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Bureaucrats break with tradition in call for negotiated solution

In the past, senior bureaucrats rarely took a stance in political conflicts. Some officials prefer to maintain political neutrality, while others simply always obey their bosses.

But the current political situation has seen the bureaucratic elite take a daring stand amid the political deadlock, with a group of top ministry officials issuing a statement on Wednesday saying the current political conflict could not be dealt with solely through an election. "All stakeholders should first initiate a dialogue and make a public commitment to push for political reforms, which would help the country avert a similar crisis in future," said the statement issued by the permanent secretaries of all 20 ministries. The statement was drafted by the permanent secretary to the PM's Office Ministry, Tongthong Chandransu.

Working lunch

Tongthong said the statement was written during a lunchtime meeting.

Although the meeting was originally organised to discuss what officials can and cannot do under a caretaker government, those present had a long discussion on the political situation around the lunch table, according to a top bureaucrat source.

The source added that most senior bureaucrats disagreed with the self-described people's revolution being led by Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

"No one will say 'yes' if the PDRC leader calls on heads of government offices to report to [the committee] and act as a caretaker Cabinet. Officials cannot accept that the PDRC has sovereign power unless the current Constitution is overturned. His Majesty has endorsed the royal decree to dissolve the House. So we must perform our duties based on His Majesty's guidelines," the source said.

'Happy to be here'

On the same day, former National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri took to the PDRC rally stage. He said he was happy to stand there and the PDRC leader had no need to call on him to report.

"We cannot stand in the middle between good and evil. We have to choose one side. That is why I am here," Thawil said. He added that he disagreed strongly with the blanket amnesty bill proposed by the government.

Thawil has made speeches on anti-government rally stages on six occasions, with his wife and daughter present as his biggest fans. He said his first speech, made on the Rajdamnoen rally stage, was made without contacting protest leaders. Suthep thanked him after the speech, Thawil recalled.

"Several people may wonder why I joined the rallies, even though I played a role in breaking up the [red-shirt] rally in 2010. I would say the two are not the same. The PDRC protest has been peaceful and non-violent," he said.

Thawil said he recently met with Suranand Vejjajiva, the PM's secretary-general. In the encounter, Suranand sarcastically commented that he knew Thawil could make political speeches. Thawil is now an adviser to the PM. Government officials are expected to be politically neutral. "But even when I look back, I don't think I have done anything wrong. It is my right to protest. I did so outside working hours. I didn't think of my future when I went on the rally stage."


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