TEARFUL THAKSIN: 'Don't crucify my daughter'

PM pleads with media as Paetongtarn is cut from Chula media programme Mixed reaction greeted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's emotional defence yesterday of his youngest daughter over an entrance-exam controversy, and his uncharacteristically humble, almost tearful, plea for the media to stop "hurting" her. However, after presenting himself before the TV cameras as a heart-broken father, Thaksin switched into a belligerent mode when he was alone with key ministers. A source said he angrily told some deputy prime ministers at Government House that if the "smear campaign" did not stop, he might dissolve the House of Representatives "to finish this whole thing off". Facing charges that it bent its rules to help 17-year-old Paetongtarn Shinawatra get accepted into a programme, Chulalongkorn University has released a revised shortlist of applicants to the English Programme in Communication Arts that leaves out 30 students, including Paetongtarn. During a morning press interview, Thaksin, his eyes red and his voice choked with emotion, lambasted the university and its Mass Communications Faculty for having contradictory rules that led to Paetongtarn's admission being questioned and eventually rejected. But he took a modest approach and literally begged the media to leave his daughter alone. Joining his hands together in the traditional wai - which he did three times during the press conference - Thaksin urged the media to leave his daughter out of its coverage of the entrance-exam-leak scandal, and to be fair to her regarding the Mass Communications programme, which did not require an entrance test. "I'm begging you, please, she doesn't have anything to do with anything," Thaksin said in his most emotional public appearance since his tearful testimony to the Constitution Court during the assets-concealment scandal. "Don't punish her only because she happens to have a father in politics working for the country." Paetongtarn was reported yesterday to have passed the entrance exam and qualified for Chulalongkorn's Political Science Faculty. As investigations continue into the exam-leak scandal, and the opposition has threatened to attack the Education Ministry over the issue during the upcoming censure campaign, people close to Thaksin said he has been under a lot of stress. Tears brimmed in his eyes when he said Paetongtarn always put on a brave face in front of him. "She was afraid I would be too stressed, but when I peeked into her room, she was crying," Thaksin said. Hundreds of angry, sometimes rude, anti-Paetongtarn messages have flooded eduzones.com, a website where students normally discuss constructive education matters. At the political forum of pantip.com, Thaksin's plea drew some sympathy, but many posts blamed him for failing to take decisive action and address the public's doubts about the exam-leak scandal with a transparent and fair investigation. Thaksin's only son, Panthongtae, joined his father in defending Paetongtarn. Himself a subject of a major controversy two years ago when caught with notes inside an exam room at Ramkhamhaeng University, Panthongtae said his sister was a victim of dirty politics. "She isn't a stupid girl," the young man said. "She's capable of studying at any foreign university. She just wanted to be here and stay close to dad. If some politicians have no idea who to attack, come and attack me. Don't go after a small girl." Newspaper editors yesterday defended their coverage of the exam scandal, and insisted that the issue concerned social justice, equal opportunity and educational reform. "We are only doing our job of reporting to the public facts that affect social interests," said Thai Post managing editor Seri Lohitcoop. Phakphoom Tamarsiri, assistant editor of Kom Chad Luek, said as long as the government failed to clear up the public's doubts the issue would not go away. "We definitely feel sympathy for Paetongtarn and have been very careful. But we are obliged to find the facts of an issue that is causing widespread suspicion and concern among the public," he said. Meanwhile, Education Minister Adisai Bodharamik cautioned two unnamed lecturers who he said had been too outspoken over the exam scandal, warning them their careers could suffer. "Don't cross the line, or you will be in trouble," said Adisai. "You are government officials so don't act like the opposition." Political Desk THE NATION


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