April 18, 2014 00:00 By Pravit Rojanaphruk, Anapat De
Permanent secretaries of five ministries choose to stay away
The permanent secretaries of all 20 ministries were summoned yesterday afternoon to hear Chalerm Yoobamrung, chief of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, give a 40-minute lecture on how bureaucrats should conduct themselves vis-a-vis the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee.
However, Chalerm ended up spending most of his time seeking pity for and defending the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration.
The permanent secretaries of five ministries – Public Health, Transport, Foreign affairs, Energy and Labour – did not attend. Four sent representatives, while Narong Sahametapat of Public Health conspicuously assigned no one to go the meeting instead.
Chalerm said he left it to the good judgement of all permanent secretaries to decide how to deal with Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the PDRC, who is urging all officials to join in civil disobedience against the government.
He also told them that bloodshed is inevitable if the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Constitutional Court unfairly hand down rulings against Yingluck.
“When violence erupts, permanent secretaries must think whether they would like to stand by justice or not. Each one will be recorded by history,” he said.
Chalerm singled out Public Health’s Narong, who was not present and had no one taking his place, saying it was “too much”.
Chalerm said he had instructed police to look into whether Narong’s warm welcome for Suthep at his ministry amounted to offering refuge to someone who’s fleeing from justice.
“You have to act impartially and not behave like the NACC, which seems like a party to the conflict.”
“The case of the permanent secretary of Public Health is the case of a brave man. Our country needs such brave men to make politics colourful. But [Narong’s] action is an expression of taking the PDRC’s side and opposing the government.
“Once the government is back on track, [we] will order his transfer immediately. I’d like to warn that the Public Health’s permanent secretary is betting on the wrong side,” he said.
Even more blunt was Surapong Tovichakchaikul, foreign minister and chairman of CAPO’s advisory council, who said officials should not blow whistles in support of the PDRC during office hours.
“Officials at my ministry can have a mind that’s supportive of Suthep…But [doing that] during office hours is not appropriate,” said Surapong, who is also a deputy premier.
Three permanent secretaries defended their “reception” for Suthep, who led PDRC supporters to visit several ministries last week.
Justice’s Kittipong Kittayarak said he met Suthep because he wanted to hear from him and reporters were around most of the time.
“When [he] was done talking, I told him of my principles,” Kittipong said.
There’s such a gap of perception in Thai society today, he added.
Defence’s Nipat Thonglek said he had been personally attacked by the pro-PDRC Blue Sky TV channel for half a year and he was curious to hear from Suthep himself.
He said he made Suthep wait for two hours before meeting him and that the place of the meeting wasn’t nice enough to qualify as a “reception”.
“I asked him what did he want and what were all these five to six months [of protests] for? I told him I disagreed with it,” he said.
He will ensure that Yingluck, as caretaker defence minister will have a functional office at the ministry, he added.