The Senate and the government failed to break the political deadlock at a meeting yesterday as acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan refused to step down to pave the way for an interim government as demanded by them and anti-government protest
With the government declining to cooperate, the option of pursuing the plan to install a neutral prime minister has been snuffed out, Senator Dej-Udom Krairit, one of the senators who spoke with Niwatthumrong, said.
The meeting between senators and Niwattumrong was held in the morning at an undisclosed location to discuss options for ending the political impasse.
After Niwattumrong refused to resign, senators held a three-hour-long closed-door meeting with a working group that was chaired by acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai.
Though the Upper House was unable to arrive at a conclusion, Dej-Udom said Surachai will still go ahead with a press conference on the matter tomorrow.
Despite the acting premier's refusal, Senator Somchai Sawaengkan said the senators would not give up and will continue trying to achieve the goal of installing an unelected prime minister and an interim cabinet. However, he did not elaborate on the plans and timeframe.
Second Deputy Senate Speaker Peerasak Porchit, who had spoken to Niwattumrong earlier yesterday, said the acting PM insisted that his caretaker government would continue working until a new government was put in place.
“He just listened but offered no response when I told him that his government did not have a full mandate and could not fully function,” Peerasak said.
Peerasak represented Surachai in yesterday morning’s meeting with Niwattumrong and caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri. Surachai missed the meeting, saying he was sick.
Niwattumrong later issued a statement, insisting that he and his Cabinet have full authority to function in a caretaker capacity, as they are required to stay on under Article 181 and the May 7 Constitutional Court ruling until the next Cabinet takes office.
“So now the country has a Cabinet and an acting PM who has full authority to administrate the country in line with the Constitution,” the acting PM said.
Demands from other groups for a neutral PM are unlawful as the country already has a serving Cabinet and an acting PM, Niwattumrong said in the statement.
Appointing an overlapping prime minister while you already have one is unlawful, he added.
Also, appointing a new prime minister who has full authority is impossible because Article 181 still limits his or her authority to administrate the country, the statement said.
“Cabinet cannot resign”
The Cabinet cannot resign because it will be deemed as negligence and unconstitutional, the statement said.
He also said the caretaker government was ready to cooperate with the Senate or other groups to find a way out under the Constitution and existing laws.
The caretaker government is now facing challenges from the Senate and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) who want to appoint a non-elected interim government.
PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced earlier that he expected victory by May 26, otherwise he would surrender on the following day.
The move, which Suthep has called his final battle, followed the Senate’s call on Friday for the caretaker government to consider resigning and pave the way for a new administration with full authority to carry out national reform.
And the Senate said they were ready to appoint a new premier if necessary.
Suthep has called for the country to implement political reforms before an election under a neutral premier. The government, with Niwattumrong as the acting premier, insisted that an election could be held prior to the reforms.
An ex-minister from Pheu Thai Party, who asked not to be named, yesterday said fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra had vowed to stay on and fight and he won’t retreat.
The source said Thaksin is now in Hong Kong and several former ministers and former MPs had flown to meet him.
Meanwhile Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday ordered the military to be on high alert for two weeks, and be prepared to respond if political talks fail to find a solution to the political crisis, a source from the Army said.
The alert order was issued at yesterday’s meeting of Army units at the Army’s operation centre.
Prayuth said if a way could be found to end the crisis, it would be good but the Army needed to be prepared if any violence took place and should help avoid confrontation between the two rival sides.