Yingluck should heed her own calls for fairness

opinion March 06, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

The PM has asked the Army not to show bias against the red shirts, but she needs to set an example with her own actions

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has clearly stated that her government opposes any attempt to split the country in two and she would not allow it. This sentiment is commendable. 
Yingluck said on Tuesday she had instructed the Army to prevent any move toward secession and monitor any unlawful activities in that direction.
Her remarks came after the military, acting on information from Third Army command, based in the North, filed a police complaint against red-shirt leaders in Chiang Mai and Phayao, accusing them of instigating secession. The charges came after the red shirts allegedly discussed a plan to set up a “Democratic Republic of Lanna”. Red banners have appeared in public view at several locations in the North, apparently heralding the coming of a 21st-century Lanna state.
Yingluck defended her red-shirt supporters, saying they might have raised the idea of a separate state out of resentment. She said she had warned the red shirts and Cabinet members who raised the idea of secession. 
Yingluck has also asked the Army not to show bias in its treatment of people on either side of the political divide and to avoid double standards.
Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree was quick to dismiss allegations of bias against the red shirts. He said the Army was confident there is sufficient evidence to back charges against those accused of instigating separatism. The spokesman also explained that the Army had not take legal action against the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) because the police and the government’s Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order had already brought more than 100 legal cases against PDRC representatives and supporters. 
PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan criticised the prime minister for accusing the Army of practising double standards with its legal action against pro-secession groups. “It is the prime minister who is practising double standards. She failed to take any action against these people,” countered Akanat.
The prime minister has until recently been mainly silent over matters of bias among state authorities. Yet this is the second time in recent weeks that she has called for equal treatment and accused authorities of practising double standards. In both cases the call has come at a time when she and her government’s supporters were facing legal trouble. 
Last month Yingluck implied that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) was treating her unfairly by charging her with dereliction of duty over the government’s rice price-pledging scheme. In a Facebook post the premier complained that the commission needed just 21 days to review the evidence and brand her a criminal suspect. She said there was no precedent for such an action, and that it ran counter to a previous NAAC investigation into similar charges levelled against the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration. NACC commissioner Wicha Mahakhun dismissed Yingluck’s allegations, saying that the investigation had in fact started in December 2012, and had not taken 21 days, as she claimed.
It should be good news for the country when the head of government demands that the authorities be fair to all and condemns double standards. But Yingluck now needs to show she is serious about this principle of non-biased governance and that she will not tolerate favouritism toward certain groups. Rather than pointing the finger at others for showing favouritism, she needs to set an example with her own actions.