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Govt eases tight security in Parliament

Most soldiers guarding the Parliament were withdrawn yesterday, while barbed wire and road barriers were removed once the weekly House meetings were completed.

Opposition MPs cited the heavy presence of soldiers and tight security measures as a reason for their boycott of the House sessions on Wednesday and yesterday.

In addition, concrete barriers, fire engines and trucks at certain locations near the Parliament compound were removed so traffic could resume as normal after 4pm.

However, the U-Thong Nai Road in front of the Parliament remained closed to traffic, while police officers and some soldiers continued to be posted inside the compound, the Thai News Agency reported.

In a related development, Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombat yesterday submitted a petition with Parliament President Chai Chidchob and the Parliamentary Ombudsman's Office calling for second deputy House speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai's speech delivered at the red-shirts' protest site on Monday to be investigated.

Nipit said Apiwan, who is also an MP from the Opposition Pheu Thai Party, had made "inappropriate comments" that could be interpreted as being in contempt of the monarchy. The government MP said he believed Apiwan had violated the code of ethics for public office holders and was therefore unfit for the post of deputy House speaker.

The Democrat MP added that he would also bring this case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

During yesterday's House meeting, which focused on interpolation, Pheu Thai MP Thanusak Lek-uthai broke down on the House floor after hearing the prime minister's explanation of the need for tight security.

"I just wanted everything in order. I don't want to see us bickering," he sobbed.

Thanusak appeared strained when he took to the floor to question PM Abhisit Vejjajiva about the security measures, saying he was deeply distressed by the large presence of soldiers and road barricades around Parliament.

In reply, Abhisit said his government deemed the security necessary in order to prevent the Parliament from being besieged like it had been on October 7, 2008. He said the security measures were just a precaution, not a silent coup as feared and suspected by the Opposition.

"The security forces have agreed to brave the elements and safeguard the Parliament so lawmakers can work safely," he said, adding that the soldiers were not blocking the MPs from doing their jobs.

He said the authorities couldn't be complacent because certain elements among the red shirts had threatened to put Parliament under a blockade.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said earlier yesterday that the soldiers and road barricades would be removed by the evening.

Chief coalition whip Witthaya Kaewparadai said Suthep had informed him of this decision yesterday, adding that the whips would meet next Tuesday to assess and review the security measures ahead of the House meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondet said the government had gone overboard in trying to protect the legislative building. Security checkpoints and road barricades stifled the work of the Senate, he said, adding that a large number of senators found the atmosphere too strained.

"The security is too tight and disruptive for senators to carry on with their jobs," he said.

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