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Tussle over push for reforms

Suthep Thaugsuban, third from left, secretary-general of the People

Suthep Thaugsuban, third from left, secretary-general of the People

Yingluck to proceed on leave after setting up a forum of experts; PDRC insists she must resign first

The government and protest leaders yesterday vied for support for their ideas of setting up a forum to reform the country.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a national address in the afternoon, called for a forum with representatives from all walks of life to find "the best solution for Thailand" and to brainstorm reform ideas for the country in the future.

Her move came amid growing calls for an overhaul of the political system.

After the committee is formed, Yingluck would go on leave and allow one of her deputies, possibly Phongthep Thepkanjana, to take over as caretaker prime minister, a source said.

Later, Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the protesting People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), proposed a "people's council" with 400 members - 300 elected from various occupations and 100 selected by the PDRC.

According to the PDRC, this council would help with suggesting reform measures for the country before a new election would be held.

Yingluck later said she would not join her proposed forum. It would be left to permanent state officials and "people with neutrality", to allow free and open discussion.

The forum would do its work while preparations for the general election, scheduled for February 2, would be carried out as planned. No time frame has been set for the forum to complete its task, she added.

Tongthong Chandransu, secretary-general of the Prime Minister's Office, has been assigned to implement this forum. Yingluck expects further details about this forum to be revealed today.

"There is no problem if the PDRC wants to take part in the forum," she told reporters.

In her address, she urged people interested in joining the forum to gather at 9am on Sunday at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok. The event would be hosted by the PM's Office.

The Sunday forum is intended to lead to the formation of a "political reform committee" that would consist of 400-1,000 people, according to a government source.

After the dissolution of the House of Representatives on Monday, the PDRC demanded that Yingluck and her Cabinet members, who are now taking a caretaker role, resign en bloc to make way for the formation of a "people's council".

Suthep yesterday met with leaders of seven private-sector organisations at Bangkok's Sukosol Hotel to discuss his group's reform ideas. He said he would attempt to stop the election from taking place.

"And I can do it," he said.

He also urged the private sector to back his group's cause for political reform.

"If you share our goal, let's do it together so that we can end all this quickly," he said.

The seven private-sector organisations are set to hold a conference at the QSNCC today to propose their national reform plan.

The PDRC yesterday ignored the forum proposed by Yingluck.

"From what she said [in her statement], it is not the answer we need to hear. We need her to resign [from her caretaker post] to pave the way for national reform," its spokesman Akanat Promphan said.

An election cannot lead to reform - the demonstrators need reform before going to the polls, he said.

The meeting with the private sector was the PDRC's first with organisations that have not joined its protest. Suthep on Wednesday had sought meetings with other organisations including security forces.

The seven private-sector organisations were the Tourism Council of Thailand, the Thai Bankers' Association, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations, the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the Thai Listed Companies Association.

The PDRC will today meet with media representatives to explain its national reform agenda at the Royal Turf Club at Nang Lerng. Tomorrow the PDRC is scheduled to hold an open assembly at Thammasat University from 9am-4pm with the public invited.

People's Council

The PDRC's proposed 400-member "People's Council"

_ 300 members selected from various occupations.

_ 100 members selected by the PDRC.

_ No members or executives of any political party allowed.

_ Members must refrain from accepting any political position for at least five years.






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