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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.

Haj delays prompt inquiry

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

An inquiry is being launched into flight delays that have left more than 2,000 haj pilgrims stranded at Hat Yai International Airport.

Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat said yesterday the problem had arisen because the Civil Aviation Department had allowed Iran Air and Mahan Air to fly Thai pilgrims to Mecca.

The permission was in breach of a cabinet resolution that authorises Thai Airways International to select airlines to carry pilgrims, the minister said.

Mr Nipit said Iran Air and Mahan Air were not permitted to fly across the airspace of some countries or to land at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia. This was causing delays to trips.

The airlines also each had only one aircraft available to fly pilgrims, so they were having to fly back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

Mr Nipit said he suspected certain influential figures had put pressure on the Civil Aviation Department to allow Iran Air and Mahan Air to share in the flights.

Suthas Thitiraweewong, head of the haj affairs centre at the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, said delays to flights to Mecca at Hat Yai stemmed partly from airlines’ red tape.

PAD’s Pathompong, Joy report to CSD

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Former armed forces chief adviser Pathompong Kesornsuk and actress Siriluck Pongchoke, better know as Joy, on Friday morning reported to Pol Col Sanit Mahathavorn, deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division, to acknowledge charges of involvement in the occupation of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in late 2008, reports said.

They were accompanied by lawyers Nitithorn Lamluea and Natthaporn Toprayoon. About 30 yellow-shirts showed up at the Crime Suppression Division in a show of support for the two suspects, according to the reports.

Gen Pathompong, who is retired, said he is not heavy hearted about the charges, as by his action he had been calling for democracy and for the protection of the high institution.

One company of commando police was deployed to maintain law and order.