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1B THE NATION MONDAY, April 27, 2009

NATIONAL

CHULALONGKORN HOSPITAL SAYS IT CAN TREAT PEOPLE IF SWINE FLU HITS THAILAND Page 2B

A F FA I R S

THIS WEEK Govt, opposition, Senate whips meet

Government, opposition and Senate whips are scheduled to meet TODAY to agree on guidelines for the appointment of a committee to gather information and review the violence during the redshirt’s anti-government rally on April 13 and 14. And in an attempt to solve the country’s divisiveness, the whips would also discuss the framework for appointing a committee to study the Constitution and laws related to political reform. The committee of the PM’s Office secretary-general that is also considering the same subject will hold its first meeting today. On FRIDAY, the Senate will open a special session to debate the government’s administration without taking a vote. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would be there to answer questions. Last week’s joint parliamentary meeting on the same subject ended with some senators still wanting to talk. That two-day session turned into a war of words between government and opposition MPs rather than a discussion by lawmakers to jointly find solutions for the country. Outside Parliament, the red shirts did not stop their movement. On Saturday, one day after the prime minister lifted the state of emergency imposed in Bangkok, the red shirts rallied at Sanam Luang. They also said they would stage a major rally again from MAY 17-20 to bring back the 1997 Constitution. Before then, they would organise mobile rallies in the provinces, starting from Ubon Ratchathani this Saturday, to mobilise supporters. The red-shirt leaders also plan to take a look at the group’s D Station this week in the serious hope that it could resume broadcasting soon after being blocked by the government for provoking people. Outside the country, redshirt leaders Thaksin Shinawatra and former PM’s Office minister Jakrapob Penkair vowed to continue their opposition to the Abhisit government. The government has been more active lately in trying to get cooperation from foreign countries to extradite Thaksin and Jakrapob. TODAY, the Special Branch Police commander convenes a meeting to review the interviews by Thaksin and Jakrapob for possible lese majeste. On WEDNESDAY, the Attorney-General’s Office is scheduled to decide whether to prosecute Jakrapob for lese majeste. While Jakrapob must hear the indictment in person, the prosecutors might request the court to approve his arrest warrant if he fails to do so. Also THIS WEEK, police are due to wrap up their investigation of the assassination attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul.

‘ABHISIT GOVT NOT IN ACTUAL CONTROL’ A core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Chamlong Srimuang, gives his views on a new PAD-led political party, the attempt on the life of fellow PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul, and current politics, after the end of the violent red-shirt protests. He spoke to The Nation’s Chularat Saengpassa.

The PAD is to set up a new political party. What will “new politics” be like? The new political party will not be a copycat of the now-defunct Palang Dharma Party (PDP) that I founded 21 years ago, but will be established on principles based on lessons learnt by the PDP. A grand PAD meeting on May 24 and 25 will discuss the new party’s set-up. The new party, which has not been named, should command a majority of MP seats after the next general election, and will be a coalition member in the next government. It will be useless if we cannot lead the coalition or form a government, because there will be nothing new to Thai politics. PAD supporters nationwide are divided into two groups – those in favour of the new party and those who prefer that the PAD remains an independent advocacy group in politics. PAD representatives from each of the 76 provinces, and those living in the US, will decide at the grand meeting on the initial principles of the new party. Palang Dharma actually practised the so-called “new politics” which has been heralded by the PAD, even back before 1988, when the party was established. In 1990, an American professor who did his doctoral thesis at London University, later wrote a book entitled: “Chamlong Srimuang and the New Politics”. I guess it was then that the new politics was

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW first recognised. The new party will be successful because of three factors that Palang Dharma did not have at that time: The Election Commission will watch out for and punish vote-buying, the support of PAD members across the country, and cable channel ASTV. It is important that the new party lead the coalition in the next government, otherwise it will be no different to all the “old politics”, with its vote-buying, mud-slinging and money politics.

Who attempted to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul, a core PAD leader? I don’t know, but there two motives behind the murder attempt: PAD has tremendous support from the masses across the country and ASTV’s success as a mouthpiece for the PAD, which is known as the core of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement.

Why was Sonthi the first target, as a leader of yellow-shirted people, instead of those in red shirts? The people who gave the order didn’t care who they killed, first or later. But the current political turmoil dictated the order of kills. More importanly, there are known leaders of yellow-shirted people, who are even classsified as prime and secondary leaders, while there are no known leaders of red-shirted people. Should Thaksin be killed first?

He stays abroad now.

Was there really an effort to lure yellow shirts and red shirts on to the street to fight one another? Yes, but we did not walk into that trap. Somebody may use the ensuing violence as an excuse to oppress both Chamlong yellow and red shirts, citing himself as a knight on a white horse. It’s the government’s duty to deal with lawless protesters, not the PAD’s.

As you have confirmed, there was an effort to stage a coup on April 12 and 13, a day before the red-shirted supporters’ busiest activities and street protests. Why was it aborted? A coup was seen as essential to bring peace – and secondly, it may have been used as bargaining power in exchange for a law to pardon [Thaksin], to promulgate a so-called Reconciliation Act, or even to amend the Constitution. Yet, I don’t know why it was aborted.

What did the people behind the coup and the assassination attempt want? They wanted power. They wanted to pardon some wrongdoers so they could escape serving prison terms and asset seizure. Or they wanted more and more power to become bigger in the country.

Does the ideology of some die-hard communists still exist? Was there any effort to revive it along with other

tactics [used by the red shirts]? Some die-hard communists who became Thaksin’s allies will still pursue their ideology despite the collapse of Soviet-era communism and the capitalism now adopted by China. But it is very difficult for them to achieve their goal. They came up this time with a clear stance against the monarchy – a policy they never stated clearly during their armed struggle then. And they are complaining about the PAD using their anti-monarchy policy as the main goal in our campaign. It’s clear to everyone now that PAD always tells the truth.

Was Thaksin part of the communists’ anti-monarchy movement? Some of them – but we don’t know clearly who is who – may view Thaksin as their ally. It was the government’s duty to uphold and enforce the lese majeste law, as the anti-monarchy doctrine has been spread out and is now widely accepted by people who are highly-respected lecturers, who are admired by their likeminded students. The anti-monarchy doctrine was a threat to national security and the government must take responsibility for its inaction in dealing with the widespread violation of the lese majeste laws. I can’t tell whether the PAD would “take action” to tackle the problem, if the government proved incompetent or was inactive in dealing with the issue.

What factors would prompt the PAD to launch a new round of rallies? Would the amendment of the Constitution and the pardon law be one of them? I don’t know. We must wait and see.

The PAD staged rallies against two previous governments over plans to amend

the Constitution and the pardon law. Why should it be different this time? We cannot set up such preconditions. We need to analyse the situation because the time and circumstances have changed. The PAD doesn’t own the country and cannot tell the government what not to do.

Why do the same conditions not apply like they did during the two previous governments? We do not know what articles in the Constitution are set to be amended. It’s wiser for us not to talk about it in advance.

Will the PAD rally to oust the government if it does nothing to deal with people who want to pursue an anti-monarchy stance? It’s a threat the government has to deal with. It just cannot let these people get away.

How much time should the government be allowed [to act]? Oh. We don’t own the government. We are not that big or powerful. We campaigned against the Samak and Somchai governments because they clearly acted as nominees or puppets of the Thaksin regime. Even the Abhisit government is practising the old politics at a certain point – by kowtowing to certain groups of powerful people. For example, it has changed its stance on relocation of Thai Airways’ operations from Don Mueang to Suvarnabhumi Airport, and it eventually decided to draw back from a ban on alcohol sales during Songkran, under influence from liquor companies. I don’t think the Abhisit government has the actual control, or the Asean Summit in Pattaya would have proceeded and there would have been no attack at the Interior Ministry.

ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED

PREMIER: GOVT MAY HOLD REFERENDUM ON AMNESTY THE NATION

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the government may hold a national referendum on the proposal to give amnesty to banned politicians. Speaking during his weekly “Confidence in Thailand with Prime Minister Abhisit” on Channel 11, the prime minister said political parties have yet to discuss the proposal to grant amnesty for political offences. “The process may require a public referendum to be carried out first,” Abhisit said. He reiterated that criminal offences must not be covered under the plan to grant amnesty. The prime minister said the idea of political amnesty was floated by many sides throughout the past week. “All politicians will heed the proposal and find a common solution. I won’t attempt to influence the outcome,” the prime minister said. He said a committee would be set up to compile proposals from all groups, including politicians, on the issue. The issue of amnesty would be considered by a tripartite committee of the government, opposition and Senate. Abhisit said he had requested Parliament President Chai Chidchob to invite all sides to discuss the

amnesty and other issues, including political reform, constitutional amendments and reconciliation among political opponents. The prime minister said if all sides could not agree on a set of rules, any attempt to solve political problems would fail. Abhisit said any agreement or change must be done without discrimination against anyone. Speaking to reporters at Government House, the prime minister said it was not certain yet whether a referendum would cover only the amnesty issue or also cover charter amendments. He said a working committee, representing the three sides, would consider the referendum issue later. Meanwhile, an opinion survey found that most voters around the country support charter amendments and amnesty for banned politicians. The survey was carried out by Rajabhat University Suan Dusit among 3,079 voters from Friday until yesterday. The university said the survey found that 68.72 per cent of the respondents agreed with charter amendments while 31.28 per cent disagreed. The survey found that 64.89 per cent of the respondents support the amnesty idea while 35.11 disagreed with it.

N AT I O N / S U PA K R I T K H U M K A N

WHAT’S EXPECTED

FORMER Chat Thai MP Janista “Bam” Liewchalermwong and Butrrat Charoonsmith get engaged at the Oriental Hotel yesterday. Planning to marry in three months, Butrrat said he would like his fiancée to quit politics.

DOUBTS OVER IMMUNITY FOR CHATUPORN BUDSARAKHAM SINLAPALAVAN THE NATION

Though MPs and senators who seek parliamentary immunity from arrest and prosecution while Parliament sits are normally granted it, doubts are surfacing about the case of Pheu Thai party-list MP Chatuporn Prompan. No member has ever been charged with so grave a threat to democracy or national security. Chatuporn, prominent in the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship, is wanted for inciting unrest by leading red-shirt rallies for the abolition of the 2007 Constitution. Chatuporn has yet to surrender to face charges and may ask for immunity. This is generally granted on

request, but the enormity of Chatuporn’s alleged crime has sparked a move for a break with precedent. Democrat spokesman Buranat Samutrak said the party would meet to decide whether to back Chatuporn once he made a request. Chulalongkorn University political-science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said immunity was just a tradition and the law clearly stated that members could vote for or against granting it. He said that if Pheu Thai Party MPs voted in support of Chatuporn it would show that they did not put the public interest above their own. Cases in point are: ● Then Senate speaker Chalerm Promlert was given immunity after

being sentenced to 36 years in jail on November 13, 2007 for raping an underage girl. ● Then senator Sukhum Cherchuen was given immunity from being prosecuted for masterminding the murder of Dr Nicharee Makornsarn of Chulalongkorn Hospital. ●Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva waived immunity when sued by Dr Prommin Lertsuridej for defamation in connection with a press conference at which Abhisit accused the Thai Rak Thai Party of hiring small parties to compete in the April 2, 2006 election and said he would abide by the court’s verdict. ● Democrat party-list MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon waived immunity on a charge of lese majeste.

SOLDIER’S BODY TO UNDERGO ANOTHER AUTOPSY, COMMANDER RULES OUT FOUL PLAY THE NATION

The body of a soldier who was found dead in the residence of Army Region Commander Lt-General Kanit Sapitak in Bangkok will undergo a second autopsy at Siriraj Hospital today. The Forensic Science Institute, however, rejected his family’s request to have outsiders besides relatives and their lawyer witness the autopsy. Forensic Science Institute director Khunying Pornthip Rojanasunand said the institute had rejected the

request from the family of Private Apinop Kruasuk to have outsiders who are not his relatives or lawyers witness the autopsy because it was against the regulations. Pornthip said she did not want to be accused of having double standards as the institute had never granted such permission to anybody. Apinop, 22, was found dead in the residence of Kanit on April 15. The initial autopsy conducted at Ramathibodi Hospital found that he had subdural haemorrhage. His neckbone was broken. There were bruises on his arms.

Media reports had earlier said he had fallen in the bathroom and was later found dead. However, his family suspected irregularities in his death and filed a complaint with the Pheu Thai Party and the Department of Special Investigation to investigate the cause of his death. His body was sent to the Forensic Science Institute on Saturday. Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Apinop’s family feared they would not receive justice because the Army had told them to finish his

cremation fast. The family had organise a false cremation and kept his body for a second autopsy to find out how he had died. Siriraj Hosptial has agreed to conduct the autopsy by allowing a team of other doctors, including a Pheu Thai Party MP, to witness the autopsy today. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was sorry about the death of Apinop, who had looked after him while he stayed at Kanit’s residence. The PM said he was ready to provide any information if an investigation is

launched to look into the issue. He said he had nothing to do with his death because the private died on April 14 after he had left the place. Abhisit said he and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban took refuge there on April 12-13. Reports had it that Apinop messaged to his mother and girlfriend in Loei telling them that he was at Kanit’s residence where Abhisit also took refuge during the Songkran riots. Kanit said he had asked three soldiers, who had been stationed to guard

his house, about what had happened to Apinop. They told him the private had skidded and fallen down. They had asked Apinop if he wanted to see a doctor but he had refused, saying he only had a headache. They later found him dead on Wednesday morning. “I assure that no one had assaulted Apinop till he died. I also lost my son in an accident three months ago. I understand losing a son is tough and I am sorry for his family. I am ready to do everything they wish me to do to clear any doubts,” he said.

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