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Suthep plays down 'sovereignty' claim

Yingluck orders senior police to handle lese majeste claim against Ko Tee

ANTI-GOVERNMENT protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday retracted his claim of state "sovereignty" for his movement, saying he was merely describing a hypothetical scenario that could develop should caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be required by a Constitutional Court verdict to step down, creating a political vacuum.

Suthep, the secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), said the people could claim sovereign power in accordance with the Constitution's Article 3 if Yingluck is forced to step down, leaving the nation without a government. "As sovereignty would return to the people, we could set up a National Assembly and a People's Council to reform the country," Suthep told Defence Ministry permanent secretary Nipat Thonglek in a meeting at the ministry yesterday.

Suthep's move to claim state sovereignty for the anti-government movement raised eyebrows on all sides, including among his own allies. His opponents characterised the statement as an attempt to change the ruling system of the country, and vowed to take legal action against him.

Nipat said he would relay Suthep's message to the Armed Forces, adding that military personnel would have to form their own judgement on it.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday that he had no idea whether Suthep's proposal was illegal. "If the idea is against the law, the authorities must take legal action. The Army will not side with those who violate the laws," he said.

"As the Department of Special Investigation [DSI] has taken action in this case, I don't need to make any comment," he said, referring to a demand by Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit that the general take action against Suthep.

Asked if the Army has a clear stance on Suthep's statement, Prayuth said he had already made it clear that wrongdoers must face legal consequences. The police and the DSI, have a duty to handle the issue, he said.

Prayuth has come under pressure to act in Suthep's case, as the Army chief earlier ordered legal action against a group of people in Chiang Mai who espoused the idea of separating the Northern region from the rest of the Kingdom.

"There are many illegal ideas concerning the monarchy, sovereignty and territory. We should discuss these issues together," the Army chief said.

A group of 50 members of the Democracy Lovers Network led by Sanchai Suaypromraj yesterday filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division accusing Suthep and other PDRC leaders of insurrection.

As evidence, the group submitted a video clip of Suthep's speech on Saturday in which he said he would claim sovereign power. The group also submitted newspaper accounts of the incident published the following day.

Separately, acting PM's secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said Yingluck had ordered him to instruct National Police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew to take charge of proceedings against all the accused in a case involving an alleged lese majeste violation. The order came after a video clip emerged on social media of Pathum Thani red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kotthammakhun, aka Ko Tee, giving an interview to foreign media discussing his rivals in the anti-government protest movement.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said yesterday the party was preparing to seek police action against the red-shirt leader, citing the lese majeste law.

Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has assigned the party's legal team to submit a complaint concerning the video clip to Yingluck, her deputy Chalerm Yoobamrung, and DSI chief Tarit Pengdith. The latter two are the chief and the director of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order respectively. Deputy Democrat leader Sathit Pitutecha said he would ask the Criminal Court to revoke bail for Jatuporn Promphan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, in light of the latter's recent speeches, and would ask him to clarify his accusations relating to the ammat, or "elite".


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