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Rivals raise pressure on Senate

Posted by pakin On May - 14 - 2014

Surachai urged to get in touch with Thaksin

The Senate is struggling to come up with ways to end the political crisis as both the anti-government movement and the red shirts pile pressure on the Upper House to back their causes. 

The Senate held an informal session for a second day Tuesday to discuss possible solutions to the crisis.

During the session, appointed Senator Wanchai Sornsiri suggested that acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai meet for talks with privy councillors, who are respected throughout the country as senior figures.

Sen Wanchai said Sen Surachai should make contact with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra to discuss the country’s problems.

Thaksin is at the centre of the political conflict and whether or not the political problems end depends solely on him, Sen Wanchai said.

Senator Trungchai Buranasomphop said the country is in urgent need of a new government, adding that an interim prime minister must be installed under Section 7 of the charter.

Sen Surachai said he had instructed the Senate secretariat to invite stakeholders in the political crisis to offer their views in parliament Tuesday. (Story continues after photos)

Acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisarn and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva were invited to speak at the Senate session Tuesday, Sen Surachai said.

Mr Abhisit agreed to come, but Mr Niwatthamrong was not available.

Mr Niwatthamrong said he could not participate in the Senate session because he was tied up with religious ceremonies during Visakha Bucha Day.

He also said he doubted the legality of what the Senate was trying to do.

At the Senate session Tuesday Mr Abhisit suggested that a referendum be held for the public to make decisions on key issues such as how to establish a reform council free of politicians, how to proceed with reforms, and how to ensure an elected government implements the reforms proposed by the reform council.

If it fails to implement reforms, political parties and politicians who are part of the government must be banned from politics for five years and their parties must be dissolved, Mr Abhisit said.

Sen Surachai said that he also plans to gather feedback from the public following the Senate session.

The acting Senate speaker said the Senate is the only remaining functioning legislative body and so it feels the need to rise to the challenge of ending the political deadlock after the caretaker government failed to do so.

He said all sides must work together to steer the country out of the deadlock if plans to install an interim premier under Section 7 are abandoned.

He said the Senate is ready to withdraw from the mission immediately if other organisations can step in to assure the people they are able to restore peace and harmony to the country.

Sen Surachai also appealed to the Pheu Thai Party not to undermine the morale of the Senate, saying instead it should work with the Upper House to bring an end to the political conflict.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai will file a Department of Special Investigation complaint Wednesday, accusing Sen Surachai and the Group of 40 senators of breaching insurrection laws by aiding and abetting People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Mr Suthep is wanted on an arrest warrant for insurrection, but Sen Surachai on Monday allowed him to enter parliament and held closed-door talks with him regarding PDRC plans for an interim prime minister.

After the informal session of about 60 senators, Sen Somchai said those present had agreed that three working panels will be set up to work with other organisations, in order to handle public relations campaigns and conduct research into ways to end the country’s problems.

Sen Surachai said the Senate secretariat will again contact cabinet members and invite them to join discussions either Wednesday or Thursday.

On Wednesday, the acting Senate speaker will also meet for talks with independent organisations and the private sector to discuss solutions to the political turmoil.

The Senate had also invited the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to speak in parliament, Sen Surachai added. However, UDD secretary-general Nattawut Saikuar said the group had rejected the invitation.

The UDD declined to attend the meeting as it is opposed to the acting Senate speaker nominating an interim prime minister, Mr Nattawut said.

UDD chairman Jatuporn Prompan accused Sen Surachai and Mr Suthep of having joined forces to push for an interim premier.

Mr Jatuporn warned that if the Senate nominates an interim prime minister, the UDD will escalate its rallies to oppose it.

Also Wednesday, Mr Suthep read a statement calling on the Senate to step up efforts to install an interim prime minister.

He said the country currently lacks a functioning government while the caretaker government is not in full command of national administration.

The caretaker government has failed to implement measures to solve economic problems, which adds to the woes of people affected by the rising cost of living.

This underscores the need for a fully functional government with a prime minister who is fully in charge to run the country immediately, Mr Suthep said.

PDRC co-leader Thaworn Senneam said the anti-government group is prepared to take “decisive action” if the Senate cannot convince political stakeholders, independent organisations and the private sector to engage in talks to bring an end to the political turmoil as well as initiate a process to install an interim prime minister within seven days.

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