By The Nation
AUDITOR-GENERAL Pisit Leelawachiropas has threatened to release the names of local administrative officials who are organising trips to Bangkok in support of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The threat emerged yesterday as Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai announced that he believed people would “give us [Pheu Thai] a chance to always stand by them”.
Yingluck, the former leader of Pheu Thai, is fighting charges of negligence related to her government’s rice-pledging scheme, which allegedly caused massive financial damages to the country, at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions.
When she showed up to deliver her closing statements in the case on August 1, more than 1,000 people attended to express moral support for her.
On August 25, the court is scheduled to deliver a verdict in the case.
“There are reports that some local administrative body officials have planned trips under the pretext of other missions. Local government officials have told us that there are plans to bring participants to the court too,” Pisit said yesterday. “Such actions happened before on August 1.” He added that his office was investigating the reports and would consider releasing the names of those involved.
Surasarn Pasuk, a former MP affiliated with the Pheu Thai Party, urged Pisit to disclose the names, adding that otherwise society would be confused by the claim.
“In my opinion, local administrative bodies have been very careful during the past few years under close scrutiny. I don’t think they will dare using the state budget for such purposes,” he said.
Thida Thavornseth, a leader of the red-shirt umbrella group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, said red-shirt supporters were being suppressed and blocked from travelling to the court to show support for Yingluck on August 25, with most modes of transport having been made unavailable by the government.
People who wished to show up at the court would have to take public buses, she said.
Government suppression had caused difficulties for people and as a result angered them, she said, adding that the current situation was even worse than during the era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, whose military-led government in the 1950s and 1960s was notoriously repressive.
In response to Thida’s remarks, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the government did not intend to prevent people from showing their support for Yingluck, but needed to ensure peace and order. The NCPO had to prevent any mobilisation related to the event from escalating into a big political movement, he added.
Phutham said his party would respect the court’s ruling, regardless of the outcome, while insisting that the rice-pledging scheme had been conducted honestly and cautiously in line with the country’s administrative plan.
“If our dedication to contribute to the well-being of the majority will hurt us, then we still believe that the people will understand, protect us and give us a chance to always stand by them,” said Phumtham.
The verdict in the rice-pledging scheme is seen as having a profound impact on the fate of Yingluck as well as Pheu Thai Party.
Phumtham said Pheu Thai believed that national reconciliation could not be achieved unless there was justice in society.
It was the responsibility of the leadership, especially the government, to set an example in ensuring justice equally for everyone, he said.
“Pheu Thai Party has demonstrated our standpoint that unity can happen if the process towards creating it is not merely a ritual based on image, but a sincere effort towards facilitating fairness and equality for everyone,” he said. “With this, true unity can happen and it will be an important way to take our country out of crisis.”
The party secretary-general also denied that Pheu Thai was discussing who would lead the party in the next election, adding that the party was a political institution that had rules and regulations to follow.
Determining the party leader must be done through an internal democratic process with the participation of party members, he said. However, due to the NCPO’s ban on political activities, it was impossible for a meeting to be held to make such a decision, he added. It was too early to determine whether the next leader would come from the Shinawatra family, he added.
As the day of the verdict approaches, the NCPO has been stepping up security measures and warning against organised mobilisation of Yingluck supporters as well as calling on people to stay home and not turn up at the court to support Yingluck.
Authorities have also ordered the temporary shutdown of a red-shirt TV station, citing one programme’s content as allegedly breaking the law.
The move ahead of Yingluck’s verdict has been widely seen as an attempt to restrain Pheu Thai supporters from demonstrating their power. The party last week issued a statement calling for the NCPO to end violations of rights and freedoms of ordinary people and the media.
Phumtham said yesterday that all of the public’s basic rights under the Constitution must be respected by the government.