Pheu Thai cries foul over calendar, constitution

Pheu Thai cries foul over calendar, constitution

Two versions of the calendar show Thaksin and younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Two versions of the calendar show Thaksin and younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The Pheu Thai Party on Monday urged the government to order provincial governors to scrap a ban on New Year’s calendars featuring photos of Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck.

At the same time, party executives slammed the "holier-than-thou" statement by constitution drafter Meechai Ruchupan that people who distort the intent and legality of the charter and derail the roadmap would suffer the consequences.

Acting Pheu Thai party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai wrote a note to Mr Meechai, the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), taking him to task for what he felt were disparaging comments made with a "holier-than-thou attitude".

Authorities in plainclothes seize the calendar planned to be given out to people by former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Ban Phai district in Khon Kaen on Monday. (Photo by Jakkrapan Nathanri)

In a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, acting Pheu Thai leader Pol Lt Gen Viroj Pao-in called asks that brakes be applied to the prohibition erected by some provincial governors.

His move came after Roi Et governor Anusorn Kaewkangwan on Sunday directed officials from district chiefs to village headmen to ensure that calendars would not be handed out to people in their areas due to concerns they could renew political tension in the province. Pheu Thai said the same order also issued in other provinces.

"The ban on calendar distribution violates the rights of individuals. The issue should not be linked with politics," Pol Lt Gen Viroj said in the letter.

Pheu Thai unveiled the New Year's calendar in mid-December. It has two versions showing the two former prime ministers posing together. About 300,000 copies were printed for party members to give out to supporters.

Government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkumnerd said the government and National Council for Peace and Order were not behind the ban, but would not intervene in the matter.

The decision to approve or ban calendars will be left for governors to decide, the spokesman said.

In the case of Roi Et, Maj Gen Sansern speculated that the governor could be worried about political conflict after the calendar was sent out. Roi Et was a main base for Pheu Thai in past elections.

On Monday, police and soldiers in Ban Phai district in Khon Kaen also seized about 10 copies of the same calendar that Ms Yingluck planned to give her supporters.

The former prime minister was in the district for a religious ceremony and to meet her supporters for New Year's.

About 200 people greeted Ms Yingluck after she arrived in the district town from Phetchabun. She had intended to go around town via van to meet other supporters, but authorities nixed the plan, forcing her to limit her activity to temples before leaving for Muang district.

As for Mr Meechai, Pheu Thai Party leaders were angry at the charter draft leader for saying people who distort the intent and legality of the charter and derail the roadmap would suffer the consequences.

Acting party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai wrote a "note" to the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), taking him to task for what he felt were disparaging comments.

Over the weekend, Mr Meechai warned there should be no misunderstandings about the draft charter, and politicians and parties must not mislead the people when the referendum is held later this year.

Mr Phumtham said Mr Meechai's remarks were deemed an insult to voters as it suggests they could not think or decide for themselves about what is good or bad, and can be easily swayed. Moreover, voters have yet to see the draft charter, he added.

The first draft of the new constitution should be ready for the public on Jan 29 and will be subject to some changes before the drafting process winds down.  

If the charter is rejected in the planned referendum, the CDC and people who "direct" the drafting process should be held responsible for wasting taxpayers' money and time, Mr Phumtham said.

Mr Meechai's remarks also reflected a "holier-than-thou" attitude from the charter drafting panel while also raising suspicions about the charter's contents, said the Pheu Thai secretary-general.

"With his attitude, I can tell what the charter will look like when the drafting process is over and done with, and on what principle the charter is based.

"It is a version designed to weaken political institutions and political parties with tight rules at almost every step. Khun Meechai himself let it slip by saying 'we need strong measures'," he said.

Former Pheu Thai MP Watana Muangsuk said politicians were not intimidated by "strong measures", but they were concerned about the CDC's focus.

He said the country's political crisis stemmed from weakened mechanisms in the democratic system and inefficiencies in the justice system.

"The CDC's job is to produce a charter that promotes democracy based on the rule of law which people can widely accept," he said.

Mr Watana doubted the Meechai version of the charter could ensure any of this. He alleges the draft charter seeks to grant an amnesty to the military government for the mistakes it has made running the country. 

"Whether or not the charter is accepted depends solely on its content, not on any individual. If it is based on democratic principles and the rule of law and respects the people's power, I believe the people will vote for it.

"If the draft fails to make it through the referendum, the people who should bear the blame are Mr Meechai, his panel and those who picked them for the task," he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam agreed Monday with Mr Meechai's suggestion for "strong measures" to clean up politics, saying drastic action is required to tackle issues including electoral fraud and corruption.

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