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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Yingluck to leave politics if country wants it; hasn’t raised issue with Thaksin
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday she is ready to step down if the people want her out, but added that she had not discussed the possibility of quitting politics with her brother, ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, or other members of her family.

Yingluck was responding to reports in which Thaksin aide Noppadon Pattama quoted the former premier as saying he was ready to “sacrifice his family” by ending its political career so the country can emerge from the political impasse and move forward.

Earlier this year, Yingluck dismissed reports that Thaksin would have her step down as prime minister. Observers now believe Thaksin’s latest move was intended to test the waters, but the anti-government group led by Suthep Thaugsuban has brushed aside his proposal.

Asked if she had ever thought of taking a break from politics, Yingluck said, “I have said that I am not attached to my post if that is what the country wants. What is important is [that my leaving politics] must bring about peace and that all sides will follow the rule of law,” she said.

Yingluck refused to answer whether she would request an audience with His Majesty the King soon to report on the country’s current situation, though she did say that it was one of her duties.

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-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.

Democrat Party deputy spokesman Jurin Laksanawisit said if Thaksin meant he wanted to wash his hands of politics, he should back up his claim by closing his war room in Hong Kong, returning to serve his jail term, ordering the government and supporters to accept rulings by independent agencies and dropping any ideas of passing amnesty bills.

NSC ponders extending ISA
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: National Security Council is evaluating the situation before deciding whether to propose extending the Internal Security Act (ISA) until the Cabinet meeting next week.

The current ISA is due to expire on April 30.

National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Paradorn Pattanatabut said his agency will wait to hear the Constitutional Court’s decision today on whether it will allow caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra to submit her defence after the deadline, which was last Friday. There will also be discussion about the election and the anticipated reaction of anti- and pro-government groups.

The opposing groups have announced they would mobilise rallies depending on when the Constitutional Court rules on Yingluck’s status related to the case of her transfer of NSC chief Thawil Pliensri.

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled the transfer was illegal.

He said the NSC would prepare measures to prevent confrontation between the groups.

The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee had announced it would obstruct an election, Paradorn said. Meanwhile, this week’s rally by the red-shirt Democracy Protection Volunteers was just in preparation for staff to keep order during the red-shirts’ rally, Paradorn said.

Poll may be delayed until September: EC
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A new election could take place on July 20 at the earliest, but could be delayed until September. And if conflicting parties do not settle their differences before the election, the risk of another failed poll due to obstruction is “very high”, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn told leaders of almost 60 political parties yesterday.

The meeting between the EC and the parties yesterday failed to finalise an election date. Somchai said the EC would have to consult on the date with the government. It proposed three choices: July 20, August 17 and September 14.

“If [some] poll units can’t hold an election, we will [try] again. The EC will keep on setting elections until [an election] takes place at all polling units. We have a deadline of 180 days after election day [to have members of Parliament take their seats],” he said. “The problem is not with the EC or political parties, but with the conflicting parties that will have to settle their differences, otherwise the risk of having a failed election will be very high,” said Somchai.

He said another concern was whether parties would have a problem campaigning in some parts of the country, adding that this could be a reason cited for a possible nullification of a new election.

Somchai was speaking to representatives from 58 parties attending the meeting. Conspicuously missing were representatives from the opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the previous election. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva cited safety concerns for his abrupt decision not to attend.

A former Democrat MP, Kulladej Puapattanakul, yesterday showed up outside the meeting venue at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel with 30 security guards, saying they were prepared to protect Abhisit. The party later submitted a letter to the EC asking it to inform the Democrat Party of the results of the meeting.

Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said later yesterday that the last-minute decision not to attend the meeting was made after detailed information was received about a plan to target Abhisit with violence. The party had also learned that an armed group had announced a possible suicide attack targeting Abhisit.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said the EC had discussed the issue with the Democrats and agreed that Abhisit should not attend, as the possibility of violence could have a big impact on the meeting.

In the meeting room at the hotel, a large banner from the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) was placed on a side wall by a follower of monk Buddha Issara, a PDRC leader. It read: “Reform Before Election”. The monk and 100 followers came to protest before the meeting began and vowed to obstruct any election if it was not preceded by national reform.

Bhokin Bhalakula, an adviser to the ruling Pheu Thai Party and deputy chair of its Party Affairs Committee, said it was imperative a new election take place as soon as possible.

Bhokin said it was best to settle differences through an election and not a gunfight. “If there’s no casting of the ballots, then we can’t solve the problems Emotions are high and people are no longer using reason.”

Bhokin added that until an election date is set, Thailand would remain in a state of limbo, rife with speculation about a possible coup.

“It’s not important who will form the next government. Thailand must keep walking,” Bhokin said.

Nikorn Chamnong, an adviser to the Chart Thai Pattana Party, said Thailand needed an election soon, as it could not aff

— Phuket Gazette Editors