EU nvite spurs wide debate

national November 25, 2015 01:00


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Court will decide if Yingluck will be able to go abroad : Prawit

THE EUROPEAN Parliament’s invitation for former premier Yingluck Shinawatra to visit for a meeting was the talk of the town yesterday – on whether the junta and Supreme Court will allow her to leave the country.
A lawyer for Yingluck said she had not contacted him yet to make a request to go abroad. 
She is being tried in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders on charges of alleged negligence – for failing to stop graft and mismanagement in her government’s rice-pledging scheme.
With the trial already underway Yingluck would need permission from the Court to go abroad. It is understood that the Court would first ask the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for its opinion on the matter.
The rice scheme is estimated to have lost Bt600 billion in public funds, as well as badly hurt the rice trade.
Yingluck is scheduled to stand trial on the allegations in April next year.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, also NCPO chief, has said he is looking into the case but would listen to what the Court has to say.
“An exchange of views only from Yingluck [to the European Parliament] could be considered as listening to one side of the story. It may show disrespect to Thai law,” he said.
The government is now trying to verify if the invitation is genuine. 
Prayut said such an invitation should go through the Foreign Ministry, and implied that it was not right to send a letter to invite someone to explain local issues.
“If our side [Thais] had them [the European Parliament] do this, they should be condemned,” he said. He had an answer about whether the former PM would get permission to go, but refused to disclose it. 
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said it would be up to the Court to decide whether to allow Yingluck to go abroad or not.
He said the issue did not come under the NCPO’s jurisdiction.
Yingluck’s lawyer, Norawit Lalang, said he had not moved to do anything yet on the reported invitation, as Yingluck had not contacted him for further action.
Courts of Justice spokesman Suebpong Sripongkul, meanwhile, said that in general, a Court would use judgement on any request, based on conditions ruled earlier on the case. 
An applicant had to be able to demonstrate reasons to substantiate the request, but the Court would have a final say. “A Court will decide whether the applicant will go abroad, to do as invited or he [or she] has potential to flee. It may put more conditions, such as increasing a guarantee.
According to the invitation letter dated October 7, Yingluck was asked to exchange views with members of the European Parliament (EP) on the political situation in Thailand.
It was co-signed by Elmar Brok, chairman of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Werner Langen, chair of the panel for relations with Southeast Asia and Asean.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwi-nai said the ministry had not seen the invitation letter yet but would check on the party that sent the invitation.
However, based on information from Brussels, he said it appeared to have resulted from lobbying.
Senior Pheu Thai Party member Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who served as foreign minister in the previous government, said the NCPO should allow Yingluck to go to Europe as invited by the European Parliament to show the international community that the Thai government has imposed no censorship on people’s freedom of expression and basic rights.
Any decision that is in favour of the invitation will demonstrate that at present Thailand still respects rules of law, Surapong said.
“The NCPO chief should take the opportunity to show the European Community that Thailand is proceeding to have a national election and is in the process of drafting a [new] Constitution. 
“The NCPO should not fear anything. I can guarantee that Yingluck will not say negative things against Thailand because she, as one of the leaders, is mature and has a better heart than many men,” he said.
But former Democrat MP Warong Dejvikromkit said the invitation was not normal, given what the letter said about Yingluck’s impeachment by National Legislative Assembly over the rice-pledging scheme.
“The invitation said Yingluck’s impeachment and trial in the Supreme Court over the scheme was a cause for concern. The invitation may be the result of lobbying and the contents precarious in interfering with justice in the country,” he said. 
Warong has been active in and outside Parliament in questioning the former government’s rice scheme.
He urged the NCPO to consider the issue carefully, as Yingluck may take the opportunity to tarnish the country by claiming she had been treated unfairly. She may plan to go and not return after claiming that she was treated unfairly. 
He said: “We should think about her brother; Thaksin, who asked to go abroad to China and fled.”
Thaksin, premier from 2001-06, fled after visiting Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. The Supreme Court then ruled him guilty inabsentia of abuse of power, sentencing him to two years in jail. 
The Democrat MP asked why the European Parliament invitation was dated October 7 but only revealed now. It said nothing about a date |to meet nor who Yingluck would meet.
He said the invitation may have been done on personal basis as it was not signed by Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament or Klaus Welle, the EU secretary general.
It was the result of lobbying by Pheu Thai people, who wanted to use it to cause disturbance and criticise the NCPO, he said.

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