Abhisit and the truth

3 08 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is tying himself in knots over the red shirt “royal pardon” petition for Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit has been reported in the The Nation (3 August 2009: “PM: Red shirts must take responsibility over petition”) as stating “I reiterate that political activities must not affect the nation’s main institution (the monarchy).… Those who receive (personal) benefit from this should stop their action.”

Then he seems to get confused, making the quite outrageous claim that “There’s an attempt to convince people that the government is obstructing the petition movement…. “The government is simply trying to inform the public of the facts.”

If he is quoted accurately, this is an outright lie. For example (in reverse order by date):

* Abhisit (here) used some of his weekly television address to attack the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, telling them they “should stop gathering signatures…”. He claimed people were being misled and reinforced the point that 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.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul (here) “ordered provincial authorities to launch a counter-campaign against the UDD’s petition,” and resorted to a quite old-fashioned but seriously threatening tactic of announcing that the Provincial Administration Department would “examine the identity of all the signatories to petition.” Abhisit has confirmed that this intimidation by checking names would take place.

* Army chief Anupong Paochinda (here) “has ordered commander of all army units to have their subordinates explain the correct procedures for seeking a royal pardon to the people nationwide.” Soldiers in villages and communities is direct intimidation on this issue.

* Abhisit claimed (here) hat the red shirt campaign was “manipulating innocent people.” Abhisit added, “We have to be cautious because these masterminds have complicated matters and people could fall victim to their provocations…”. At the same time, chief adviser of the Democrat Party Chuan Leekpai, “warned the government to pay close attention the red-shirts’ activities.” He claimed they were about to cause “chaos.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat (here) ordered village headman or kamnan “to arrange tables at provincial halls and district offices nationwide for people who want to withdraw their names from the petition for a royal pardon…”.

* Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan instructed the armed forces to monitor the signature campaign to endorse the petition seeking a royal pardon.

* The government (here) “warned supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) that petitioning for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra will only stir up divisive emotions in Thai society.”

* Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban expressed “his concern over the matter, saying that Thais should not do anything that disturbs His Majesty the King.”

*The government (here) used the state media to campaign against “improper conduct to politicise the monarchy via the pardon petition.”

* Coalition partner, the Bhum Jai Thai Party (here), organized taxi drivers to oppose the petition.

* It is reported (here) that “The People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Privy Council and the Bhumjaithai Party have made clear they oppose the petition…”.

* It was reported here that Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat from coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party had produced stickers opposing the signature drive and distributed them nationwide as well as erecting large billboards opposing the petition.

* Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga is reported here as slamming the royal pardon campaign and called on the red shirts to stop their campaign while questioning their motives.

* Abhisit is reported (here) to have “condemned” the UDD campaign to collect a million signatures. He accused them of bringing the monarchy into politics.

PPT considers the evidence is clear; the Democrat Party-led coalition government has opposed the petition, it has used state resources to oppose it, and it has mobilized the leading reactionary and conservative forces against the petition: the Interior Ministry, the military and the name of the monarchy. It has clearly tried to intimidate people.

This is not the first time the prime minister has mangled the truth, with one of the best examples being the case of Chotisak Onsoong (see here), accused of lese majeste.


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