300 people stopped from blocking Yingluck at Defence Ministry
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday she had never been suspicious of the military and would not interfere in the military reshuffle.
The prime minister held a meeting with the Supreme Commander and the chiefs of the three armed forces, as well as Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha, before holding a press conference with them standing behind her.
She said she had come up with policies for them to implement aimed at solving the insurgency in the three southernmost provinces and to prepare the country for the 2015 launch of the Asean Economic Community. She also promised to support the military in carrying out its mission.
Asked if she would ask Yuthasak to step down after the leaking of an audio clip that was suspected to feature a conversation between the deputy minister and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck said, “How can you ask this question? Don’t you have any consideration for him? He [Yuthasak] is standing here.”
Yuthasak smiled reluctantly at the prime minister’s comment.
Earlier yesterday, anti-government protesters unsuccessfully attempted to block Yingluck from entering the ministry as she began her first day of work there.
Police temporarily closed roads near the ministry to traffic to allow the PM’s van to enter.
Yingluck’s motorcade entered through the ministry’s front gate. Yuthasak led the armed forces chiefs and high-ranking military officials in welcoming her.
Yingluck paid respect to the ministry’s spirit houses. Reporters and cameramen were banned from getting too close to her.
Rallying against the clip
Around 300 anti-government protesters tried to block the entrance to the ministry in a show of opposition related to the content of a controversial audio clip recently posted online, but police prevented them from getting close.
Police arrested Army Captain Songklod Chuenchupol, aka Captain Pookem, after he lay down on the road in front of the ministry.
The prime minister earlier cancelled her plan to worship at the City Pillar Shrine.
The controversial audio clip features a conversation between two men, one of whom has been identified as former prime minister Thaksin by his son, Panthongtae. On the tape, they discuss a wide range of politically sensitive issues including a plot to get military support to bring Thaksin back home. Thaksin lives in self-exile abroad after fleeing a corruption conviction.
The protesters were led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Admiral Banawit Kengrian, General Preecha Iamsuwan, Admiral Chai Suwannapap and Dr Tul Sitthisomwong, leader of the multicoloured group.
They said they wanted to block Yingluck and Yuthasak from being welcomed into the ministry by a parade of the three Armed Forces’ guards of honour.
Nine companies of soldiers and police led by Bangkok Police chief Pol Lt-General Kamronwit Thoopkrachang have been stationed at the ministry to maintain security.
Tul said his group disapproved of the fact that Yingluck doubled as defence minister because the move is seen as interference in the military, especially the annual military reshuffle at the end of the year.
They also objected to the discussion heard in the controversial clip.
He said the military top brass must show that they are not dominated or influenced by politicians. “You must choose either to be the military of the King, or that of politicians.
“People would be upset if the military top brass allowed themselves to become the tools of politicians.’’