Soldiers watching for Yingluck court ruling 'mobilisers'

Soldiers watching for Yingluck court ruling 'mobilisers'

Prayut warns again on ferrying Yingluck allies

Supporters show up to give their moral support to former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Aug 1. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Supporters show up to give their moral support to former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Aug 1. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Soldiers have been ordered to keep a close eye on local politicians, political canvassers and any potential efforts to mobilise people to gather at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Aug 25, when the court will hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case against former premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has warned local administrative organisations (LAOs) and local politicians once again against sponsoring transport of supporters to the Supreme Court next week, saying they risk facing charges of misspending their budgets.

Gen Prayut said yesterday that any LAOs that used state funds to ferry people to the court would run afoul of the law and have to demonstrate they had not misused their budgets.

The premier insisted he had never barred anyone from showing up to give support to Ms Yingluck at the court, but said any attempts by a third party to organise the transport of supporters was illegal.

"To give moral support is normal, I don't mind. But it should be done appropriately, not through mobilising a gathering," said Gen Prayut.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) earlier wrote to the Interior Ministry, asking it to instruct provincial governors and district chiefs to notify LAOs to be cautious in how they use their budgets.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas said some LAOs had organised activities for other purposes, but also taken people to give moral support to the former premier at the court, citing the relatives of those taken to past hearings in Ms Yingluck's case.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said he had instructed provincial governors, district chiefs and LAOs executives across the country that budgetary spending must conform with the law.

No irregularities have been detected so far, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, meanwhile, ordered that security for the judges hearing the rice-pledging case be ensured.

Gen Prawit said police will be in charge of security at the court, while soldiers will not be deployed at the site. He urged Ms Yingluck's supporters to stay at home, though he would not order officials to block people from coming to the court.

Army commander-in-chief Chalermchai Sitthisad yesterday held a meeting with personnel from the regime's peacekeeping force, army commands in each region, and the Internal Security Operations Command to assess the security situation prior to the ruling.

According to a source at the meeting, it was assessed that 1,000-2,000 people would gather at the court on Aug 25 to give moral support to Ms Yingluck. Most of them are expected to come from Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Ayutthaya provinces.

Security officials have been ordered to keep a close eye on local leaders and political canvassers in the North and Northeast, who may step up efforts to mobilise people to come to the court.

The authorities have been instructed to focus on the areas in which financial support is expected.

It is estimated that villagers could be ferried to Bangkok by vans at a cost of 100,000 baht per vehicle, the source said, noting that some groups would also come by train free-of-charge a couple of days ahead of the ruling.

Police will be deployed to provide security for the nine judges at their homes before and after the ruling, the source said, adding officers will adopt the "Korakot 52" crowd-control plan to maintain order at the court, the source said.

Gen Chalermchai will call another meeting next week to assess the situation.

Amnuay Khlangpha, a former Lop Buri MP from Pheu Thai, said he did not believe the LAOs would use their budgets to ferry people to the court, as claimed by the OAG. The spending must be in line with the law and come under observation by the OAG, he said.

"Politicians did not organise the transport for people either since they do not want to come into conflict with the government or the National Council for Peace and Order," said Mr Amnuay.

He said he was aware that people would go to the court themselves by public transport, reiterating that people are willing to go to the court as they love and sympathise with Ms Yingluck and only want to give her encouragement. He noted that at least 150 former Pheu Thai Party MPs are expected to show up at the court for the ruling.

The government claims the rice-pledging programme cost the state over 500 billion baht in losses.

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