Chalerm: I'm Thaksin's servant

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung insists he will not answer questions from the media if a Channel 7 reporter is among the interviewing group, and has admitted he has been serving fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for a long time.

"From now on, I won't give interviews if Ms Somjit Nawakruasunthorn is in that particular group of reporters because I don't want to have a quarrel.

"I've been Thaksin's servant for a long time -- don't you know that?" Mr Chalerm told reporters on Monday.

During an interview last Thursday, the deputy premier in charge of national security had an argument with the Channel 7 reporter, who is known for her persistent and tough questioning and has been criticised by red-shirt supporters for the questions she asked Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in the past. 

Mr Chalerm accused Ms Somjit of siding with the opposition Democrat Party after she continually asked him to clearly state which political party was behind the Pitak Siam group's anti-government rally.

She threatened to take legal action against Mr Chalerm, who then told her that she could sue him if she wants because he did not say anything wrong.

Ms Somjit argued: ‘‘If you're calling me sympathetic to that party is not defamatory, would calling you servile to [ousted premier] Thaksin Shinawatra amount to defamation?’’

"That's certainly defamation," Mr Chalerm replied.

The reporter then challenged him to file a police complaint against her.

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The video clip below, uploaded to YouTube by somchai hualhom, shows Mr Chalerm quarrelling with a reporter while giving an interview on Nov 15, 2012.

After Mr Chalerm’s ban, Ms Somjit posted a message entitled “An open letter to Pol Capt Chalerm Yubamrung, Deputy Prime Minister” on her Facebook page, Mata Vayu, saying Mr Chalerm should know that she and him were not enemies but people with different roles and duties.

The veteran reporter said politicians and the press needed to depend on one another in terms of communication with the public. Mr Chalerm’s ban would undermine the government’s ability to communicate with the people. She asked whether the government wants a “one-way communication” and if so, could people still call the administration with such ideas as a “democratic government”?      

Ms Somjit said: “I believe you can answer all questions about the handling of [national] security, no matter if the questions come out of any reporter's mouth, unless you fear the truth”.

When meeting news sources, it was impossible for a media person not to approach them and ask questions in order to seek the truth for the sake of the people. “If I meet you, then I will have to do my duty. And wouldn’t you do yours?”

“I’d like to again insist that we are not enemies, so don’t push me to either side [of the political landscape]. Our society has seen enough division. The 15 million votes given to the Pheu Thai Party meant they pinned their hopes on you to heal the country’s wounds and bring back happiness, not to divide Thais.”

The Channel 7 reporter also apologised to her colleagues from other media outlets for causing inconvenience to them in doing their jobs due to the dispute between her and Mr Chalerm.   

Related search: Chalerm, reporter, politics, Thaksin, Thailand

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