Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday that she was ready to “die protecting democracy”, just as a soldier would devote his life fighting for his motherland.
“I’m also the defence minister, which means I’m like a soldier who has to do his duty until the very last minute. A soldier has to keep protecting the last stand and be ready to die on the battlefield. I will die on the battlefield fighting for democracy,” she said.
Yingluck also said she was ready for negotiations with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, along with other involved parties, through a mediator.
However, she insisted she would not have the discussions broadcast live on television, as the veteran politician has been demanding.
“I’m not a debater and I am not skilled at debating with Khun Suthep. I am sincere in wanting to see the country move forward, however. All of us have been feeling the pain; the country is in pain, the demonstrators are in pain and I do not wish to see any more violence,” the premier said.
Yingluck stressed that as caretaker prime minister, she remained the rule-keeper of both the country and its democratic principles, and therefore any talks with Suthep must be in line with democracy.
She was responding to an offer by Suthep to have a one-on-one meeting with her in an attempt to end the ongoing political deadlock.
The PM voiced agreement in principle also to a proposal for the United Nations to act as a mediator in any negotiations. She said democratic rules must be maintained even in the process of negotiation, and that the Constitution must be protected.
Asked whether she felt she had been belittled by Suthep, who said she was someone who could not make a decision by herself, Yingluck said that finding a way out of the political impasse was a matter that needed the consent of society as a whole.
Meanwhile, Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday that both sides needed to ease their conditions to make talks between them possible.
The Army chief again said he could not promise whether or not there would be a military coup.
He added, however, that it should be analysed whether a coup could put an end to the current political crisis.
He conceded that staging a coup was not “legally right”.
Prayuth insisted the Army would not allow the country to be divided. He was responding to threats by some red-shirt leaders to create a new nation in the northern and northeastern part of the Kingdom.
He denied that the Army was taking sides with the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which is led by Suthep.
He said the deployment of some 5,000 Army officers around the protest sites was intended to provide security to both protesters and other citizens, and that force would only be used against armed groups.
Caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who heads the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, said he was personally opposed to Yingluck negotiating with Suthep.
This is because Suthep is merely a leader of an unlawful group of people and someone who is charged with insurrection, while Yingluck is the lawful leader of the country, he said.
“Suthep has no way out, so he seeks to meet the premier … I don’t think Suthep ought to be accorded with honour, because he lacks honour. From [earlier] saying he wouldn’t meet the premier, that he would arrest the premier, confiscate her assets and banish her whole clan into exile, isn’t it Suthep who’s without a way forward now, so he is retracting ...? There are only 3,000 supporters [of Suthep] left,” said Chalerm.
In a related development, caretaker Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Prasopdee said Pheu Thai MP candidates would gather at Parliament House at 10am on Tuesday in a show of united power to protect democracy.
They would also start a campaign to retaliate against the PDRC, such as a boycott of products or agencies that are PDRC sponsors, constant rallying, legal action and rituals to “cleanse the minds of the sinful”.