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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.

Suthep to set up ‘office’ in Government House compound.

THE PEOPLE’S Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) will today end its rally at Lumpini Park and move all rally sites to Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge.

PDRC secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban last night made the final speech on the stage at the park.

Suthep yesterday made a speech at the Chamai Maruchet rally site of the Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform and advised the demonstrators that he would lead the march to Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge near Government House today.

After reaching the new rally site, he said he would lead the demonstrators to Parliament to observe a special meeting of the Senate to see if the new Senate Speaker would nominate a non-partisan prime minister for His Majesty’s endorsement.

Suthep said he would set up his new office inside the Santi Maitree Building in the Government House compound.

He would make future statements from his new office and would hold meetings with any group that came to meet him. Protesters would not be allowed inside the compound, only some PDRC staff involved.

Suthep said the latest round of rallies would be the final battle. If the PDRC won by pushing for real reforms, he would return to live in Surat Thani but if he loses, people could visit him in jail.

Meanwhile, Phra Buddha Issara, the monk who is leading the PDRC rally outside Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road, cancelled all activities yesterday.

He rested behind the rally stage after he was injured by a water canon and teargas during a clash with police at the Royal Thai Police Club on Friday.

The Chaeng Wattana rally stage had only music shows yesterday. The PDRC protesters, who had occupied the country’s five main television stations, returned to their rally sites yesterday.

Chumphon Junsai and Chitpas Kridakorn, who led the PDRC protest at MCOT (Channel 9) and returned to Lumpini Park, said MCOT had cooperated with protesters.

Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who led protesters at Channel 7 and returned to Lumpini Park, will protest at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Rajdamnoen Avenue today.

Nathapol Teepsuwan, who led protesters at Channel 3 on Rama IV Road, said the demonstrations at the TV stations were not a threat to the media and the protesters had not intruded into restricted areas.

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.

Victory day soon: Suthep

Posted by Nuttapon_S On April - 6 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

PDRC chief ready to seek royal nod for new PM; Jatuporn warns red shirts won’t allow unelected premier

Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government movement, announced yesterday that if the movement gained “sovereign” status he would seek royal endorsement for a new prime minister.

His announcement came as thousands of pro-government red-shirt demonstrators gathered for a mass rally on Utthayan (Aksa) Road in Nakhon Pathom, just outside Bangkok.

The red-shirt rally is being held at a time when the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is facing a number of legal problems that could lead to its demise.

Suthep yesterday said that as “the people’s medium”, he would nominate a new prime minister for royal endorsement.

He said following that a “people’s assembly” would be set up to reform the country by amending the Constitution and relevant laws, before a new election would be organised.

He said that it was now the “final round” of battle against the caretaker government and that the “victory day” for the anti-government movement was drawing closer.

Suthep, secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), expects the next battle to last about 15 days in a bid to “seize sovereignty back to the people”.

He urged all groups of PDRC’s supporters to be ready for declaration of “victory day”.

“We will have to fight harder and this time it will be known if we will lose or win,” he said before a gathering of PDRC supporters at Lumpini Park.

Suthep said the timing of “victory day” would depend on separate actions by the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court against Yingluck.

The prime minister faces neglect-of-duty charges linked to the loss-making rice price-pledging scheme and allegations of abuse of power over the transfer of National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.

Suthep said the PDRC would prevent the government and its supporters from denying the authority of the court.

“This time we will seize Thailand. The sovereignty belongs to the Thai people and the government has already committed suicide after dissolving the House of Representatives on December 9. We the people have the right to become the sovereign,” he said.

Suthep said that yesterday’s meeting of PDRC leaders from all over the country at Lumpini Park was attended by representatives from some 1,800 groups.

At the red-shirt rally, Jatuporn Promphan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said he expected as many as 500,000 people to take part in the rally.

He said the red shirts would not allow an unelected prime minister to rule the country and that after 82 years the country had had enough of a “lack of democracy”.

Jatuporn said the red shirts would end their rally tomorrow morning and there would be another mass rally on April 18.

A large number of red-shirt participants, most of whom came in different vehicles, caused traffic congestion in areas around the rally site.

PDRC leader Thaworn Senneam believes the caretaker government will be out of power by the end of the month after the Constitutional Court disqualifies Yingluck for illegally transferring Thawil.

The court on Wednesday agreed to rule on Yingluck’s status after a request was made by some senators. It followed a Supreme Administrative Court ruling that Thawil’s transfer was illegal.

Thaworn said the Constitutional Court would not need to work much on the case’s details given that the Administrative Court had already worked on it.

However, Thaworn said there were legal issues to look into, including how Yingluck’s status would change given she was now a caretaker PM.

Another PDRC leader, Suriyasai Katasila, believes the strategic areas of the fight will be in Bangkok, although the capital will need support from the provinces.

However, Suriyasai said the PDRC must expedite drafting of the blueprint for national reform and have it completed by the end of the month.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, as chief adviser to the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), said the red shirts’ rally was well organised and he did not expect any violence.

He said he did not understand the movement of 550 PDRC protesters, led by Phra Buddha Issara, which marched around Siam Paragon shopping centre yesterday.

Surapong believes the number of PDRC protesters has dropped to about 30,000 people and he is concerned a third party will instigate violence.

Col Banphot Poonpien, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command, said that Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha had ordered his men to strictly follow the laws and orders of the CAPO when taking care of peace and order related to the rallies of the PDRC and the UDD.

He said the military would keep a close eye on the two rallies and the situation was not worrisome at the moment while people should not listen to rumours as there had been no signs of violence.