Police, petition, Abhisit and pardons

2 08 2009

The police and Abhisit

Last week PPT considered that Friday, 31 July would be an interesting day for the announcement by PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on the PAD’s Sondhi Limthongkul assassination plot (see here).

As we have posted since, it was an interesting day, but not for the reasons we had guessed at. Rather, the day turned into a bit of a farce as deals between Abhisit, Suthep Thaugsuban, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and his brother Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan, not to mention PAD, were all hastily cobbled together as tens of thousands of red shirts rallied and the anti-petition drive went up a gear (see our posts of the last 2-3 days).

Now the Bangkok Post (3 August 2009: “Sondhi case to be resolved in Sept”) reports that Abhisit has said that the case will not be “resolved” until September.

Abhisit has had to scramble over the past couple of days, and now says, “I respect everyone and treat all of them fairly. If I decide to dismiss anyone, the reason must be clear,” adding that he did not sack Patcharawat “who was seen by many, including the PAD, as an obstacle to the investigation, because: “I have set up three conditions. I want the case to progress, everyone must receive fair treatment and the investigation must not damage the state administration…”.

The last point is interesting.

Abhisit was to discuss the appointment of acting police chief Suthep. In his weekly television program, Abhisit said again that the police chief had offered to take leave (The Nation, 3 August 2009: “Abhisit insists police chief offered to take leave”).

More on the pardon

Meanwhile the pardon saga continues, with some claims that there are now 5.4 million signatures for the red shirt petition.

Abhisit used some of his weekly television address to attack the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, telling them they “should stop gathering signatures to request a royal pardon for convicted former premier Thaksin [Shinawatra], as the process did not meet the criteria and it was inappropriate to involve the monarchy in politics” (Bangkok Post, 3 August 2009: “PM: Thaksin pardon inappropriate”). Abhisit made the usual claim that “The royal pardon could only be sought by the convicted or one’s family members and the individual must serve an imprisonment sentence first.” He then added, “In this case, it looks like the objective is to oppose the court’s verdict and I see this as a political issue…”.

Abhisit yet again claimed that people were being misled. This claim deserves to be denigrated for it reveals a disdain for people making their own decisions, as in elections.

“He said the Interior Ministry had allowed people who signed up the pardon petition to withdraw their signatures by registering with the local officials because the organisers’ intention might not be appropriate.”

The UDD has pressed on (Bangkok Post, 2 August 2009: “UDD ignoring calls to back off”). The plan is to send the petition to the palace by 12 August following “accuracy checks.”

Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul, who has “ordered provincial authorities to launch a counter-campaign against the UDD’s petition,” has resorted to a quite old-fashioned but seriously threatening tactic by announcing that the Provincial Administration Department would “examine the identity of all the signatories to petition.”

Not surprisingly, though, the Department admitted that it didn’t have a list. However there was a promise to look at the names after the petition had been submitted. The Department also had no information on “how many people wanted to withdraw their names from the UDD’s list.”

Abhisit has confirmed that this intimidation by checking names will take place (The Nation,3 August 2009: “Govt to verify signatures for Thaksin-pardon petition: PM”).

The Nation (3 August 2009: “Ex-supremo threatens use of force if pardon blocked”) reports that Chaiyasit Shinawatra yesterday “threatened opponents of ex-premier Thaksin” telling them “not to block the move to seek a Royal pardon for his cousin otherwise there could be use of force.” He is quoted as saying: “I do not want to see the country to fall into that situation, but when it reaches one point and they still block the move, then there could be [use of force], which I do not want to happen.” It is not clear why “use of force” is added to the quote.

Chaiyasit seemed to be saying that blocking the “red shirts from seeking a Royal pardon would be seen as distancing the monarchy from the people,” adding that “This is the desire of 5 million people. It is the voice of the people. They should not block them…”. He scoffed at the idea that “some people had been duped into giving their signatures,” saying it was “impossible that anyone could fool 5 million people.”

Turning the debate back to the royalists, he said: “Do not monopolise loyalty to the King, because the people and the monarchy are one.”

Thepthai Senpong, Abhisit’s personal spokesman, “condemned Thaksin for pressuring the monarchy by using his supporters to create bargaining power in his own interest.” He asked, “When will the red shirts stop? What they are doing has aggravated the situation and widened conflict in the country…”.

In the same issue of The Nation (3 August 2009: “Petition drive lacks what it seeks”) editorialists seem to acknowledge Chaiyasit’s turning of the royalist argument, and acknowledge that “Petitions were a fundamental part of the Thai monarchy’s earliest days dating back several hundred years, and if the red shirts want to revive the old tradition in an honest, humble manner, there is not much to criticise them for.” Later it is added that “The real issue, therefore, is not whether the red shirts have the right to petition…”. This is false history, but the admission is telling. In concluding it is stated: “Of course, this is a divisive issue. The critics are right about that. But aren’t all ‘petitions’ supposed to be controversial and divisive? If a case is a black-and-white issue then a petition is not needed. The red shirts, therefore, are right, but they are only half-right. While they can petition HM the King, they must not seek mercy by resorting to hostility or intimidation.” Have they been doing this? Is the implication that millions of signatures is intimidating to the king?



2 responses

3 08 2009
New: Abhisit and the truth « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Abhisit (here) used some of his weekly television address to attack the United Front for Democracy against […]

21 08 2009
New: Chuan says Abhisit is humiliated « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] can find the way out.” Maybe, but he will need the support of PAD who were one of the driving forces behind Abhisit’s earlier decision-making on this police promotion and its political […]

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