Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red shirts divided over Prem meet


The red shirts are divided over the upcoming meeting between the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, some cabinet ministers and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda on Thursday.
Ms Yingluck will lead her deputies to call on Gen Prem and wish him a happy Thai New Year on the occasion of Songkran. They will also perform a rod nam dam hua, or blessing, ceremony for Gen Prem.
Red shirt core member Shinawat Haboonpad said yesterday some members of the movement were against the meeting and it remains to be seen if the meeting will turn into "collusion" with the ammart, or ruling elite.
Mr Shinawat, adviser to Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan, said most members of the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) still supported the Pheu Thai Party-led government.
But if the government compromises on its principles and colludes with the elite, it would be unacceptable to the red shirts, Mr Shinawat said.
It must not be forgotten how much the red shirts went through during the UDD's past protests before the government rose to power, he said.
It is understandable the government is trying to foster reconciliation, but reconciliation must go beyond individuals and it must correct the legal system to restore justice, Mr Shinawat said.
He said that Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar, who is also a UDD core leader, had led rallies against Gen Prem in the past. It would be a bitter pill for Mr Nattawut, as a cabinet minister, to swallow if he has to participate.
UDD chair Tida Tawornseth said the meeting had nothing to do with the red shirts and the UDD is only concerned about how the government will solve the country's problems.
She said she wants the government to release all red shirts detained in connection with the 2010 political violence and bring the real perpetrators to justice.
But Kwanchai Praipana, who heads the Khon Rak Udon group and is also a leading UDD member, said the planned meeting should not stir up any strong feelings among the red shirts.
Gen Prem Tinsulanonda (left) and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Ms Yingluck yesterday said she will lead her deputies to seek Gen Prem's blessing during the Thursday ceremony and thank him for attending the government's gala dinner on Feb 10.
Ms Yingluck rejected suggestions that the government was trying to gain Gen Prem's support for its reconciliation bid.
She said he had stayed out of politics and that responsibility for handling political issues rests with the government.
Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said that Gen Prem's response to Ms Yingluck's request for the meeting was a good sign for reconciliation and the political climate should improve.
Gen Yutthasak stressed that the government was duty-bound to restore national harmony.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said Gen Prem is a respected figure and it would be proper to seek his blessing during the ceremony.
It was wrong to think that the meeting between the cabinet ministers and Gen Prem was politically motivated.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that if the prime minister really wants reconciliation, she should take Mr Nattawut and Pheu Thai list MP and UDD core leader Jatuporn Prompan along with her and tell them to apologise to Gen Prem for criticising him during the UDD's past rallies.
Phayao Akhard, mother of Kamonkate Akhard, a volunteer nurse who was shot dead in Wat Pathum Wanaram during the political violence in 2010, said she disagreed with the government's reconciliation tactics.
She said she was not opposed to the reconciliation move but she wanted justice restored first so society would know who was responsible for the 91 deaths during the political mayhem.
Mrs Phayao said relatives of the 91 dead will gather at Ratchaprasong intersection on Thursday. They would proceed to hand-deliver their demands to the government and probably send them on to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra as well.