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'PDRC moves similar to coup attempt'

22 academics warn that suthep's demands could split the country

WHAT THE Suthep Thaugsuban-led People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) is doing is tantamount to an attempted coup and could lead to civil war, a group of 22 academics warned yesterday.

The group, calling itself the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD), accused PDRC of trying to create a power vacuum so undemocratic elements could wind the clock back on democratic progress, pointing out that such a move would destroy democracy.

AFDD, which has won support from more than a 100 citizens, held a press conference at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science yesterday. They said Suthep and his supporters' push for a royally appointed premier and a people's council was unconstitutional.

Worajet Pakeerut, a lecturer of law at Thammasat, said Suthep's demand for caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down went against the Constitution as she was serving as caretaker premier while awaiting a snap election. He said even if Yingluck vacated her seat as prime minister, her first deputy would automatically assume her duties, and if none of her deputies were able to carry out their duty as premier, then a senior Cabinet member would have to take over.

"There's no other way," Worajet said. He went on to say that he believed the House dissolution was the best thing the premier could have done given the circumstances and that she was duty-bound by the Constitution to continue serving as caretaker premier until the election.

He also criticised deans of several universities, who have aired views in support of the PDRC, calling them shameless and accusing them of doing this for their own benefit, as they were likely to be appointed as members of the people's council if it does materialise.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, another Thammasat law lecturer and member of AFDD, said the idea of a "people's council" was inspired by Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

"Calling for a people's council is tantamount to an attempted coup," Piyabutr reiterated.

Kasian Tejapira, a noted political scientist at Thammasat, also asked how such a council could be held accountable and scrutinised if it ever eventuated.

"What if Suthep is corrupt? What if the Democrat Party and the armed forces are corrupt? What mechanisms are in place to scrutinise them [under the people's council]?"

Charnvit Kasetsri, a former rector at Thammasat, said Thailand was facing anarchy.

"The protest has become a problem in itself and it is accelerating conflicts," he said, adding that some academics had taken the anti-democratic stance of claiming to represent the entire academic community without seeking consent of others.

While academics like Worajet said Thailand was still far from being free from another coup, his colleague Thanet Apornsuwan, also from Thammasat, took the opportunity to thank the Army for not staging a coup yet.

AFDD's statement proposed a referendum on how to amend the charter, which was approved when the junta-appointed Surayud Chulanont administration was in power and several provinces were under martial law.


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