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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.

EC to push ahead with plan for poll

Posted by pakin On May - 5 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

To begin drafting decree for July 20 election, as Abhisit defends his proposal for interim govt

The Election Commission is pushing ahead with plans for a national election on July 20 and is set to draft a Royal Decree to begin the process, after a proposal by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to end the political deadlock received a cool response.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said yesterday that the commission would meet tomorrow to draft the decree for a second poll.

If the draft was completed at the meeting, it would be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration on the same day, he said.

Asked if the EC wanted to comment on Abhisit’s proposal to delay the election to allow for national reforms to occur first, Supachai said the commission had not received the proposal and it was up to the government to decide on the matter.

“If the government has no other ideas, we will continue the process for the election as agreed upon earlier,” Supachai told reporters.

“I don’t know whether the election will go smoothly. Let’s see in the future. I don’t want to anticipate anything now.”

The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which managed to derail the previous election in February, has vowed to block the July 20 poll as well.

The Democrats said they would not take part in the poll if Abhisit’s reform plan was rejected by the government.

The government has dismissed Abhisit’s proposal as unconstitutional.

Abhisit, a former premier, proposed a 10-step road map, beginning with delaying the election and setting up a non-elected government to take care of reforms before the poll.

Noppadon Pattama, a lawyer for former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, posted a message on his Facebook page criticising Abhisit’s proposal, saying it would not bring the country out of the political impasse as it was unconstitutional.

He said the proposal to have the caretaker PM and the caretaker Cabinet step down was contrary to the charter because they had to continue in their duties till the new PM and Cabinet replaced them.

The proposal for the Senate to select a neutral PM was also unconstitutional because the PM must come from a direct election and the Lower House was legally tasked with the duty – not the Upper House.

He said part of the Senate was not directly elected but appointed.

Noppadon said the proposal to adopt the PDRC’s reform plan was not fair since the public would be blocked from taking part in the process.

Abhisit’s proposal was one-sided because it did not include the government’s reform demands. The idea for an interim government to work for five to six months had no legal basis to support it.

“There is not any guarantee that the interim government will not stay longer than that. We cannot let the country be managed under such uncertainty.”

He suggested a constitutional solution to the impasse would be for every party to take part in the poll, every party propose a reform plan before the poll and a public referendum on reform to be held parallel with the poll.

After the election, a law would be passed to establish a reform council. The new government would serve six to 12 months before the House was dissolved and a snap election called.

Abhisit yesterday defended his plan, saying it did not contravene the Constitution or democratic framework.

If the plan was successfully implemented, there would be no violence, no coup and the monarchy and the courts would not be drawn into the political conflict, he said in a statement in which he asked for help for all stakeholders in the dispute.

“[The plan will only work] if Prime Minister Yingluck steps aside from power for only five or six months and the PDRC accepts other ways to reform,” he said.

Thaksin ‘ready to sacrifice family’ but

Posted by Rattana_S On April - 22 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Noppadon says former PM wants his rivals to adhere to law, so country can move forward

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is ready to “sacrifice his family” by ending its political roles so the country can emerge from the ongoing political impasse and move forward, his close aide said yesterday.

However, Thaksin wants his political enemies to adhere to the rules and laws, according to Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin’s legal adviser and spokesman.

Noppadon said he spoke with Thaksin yesterday morning.

“He is not the root cause of the country’s problem. The problem was caused by the failure to adhere to the rules and the failure to respect the people’s decision [at the ballot box].

“He is ready to sacrifice for the country and to have his family end their political career so that the country can move forward.

“But other people also must be ready to sacrifice. It’s no use if he ends his roles but Suthep still sends the PDRC to interrupt the election,” he said, referring to Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

The PDRC shrugged off Thaksin’s latest offer.

“Our goal is to get Thaksin into jail. We don’t care who will get out of politics or not,” key PDRC leader Thaworn Senneam said.

Thaksin’s offer came as the embattled government led by his younger sister Yingluck faces mounting political pressure.

The caretaker prime minister is being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission for alleged dereliction of duty over the government’s loss-making and corruption-plagued rice price-pledging scheme.

She is also accused of malfeasance in a case being heard by the Constitutional Court in connection with her transfer of National Security Council secretary general Thawil Pliensri.

Thaksin, who left the country shortly before the Supreme Court in 2008 sentenced him to two years in jail for abuse of power, has been in self-exile overseas.

He is believed to be pulling strings behind the scenes at the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

The former PM made remarks recently that were viewed by political observers as moves to “test the water”.

Earlier this year, Thaksin reportedly said he would have Yingluck step down as prime minister – a report that was later dismissed by Yingluck.

During the recent Songkran holiday, Thaksin insisted that the Shinawatra family would remain in politics.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday that he believed Thaksin wanted to return to Thailand in order to spend the latter part of his life peacefully in his home country.

Surapong also said he recently met a foreign fortune-teller who told him Thailand would become peaceful again after this month.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said people in the Shinawatra family had the right to be in politics and nobody had the right to prohibit them.

“The Shinawatras have the right to be in or out of politics. But if you are in, you should comply with the law and are ready for scrutiny,” Abhisit said.

He said that to ensure peace in this country, the law must be respected.

“That means Thaksin should accept the [2008] court ruling and come back to get the penalty,” the Democrat leader said.

“He may seek royal pardon later. He has the right to do so.”

In a comment, Abhisit, who is Yingluck’s predecessor, said yesterday that when Thaksin wanted “justice to be served” in exchange for his family to end their political roles, he believed that Thaksin was referring to a pardon for himself.

“When he talks about this, things seem to boil down to the issue of amnesty for himself. This is the main problem,” Abhisit said.

A government-backed bill for blanket amnesty to people involved in recent political conflicts led to widespread public opposition that prompted Yingluck to dissolve the House of Representatives in December. Critics and the Opposition alleged that the bill was mainly aimed at benefiting Thaksin.

(Reuters) – Some Thai anti-government protesters followed the advice of their leader on Saturday, shunning products of firms linked to the family of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and handing back cellphone SIM cards.

The protesters have blocked main Bangkok intersections with tents, tires and sandbags, seeking to unseat Yingluck and halt the influence of her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted former premier regarded by many as the real power behind the government.

This week, they targeted businesses linked, or once linked, to the Shinawatra family, sending stock prices tumbling and on Saturday some answered protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s call to return their SIM cards belonging to mobile phone company Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS).

The company promptly sent a text message to clients saying it no longer had any connection with the Shinawatra family.

“AIS is not involved in politics and is not a pipeline for any side,” it said. “Dr Thaksin and family have already sold all shares in the company since 23 January, 2006, and from then are no longer connected with the company.”

Aunjit Wongsampan, 65, lined up in central Bangkok to hand in her SIM card.

“I think the signal is poor and I am changing it because the company is too wealthy,” she told Reuters.

When shown the company’s text message, she said: “I don’t believe them any more. I have made my choice.”

Yingluck’s supporters denounced the targeting of business when the protests have already taken a toll on the economy, on tourism in particular, with arrivals in Bangkok sharply down.

“What we don’t like right now is their involvement in threatening companies on the stock exchange that is not involved with government,” Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), told Reuters. “It’s a move away from government into business.”

The UDD, a protest movement largely made up of “red shirt” Thaksin supporters based in the populous north and northeast, is holding a meeting of its leaders from across the country on Sunday in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeast of the capital.

STOCK PRICES SLIDE

Generous subsidies for farmers in the north and northeast were a centerpiece of the platform that swept Yingluck to power in 2011, but they have left Thailand with vast stockpiles of rice and a bill it is struggling to fund.

About 500 anti-Thaksin protesters gathered this week outside the Bangkok offices of SC Asset Corp, a property developer controlled by the Shinawatra family, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles.

Yingluck was executive chairwoman of the company before being swept to power in a landslide election victory in 2011.

SC Asset’s share price has lost almost 10 percent since Wednesday and mobile handset distributor M-Link Asia Corp, also with links to the family, lost 12 percent.

Tida said Sunday’s rally would consolidate plans to restore democracy after the opposition boycotted and disrupted elections this month, leaving the country paralyzed under a caretaker government. She ruled out any plans for violence.

“If we wanted to clash, we would have done so a long time ago,” she said. “We wouldn’t have to wait for this long.”

Four protesters and a police officer were killed on Tuesday when police attempted to reclaim protest sites near government buildings. Six people were wounded by a grenade on Friday.

The protests are the latest installment of an eight-year political battle broadly pitting the Bangkok middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.

Demonstrators accuse Thaksin of nepotism and corruption and say that, prior to being toppled by the army in 2006, he used taxpayers’ money for populist subsidies such as the rice scheme and easy loans that bought him the loyalty of millions.

The former telecoms tycoon lives in self-exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence for a graft conviction he says was politically motivated.

(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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