Aree was considered a suspect, not a convict, so he was qualified to hold the job.

“But as of now he no longer serves on the panel. His term expired and he has not been reappointed,” he said.

Mr Jatuporn also said he would step down as a member of the committee on political development, mass media and general public participation.

Parliamentary statistics show almost 3,000 people work for MPs and are on the lower house payroll.

Each MP can employ five personal assistants and one academic, which brings the total number of personal aides of MPs to 2,844. There are 474 serving MPs.

These personal aides include drivers and private secretaries. Some are party staff members seeking extra income or businessmen establishing political connections.

DSI connects UDD chiefs to arms drills

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Agency claims to have names of sponsors

Red shirt hard-liners who received weapons training in Cambodia enjoyed support from key figures and sponsors of the anti-government movement, the Department of Special Investigation says.

DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit said yesterday intelligence gathered by his department confirmed the names of six people who had provided support to the hard-liners.

Their identities matched descriptions given by 11 red shirts arrested on Oct 2 at a resort in Chiang Mai who claimed they had received arms training in Cambodia.

Mr Tharit said the six were core members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship. They persuaded red shirt supporters to take up weapons training and provided them with financial support.

Mr Tharit refused to reveal the names but said his department would continue its investigations to identify other key red shirt supporters connected to the alleged arms training.

Some were suspected by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation of sponsoring red shirt demonstrations but their names have all been removed from a blacklist of people being investigated.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday responded to Cambodia’s demand for Thailand to explain the report from the DSI that red shirt militants had received arms training in Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand had not accused anyone and he did not need to clarify the issue with Phnom Penh.

The DSI based its report on facts, although it should be careful of releasing information that concerns another country, he said.

Reports that Kasi Ditthanarat, a suspect wanted in connection with the explosion at the Saman Metta Mansion apartment in Nonthaburi on Oct 5, had been arrested could not be confirmed late last night.

Mr Kasi is suspected by the DSI of hiring Samai Wongsuwan, the alleged bomb maker who was killed in the apartment blast.

In Chiang Mai yesterday, Wasa Theprian, the secretary to a lower house committee, reported to police along with a businessman from Bangkok identified as Mr Surachai.

Ms Wasa reportedly transferred 50,000 baht given to her by Mr Surachai to Mr Kasi.

She and Mr Surachai were brought to meet the police by Puea Thai Party MP for Phayao Wisut Chai-narun.