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Rivals raise pressure on Senate

Posted by pakin On May - 14 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

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.

Protesters leave Lumpini for Rajdamnoen

Posted by pakin On May - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Anti-government protesters on Monday cleaned Lumpini Park as they prepared to move to a new rally site at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Rajdamnoen Road.

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters had occupied the park for two months. The protesters were seen packing their belongings and their tents.

They are scheduled to depart the park at 2.14pm. The march to Makkhawan Rangsan will be led by Suthep and core leaders.

The march will pass Rajdamri road, Rajprasong and Pathumwan intersections, Phaya Thai road, Rajthevi intersection, Urupong, Yommarat and Nang Leung intersections before arriving at Makkhawan Rangsan which is opposite United Nations headquarters.

Upon arrival at the site, some protesters will go to the Parliament to monitor the Senate’s special session on the political situation.

Bomb squads are scheduled to check the park for possible abandoned explosives after the protesters leave.

All eyes on army as crisis peaks

Posted by pakin On May - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Analysis: Suthep ramps up protest in bid to highlight govt ‘ineptness’

Suthep Thaugsuban’s move on Friday to mobilise anti-government protesters across the city is aimed at reinforcing his message that the caretaker government is inept and lacks legitimacy following the political blows it received this week.

As soldiers guarded an entrance to parliament Friday during a session to elect a new Senate speaker, all eyes shifted to the key decision maker, army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)

Mr Suthep is trying to win over support from the leaders of three institutions which he believes still wield legitimate power — the Supreme Court president, the Senate speaker, and the Election Commission (EC) chairman — to push through the appointment of an interim prime minister under Section 7 of the charter.

As far as government supporters are concerned he will not succeed. And no matter how the political situation turns out this weekend, the role of the military is central to the current impasse — for better or worse.

Capitalising on the Constitutional Court’s decision on Wednesday to remove Yingluck Shinawatra as caretaker prime minister for abuse of power over the Thawil Pliensri transfer, Mr Suthep brought forward the date of his latest “final all-out battle” against the government and the so-called “Thaksin regime”.

From their bases at Lumpini Park and Chaeng Watthana, People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters fanned out across the city to seven locations — Government House, TV channels 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11, and the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo).

In “visiting” various television stations, Mr Suthep demanded that they broadcast live his nightly speeches and not air statements from Capo — a move which could boost his claims to legitimacy and buoy supporters to join the protests this weekend.

Capo, in response, issued a short statement urging the public not to join the protests as they risked legal action. The government has refused to engage or respond to Mr Suthep’s demand that acting caretaker PM Niwatthamrong Bunsongpaisal meet him to discuss the formation of a new interim government.

Mr Niwatthamrong’s only comment on Friday was that he hoped there would not be any violence.

At Government House, Mr Suthep was allowed to step into the grounds alone as the protesters massed outside the gates.

He called on the the Supreme Court president, the Senate speaker, who was elected last night, and the EC chairman to set up an “interim people’s government and legislative assembly” within the next few days.

These three individuals, he said, now represent the remaining legitimate pillars of power in this country and they should act to form an interim government within a few days.

If they do not the PDRC would do the job itself. He did not elaborate.

The role of the Senate speaker is crucial as he would be the one who nominates and countersigns a new prime minister for His Majesty the King’s endorsement.

The PDRC and its allies expressed satisfaction that Surachai Liangboonlertchai, the incumbent first deputy speaker and acting speaker, was elected the new Senate speaker last night.

The caretaker government had backed Pol Gen Jongrak Jutanont for the job.

The PDRC believes Sen Surachai will agree to the PDRC’s push for an interim PM through Section 7 of the constitution despite the fact that interpretation of the section is still disputed.

The law states: “Whenever no provision under this constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided in accordance with the constitutional practice in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State”.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court president, the new Senate speaker, and the Election Commission chairman will agree to Mr Suthep’s demands.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship says Mr Suthep’s Senate game plan will not succeed.

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said that even if a new Senate leader is elected by its members, it requires royal endorsement. This means Mr Suthep’s plan cannot proceed.

The red shirts say Mr Suthep’s ultimate game plan is to instigate violent clashes that would give the military the excuse to stage a coup.

The fact that the PDRC has split up its protests across the city makes it susceptible to grenade attacks and shootings. Mr Jatuporn urged red-shirt supporters not to act independently but remain in their positions on full alert and to join their mass rally Saturday at Utthayan Road in Nakhon Pathom.

The red-shirt leadership also said that if there are attacks on anti-government protesters over the weekend, red shirts would not have a hand in them.

It warned the military the red shirts have a duty to protect democracy and would mobilise if there is a military coup.

As the political situation unfolds this weekend the role of the military remains crucial.

Since the start of his protests in October last year, leading up to the “Bangkok shutdown” and from then on the military has adopted a cautious stance.

It has preferred to have police lead crowd and protest control.

If for whatever reason violence breaks out and the government is unable to control the situation, the military will be forced to step in.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, and his hand-picked right-hand man Maj Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Division, King’s Guard, will be key decision-makers.

Yingluck Ousted

Posted by pakin On May - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

THAILAND’S FIRST female prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office yesterday after serving as premier for two years, nine months, and two days.

The dismissal followed a Constitutional Court ruling that she had violated the charter by unlawfully transferring a security tzar shortly after she came to power.

Yingluck was the third prime minister of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s camp to be disqualified from office by the Constitutional Court. First, it was the late Samak Sundaravej, followed by Somchai Wongsawat.

The younger sister of Thaksin became prime minister after she had been introduced to politics as Pheu Thai Party candidate only 46 days before elections.

Her brother Thaksin had been sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions for abuse of power in 2008.

He has been living in self-exile abroad but is widely believed to have been pulling strings in support of his sister.

Political observers said Yingluck was the right choice for Thaksin as prime ministerial candidate for his Pheu ThaiParty in the 2011 election. Together with Thaksin’s populist policies, which received strong support from the North and Northeast, the friendly and photogenic Yingluck led the party to a clear victory in the July 3 election.

Yingluck graduated from Chiang Mai University with a degree in political science and went on to earn a master’s in the same subject from Kentucky State University in the United States. However, she had never run for office or held a government post before the election. She previously pursued a corporate career, formerly as managing director of AIS, the telecommunications firm her brother founded, and as managing director of SC Asset Co, a family firm involved in property.

Yingluck is married to Anusorn Amornchat, managing director of M Link AsiaCorp, another Shinawatra family-owned firm. The couple has one son Supasek.

During the 2011 political campaign, Thaksin described Yingluck as his”clone”. However, Yingluck, who is 18 years younger than her brother, always denied being influenced by him and vowed to work independently.

“I will be myself,” she told reporters before the election.

Against all odds

The political lightweight survived the first year in office against all odds. The most biting remark welcoming Yingluckinto her second year came from Democrat Korn Chatikavanij. “I give her 10 out of 10 for meeting all my expectations,” he quipped, clarifying that he had had a clear idea of whose interests she would be representing and how she would do it.

A former Pheu Thai adviser, without the sarcasm of Korn, agreed with the Democrat. “She has been like a hollow woman, and that helps [Pheu Thai’s agenda],” the source said. “When the person who is supposed to be the biggest target is overlooked or cannot be seen, difficult things can be easy.”

In her second year, Yingluck was seen to establish cordial ties with the military when she was appointed the first female defence minister in 2013. Thaksin is widely known as an opponent of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, who has much influence among the military.

But things unravelled when her Pheu Thai MPs tried to pass an amnesty bill in October, which would have enabledThaksin to return a free man. Since last November, her government has faced intense protests from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

During the rallies, there were reports that Yingluck almost gave in to the resignation demands of the protesters. She changed her mind at the last minute as Thaksin called up and told her to stay on and push for the February 2 election.

Politics eventually taught her a tough lesson. From a political novice, the businesswoman turned into a real politician and learned well how to react and to handle pressure.

“I’m ready to die on the democratic battlefield,” the 46-year-old former prime minister once responded to a demand for her to resign and pave the way for a non-elected prime minister.

Yingluck has also been charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) with neglect of duty in connection with the costly rice-subsidy scheme.

The NACC will decide whether to indict Yingluck today at the earliest, and by May 15 at the latest.

If indicted, Yingluck will face an impeachment vote in the Senate, which could lead to a five-year ban from politics and other criminal charges.

On her last day as premier, Yingluck made her final national address.

“From now on, whatever status I’ll hold, I will move forward in accordance with democracy and rule of law, and stand by the Thai people forever.”

Doubts remain over whether she will run in the next election as the court’s ruling yesterday did not ban her from politics.