Jatuporn: Suthep proposal 'unlawful'

Any attempt by the Supreme Court and the Senate to discuss "unlawful" demands for an interim government could steer Thailand toward a civil war, says the head of the red-shirt movement.

  • Published: 10/05/2014 at 07:27 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Jatuporn Prompan issued the warning on Saturday as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) rallied in support of a caretaker government that is looking increasingly fragile.

As UDD supporters massed along Aksa Road in the capital's western suburbs, anti-government movement leader Suthep Thaugsuban repeated his call for the Senate, the courts and the Election Commission to establish an interim "people's government".

Supporters of the caretaker government rally in northern Bangkok on Saturday, May 10, 2014. (Photos by Apichart Jinakul)

The People's Democratic Reform Committee headed by Mr Suthep wants a response by Monday, or it will take matters into its own hands. Its leaders are now occupying a building at Government House, with the blessing of military officials responsible for security at the compound.

"There is currently no prime minister, no caretaker prime minister, only an acting PM" who has very limited powers, said Mr Suthep, who the day before had referred to the remnants of the cabinet as "headless puppets" of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Jatuporn said Mr Suthep's declaration of a political vacuum in a bid to get an unelected prime minister was an unconstitutional act.

The country, according to the former Pheu Thai MP, still had a caretaker prime minister in charge, after the Constitutional Court ruling that unseated Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers on Wednesday.

In fact, it is the leadership of the Senate that should be challenged, said Mr Jatuporn.

The Senate on Friday evening elected Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who is seen as sympathetic to anti-government causes, as its new speaker. Mr Surachai has called for a Senate meeting on Monday to discuss current developments.
"There is no Senate speaker yet as the vote for Khun Surachai was beyond the declared agenda under the royal decree for the extraordinary session," Mr Jatuporn said.

Acting premier Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan also indicated on Saturday that he would seek legal advice from the Council of State about the legitimacy of Mr Surachai's election.

Jatuporn: "As long as the country's democracy is not safe, we will be here." (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)

No Senate speaker has ever been elected at an extraordinary session, said Mr Jatuporn. "More importantly, the nomination of the senate chair could only be legally effective when a prime minister countersigned the nomination."

Above all, he said, there was no legal provision under the constitution allowing heads of the courts and the Senate to convene a meeting to select a premier.

"I plead with the president of the Supreme Court, which is one of the three pillars of democracy, to reconsider thoroughly the demands by Mr Suthep and the subsequent proposal made by the not-yet-validly nominated Senate speaker to hold a meeting and appoint a new prime minister," said Mr Jatuporn.

Thailand was still a constitutional monarchy and any solution to the country's problems had to be undertaken in line with the charter, he added.

"I hope the head of the judiciary will not stray above the Constitution. He has been so far free from allegations and he should not act in a way that would get himself tainted."

Mr Suthep of all people, said Mr Jatuporn, should be aware of the legal validity of the caretaker premiership. He and his Democrat Party exploited the brief period of Chavarat Charnvirakul's caretaker premiership following the ouster of Somchai Wongsawat and the dissolution of three coalition parties in 2008.

Mr Chavarat, a deputy prime minister, was put in charge until the Democrats emerged as a new governing party with the assistance of the military, Mr Jatuporn said.

Mr Jatuporn said the UDD was ready to continue its rally for as long as it takes to support the government. The sight of tents along a four-kilometre stretch of Aksa Road, not far from a residence of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, indicated people were willing to stay for a week or longer.

He said the UDD would try to exercise full tolerance and not move anywhere yet.

"As long as the country's democracy is not safe, we will be here," he told reporters. If there is a coup or an unelected prime minister is installed, the red shirts will "escalate our fight immediately", he added.

PDRC supporters, meanwhile, shrugged off widespread condemnation of their media harassment campaign and surrounded the headquarters of local TV stations to make sure they carried Mr Suthep's "major announcement" at 4pm.

PDRC supporters camp out beside a tank on the grounds of Army-run television Channel 5. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)

All of the free-TV channels except government-run NBT broadcast Mr Suthep's speech live but cut away once it became clear that he was merely repeating what he had said on Friday. Channel 7 even switched immediately to a report from the UDD rally.

Mr Suthep said national reform would help shape a better future for Thailand and he asked red-shirt demonstrators to cooperate "for the national interest".

PDRC co-leader Thaworn Senneam said demonstrators would wait at their rally venues until Monday and in the meantime would continue to inform the public about the government's misuse of administrative power.

Spokesman Akanat Promphan, also a stepson of Mr Suthep, said PDRC demonstrators had to stay at TV stations to convince them to stop broadcasting "distorted information" from the government's Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo).

As tensions rose, some observers on Pradipat Road in Bangkok were startled by the appearance of a tank, on which the Army had taken pains to place a sign reading "Returning from exercises".

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army commander, weighed in with his customary plea for both sides to find a solution. A coup, he said, was not the answer.

Mr Suthep reviews a draft of the statement he was preparing to deliver on Saturday afternoon. (Post Today Photo)

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