Petitioning against the petition

10 08 2009

Regular readers of PPT will recall that we recently suggested that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was less than truthful when he claimed that there were no government directions to oppose the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) petition for Thaksin Shinawatra’s “royal pardon.”

If any reader was still in doubt, we can now report that there have been several new official orders issued by the Democrat Party-led coalition government as it demands opposition to the petition.

Prachatai (8 August 2009: “Schools in Buriram told to collect signatures against the red shirts’ petition”) reports a letter from the local education office in Buriram “ordering schools to collect the signatures of staff and students against the red shirts’ petition.”

The letter affirms “that certain groups of people are trying to submit a petition to ask for a royal pardon for a former Prime Minister. This is considered an act of ‘lowering the sky’, ‘transgressing the royal prerogative’, ‘pressuring the institution’, and causing division among the people.” And it repeats Prime Minister Abhisit’s line that those who have signed the red shirt’s petition have been “deceived into doing so.”

The letter tells school directors to have “their staff and students to write their names and addresses, and sign an attached form” which is headed: “List of citizens who protect the institution to the death and oppose the petition submission which transgresses the royal prerogative.” The letter and form are included with the Prachatai story.

Related, a Bangkok Post (8 August 2009: “Two million oppose Thaksin pardon” – story claims that “[m]ore than two million had signed their names in opposition of the campaign to seek royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. This revelation is from Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat.

The report notes that the Interior Ministry had “ordered provincial governors and district chiefs nationwide to arrange tables for people who want to sign to show disagreement with the royal pardon…”. Note the word “ordered” in both reports.

Boonjong expected to be able to announce the “official number” of people disagreeing with the UDD petition next week.

Meanwhile, Newin’s dad, House Speaker Chai Chidchob, said he was confident that the Ministry of Interior’s order to collect signatures against the Thaksin pardon would not create social divisions “because Thai people have the same beloved father – HM the King.” Again, the emphasis is on the orders given.

The same day it was reported (Bangkok Post, 8 August 2009: “Officials ordered to oppose pardon” – that Interior Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul on Saturday “asked village headmen and Kamnans … to explain [to] their villagers that the petition seeking royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was not lawful.” Chavarat was speaking at a seminar for local administrative organizations, leaders of local communities and religious leaders in an event was organized by his ministry and the King Prajadhipok Institute, a curiously named institute that promotes royalist ideas about democracy and parliamentary politics.

Amounting to another order, the minister “called on the participants to help protect the royal institution and to tell their villagers not to support Thaksin pardon seeking move. The royal pardon for Thaksin campaign by the red-shirt people group could affect the country’s high institution.”

In a related move, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement designed to undermine the UDD petition (8 August 2009 – as arrests were made of three red shirt leaders in Chiang Mai.

The government is going to extraordinary lengths to oppose the UDD making it clear the the “great fear” has deepened for conservatives and royalists. As if it wasn’t already clear, the Bangkok Post (7 August 2009: “Suthep admits effort at peace has failed – Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “the government has failed in its bid for national reconciliation as controversy over the pro-Thaksin movement’s royal pardon bid heats up.”

He was supported by Defence permanent secretary General Apichart Penkitti who said the “red shirts should end their move for a pardon for Thaksin as it was inappropriate and did not comply with the law…”. His other supporter was the former military coup leader and disgraced self-appointed prime minister responsible for the May 1992 massacre, Suchinda Kraprayoon.



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