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PM rejects Yuthasak's offer to step down

Defence aide fears 'Thaksin' audio clips tarnish ties with brass; govt says tapes doctored

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has rejected Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha's offer to resign in the wake of the posting of online audio clips of a purported conversation in which Yuthasak appears to discuss national affairs with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, sources said yesterday.

"Yingluck asked Yuthasak to go on assisting her as her deputy," a Government House source said.

Yingluck also holds the De-fence portfolio.

The government has cast doubt on the authenticity of the clips.

On Saturday, "Thai patriot" posted on YouTube four audio clips of two men who sound like Yuthasak and Thaksin talking about the political and military situations in Thailand, including in the deep South, as well as the upcoming military reshuffle and a plan to help the fugitive Thaksin return to his homeland.

The sources said Yingluck told Yuthasak not to be concerned about what was not true. He should disregard campaigns by military officers to discredit him, as they were disgruntled about being skipped over for promotion, the PM reportedly said.

A source close to Yuthasak said the retired general told his aides that he would like to give up his new post because the controversy would cause him to lose the respect and trust of military brass.

Yuthasak also called Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimakorn and Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the two told him that they understood him, that he should not worry, and that they promised to cooperate with him in his work, the source said.

Yuthasak had consulted with his staff and decided to hold a press conference at the Defence Ministry today about the scandal, the source said.

Deputy Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree said the issue was only mentioned in online social networks and had not been verified, so it should not be linked to the Army.

The Army would stay out of civilian politics and focus on its responsibilities in the southernmost provinces, border security, drug suppression, natural resources, migrant workers and assistance for the people, he said.

Prompong Nopparit, spokesman for the ruling Pheu Thai Party, said the party was investigating the clips and found that they had been doctored by anti-government elements.

The voices in the clips were not those of Thaksin and Yuthasak and could have been faked by anybody, he said.



Democrat MP Suthep Thaug-suban called on Yingluck to examine whether the clips were authentic, as their contents could destabilise the country.

If the government later carries out actions discussed in the recordings, the people should oppose them, he said.

"From what I heard in the clips, it was very ugly," he said.

"For example, there was a proposal to issue an executive decree granting a pardon without passing a bill … I believe if the government issues an executive decree for the sake of someone, the entire country will rise up."


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