'Black May' government minister named to head NRSA

'Black May' government minister named to head NRSA

Tinnapan Nakata (centre) takes photo with his deputies Alongkorn Ponlaboot and Walairat Sri-arun at the meeting on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Tinnapan Nakata (centre) takes photo with his deputies Alongkorn Ponlaboot and Walairat Sri-arun at the meeting on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

A minister in the 1992 “Black May” government has been named chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly over the protests of relatives of victims of the deadly street protests of 23 years ago.

Tinnapan Nakata, 81, served as PM's Office minister during the brief, turbulent tenure of Suchinda Kraprayoon, who resigned after seven weeks in office following street protests in which 52 people officially were confirmed dead while hundreds went missing after soldiers opened fire on unarmed students and demonstrators.

The cabinet at the time granted amnesty to those involved in the student uprising, which left relatives no recourse to sue the government.

Before the vote, relatives of Black May protest victims protested any move to nominate Capt Tinnapan as NRSA chairman.

"What is the NCPO thinking?," said Adul Khieuboribun, chairman of the May 1992 Relatives group. "Is there nobody else for this post?"

Capt Tinnapan's joined the government after Gen Suchinda seized power in a military coup from the elected government of Gen Chatchai Choonhavan in late 1991. At the time, Gen Suchinda repeatedly vowed he would not serve as prime minister following elections in March 1992. However, he ended up doing just that, sparking protests from students who also were dissatisfied with undemocratic elements of a new, military-drafted constitution.

Capt Tinnapan, in fact, was the only candidate for the chairmanship, nominated by Gen Thitiwat Kamlang-ek and approved by acclamation.

Gen Lertrat Rattanavanit, an NRSA member, said most of his assembly colleagues approved of having the elderly former minister lead the body.

Capt Tinnnapan asked other assembly members not to worry about his health, as he always kept fit. He regularly gave lectures lasting several hours, conducted research work and swam, he added.

At Tuesday's inaugural meeting of the 200-member NRSA, members also chose two deputy chairpersons: Alongkorn Ponlaboot and Walairat Sri-arun. They were among three candidates for the posts, the other being Gen Jira Komutthapong.

Mr Alongkorn, who was made the first deputy chairman, said he would be a bridge between the so-called "Five Rivers" of government on work to better society.

The NRSA was created to take over from the National Reform Council to initiate and implement ideas for national reform. It is comprised of 63 former NRC members, about 80 military and police officers and some representatives of political parties.

The NSRA will implement national reform ideas formulated by the NRC and can initiate its own reforms. Its term will depend on the new constitution.

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