Emergency decree would be a last resort : Yingluck

national January 07, 2014 00:00

By Jeerapong Prasertpolkrung,

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Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday that invoking an emergency decree would be the last option in dealing with the current protests.

Yingluck, who is also caretaker defence minister, expressed concern over a call by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to shut down Bangkok next Monday. 

She said the plan to cut power and water supply at state agencies would worsen the situation and cause trouble for residents in the capital, in addition to reducing confidence in the country’s political system and economy.

“That will be the last option. We will try to avoid using it,” Yingluck said, adding that the Internal Security Act would still be in effect.

Yingluck visited Suvarnabhumi International Airport yesterday to provide moral support to security officials. Some 12 companies of police and two companies of troops were deployed to ensure security at the airport.

While Yingluck was making the inspection, police applauded and shouted “PM, fight on”, prompting her eyes to brim with tears.

The troops applauded only when instructed to do so by a police spokesman over the public address system.

There have been suggestions for Yingluck to impose an emergency decree to deal with the “Bangkok shutdown”, according to a Pheu Thai Party source. 

With a state of emergency in effect, the military would have to take charge and oversee operations to deal with the protesters. But key military figures have allegedly opposed the move and said would prefer to play a back-up role to the police.

The source, who is a key Pheu Thai figure, said certain military leaders appeared sympathetic with the anti-government PDRC.

“Now is the right time to test the Army’s willingness” to help the government deal with the situation, the source said.

“If the Army does not comply with the government’s request for it to be involved, the prime minister has the right to remove the military leaders.” But PM Yingluck has not responded to that idea.

The source said leaders of the military had promised to persuade PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban to end the protest if she dissolved the House of Representatives. But when the PM did so, they failed to persuade Suthep because he was backed by a powerful figure that once created trouble for the Thaksin government.

Shutdown ‘illegal, dangerous’

Meanwhile, caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri yesterday warned against joining the Bangkok shutdown protest, claiming it was illegal and dangerous.

Chaikasem said PDRC secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban was facing a sedition charge, which carried a maximum penalty of death. So if people chose to support Suthep by joining the shutdown protest, they would also be regarded as committing a wrongdoing, Chaikasem said.

He cautioned that protesters could also be injured in clashes with the PDRC’s opponents. The minister said people who joined the simultaneous rallies on Monday would violate Articles 116 and 215 of the Criminal Code for unlawfully assembling to cause turmoil in the capital.

“Those who already know but still join the protest will be deemed as engineering or supporting sedition,” Chaikasem said on TV.

“The government would like to tell the people to use their judgement and be aware that if they join in the Bangkok Shutdown, they will be breaking the law and cause damage to the country.

“Besides, there is a risk that they will be hurt as there might be clashes with those who have different opinions and groups of people with malicious intent.”
In a related development, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is due to decide today whether to pursue a case against Yingluck and 382 other parliamentarians accused of violating the Constitution, for voting in support of a bill to amend the Constitution to try to change the composition of the Senate. 
Even if the NACC resolved to pursue a case against her, the PM would not need to stand down as caretaker prime minister, a legal expert claimed. The case was filed against her as an MP, a position she no longer holds after the House was dissolved in early December. 
Meanwhile, a close friend of Thaksin who served in the Yingluck government, suggested that Yingluck step down before the shutdown on January 13. “In a war when you can’t make an advance, the commander has to order a retreat. Yingluck should leave her post and announce that she will not return to power,” said the source, who was Thaksin’s former classmate from the Armed Forces Preparatory School. 

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