Sondhi gets 'warning' letter from guardsmen

A senior military officer yesterday submitted an open letter calling on Phujadkarn newspaper founder Sondhi Limthongkul to stop involving the monarchy in his personal quarrel with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.The letter was signed by Maj-General Pruen Suwannathat, commander of the 1st Infantry Division of the Royal Guard and delivered to Sondhi by military aide Major Thanasin Sukho.

The Nation

November 17, 2005 - Pruen said in the letter that Sondhi inappropriately cited the name of His Majesty the King, a most beloved and respected figure for the Thai people, when he was directing his attacks against his rival Thaksin or trying to sway public opinion.

He said he detected Sondhi's inappropriate remarks during his mobile talk shows "Muang Thai Rai Sapda Sanjorn", which have been held at various locations, including Lumpini Park and Thammasat University auditorium, in recent months.

"Furthermore, Phujadkarn newspaper, as in its November 15 edition, has been publishing the message 'Restore the Royal Powers' on its front page implying that His Majesty has no or incomplete powers," he said.

In his capacity as a member of the Royal Guard Corps, he urged Sondhi to refrain from invoking the monarchy to further his own agenda.

Reacting to the letter, Sondhi said Pruen acted as if he was the guardian of "Thaksin's throne" rather that a Royal Guard.

"I want to ask Pruen and every military officer whether they are blind to the things happening around them, or whether they chose not to see because they are friends and former classmates of Thaksin," he said.

He said Pruen attended Pre-cadet Class 10 with Thaksin.

Army commander-in-chief General Sonthi Boonyaratklin said his subordinate Pruen had taken a personal initiative and did not rep?resent the military.

"Pruen is an officer of the Royal Guard and may have expressed his disapproval of Sondhi for being disrespectful of the monarchy. I hear many other Royal Guards are not pleased with Sondhi's activi?ties," he said.

Pruen said in a telephone interview that he was tied up with the preparations for His Majesty's birthday next month, hence he was unable to delivery his letter personally.

"My thoughts on the matter are clearly stated in my letter. I hope Khun Sondhi will understand. I just want him to stop 'pulling the sky down'," he said.

He said his mission was to safeguard the monarchy, saying Sondhi could bicker with anyone he want?ed to, but he should not invoke the King to be on his side.

Meanwhile, the Thai Journalists Association yesterday issued a statement urging the military to exercise restraint.

The statement was referring to Pruen's earlier comments that military officers might march to Sondhi's office in a show of their disapproval of him.

The Democracy Confederation also said the military should not intervene in the Thaksin-Sondhi bickering.

In a related development, a group of three government MPs led by Wichit Plangsrisakul said they would not expose how Sondhi had defaulted on his Bt6.6-billion loans if he agreed not to touch on the monarchy.

Also, PM's Office Minister Suranand Vejjajiva defended a government decision to ban cable-television operators from airing programmes from ASTV, a satellite channel operated by Sondhi.

"The ban is enforced because ASTV does not have a licence for television broadcasts," he said, dismissing the allegation that his government was trying to prevent the public from accessing Sondhi's talk show.


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