Occupy state offices: Suthep

national November 27, 2013 00:00

By The Nation

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Ready to fight arrest warrant, says battle against 'Thaksin regime' will continue unabated



Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of a mass rally aimed at “rooting out the Thaksin regime”, last night called on his supporters to occupy all ministries in Bangkok as well as provincial halls upcountry. 
Addressing the crowds camped out at the Finance Ministry compound since Monday, Suthep said state officials should “stop being a tool for the Thaksin regime”. 
He also called for changes that will ensure free and fair elections where votes are not bought, a society that is free of corruption and true decentralisation of power, including the election of governors in all provinces.
The former Democrat MP also said that he would today have his lawyer file petition with the Appeals Court to fight a lower court’s decision yesterday to issue an arrest warrant for him. 
He told his supporters that even if he were arrested, they should continue fighting against the “Thaksin regime”.
Earlier yesterday, the Criminal Court approved the arrest warrant in connection with the occupation of government buildings. Suthep recently resigned as an opposition Democrat Party MP to head the rallies.
Police charged him with involvement in an illegal gathering and trespass on a government agency.
A political battle took place on two fronts yesterday with anti-government protesters besieging more government ministries and the opposition beginning its no-confidence onslaught against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in the House.
Thousands of demonstrators, protesting against a government-backed bill for blanket amnesty in political cases and vowing to “root out the Thaksin regime”, yesterday surrounded the ministries of Interior, Agriculture, Transport, and Sports and Tourism.
On Monday, the protesters began their occupation of the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, and the Public Relations Department.
Yesterday’s siege forced officials at the centres to leave work early. Protesters locked the gates of the ministries of Agriculture, Transport, and Sports and Tourism with chains before moving to besiege the Interior Ministry, according to Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj-General Adul Narongsak.
The protesters surrounding the Interior Ministry left the area at around 6pm.
In the House, opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva launched a no-confidence motion against Yingluck with an attack on her government’s rice-pledging scheme. He also questioned her integrity following failures to keep promises on policy platforms.
Opposition MPs accused the government of undermining economic stability though its populist policies.
Yingluck yesterday reiterated that authorities would not use violence against the protesters. “Everybody must obey the law and not use mob rule to subvert the rule of law,” she told reporters.
Adding to tensions in the capital yesterday, an unexploded hand grenade was discovered outside a Democrat Party office in Phra Khanong district.
The Finance Ministry yesterday planned to use the civil service centre on Chaeng Wattana Road as its temporary office in the face of the ongoing occupation of the ministry compound by the anti-government protesters.
The permanent secretary for Finance, Rangsan Sriworasart, said yesterday the ministry and related offices had contingency plans to deal with crises such as this, to ensure that normal work routines would not be affected. Computer/data backup centres are scattered in several locations to diversify potential risks that could affect the ministry’s daily operations. 
The ministry has a risk-management system similar to those of commercial banks, Rangsan said. Such systems allow information/computer systems at various sites to fill in for those that cannot perform normal operations due to external factors, Rangsan said.
The ministry has several information systems and data-backup centres in various locations to ensure there is no disruption of work, including payment of salaries to ministry staff. However, instalment payments for services performed by state projects’ contractors, as well as hiring, and procurements by state agencies, could be affected as they are not part of the routine automatic-payments system of the ministry, the official said. 
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak yesterday ordered the movement of its two offices – the Office of the Minister and Office of the Permanent Secretary – to the Department of Physical Education to maintain its workflow after the ministry building was seized by political demonstrators.
Officials were allowed to go home and work anywhere they could be reached by telephone and online communication. 
Somsak acknowledged the political demonstrations had impacted on the country’s image as a tourism destination and could lead foreign tourists to postpone plans to come here.
Suwat Sitthilor, permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, said officials were asked to leave the ministry before its entrance was closed. They were not let back in again due to safety concerns.
Mahidol University peace expert Eakpant Pindavanija said he feared there was a high chance of bloody confrontation in the days ahead.
“The solution is hard [to find],” he admits, adding that peace groups are working behind the scenes to convince both sides not to resort to the use of force. Eakpant deplored the seizure of state offices, calling it a mistake for the anti-government protests.
Thammasat University rector Somkid Lertpaitoon yesterday suggested the government should consider a House dissolution and a fresh election as a way to restore peace in the country. 
He said there had been no signs of peace in sight as the government insisted on employing legal measures to deal with the crisis.

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