Sunday, December 4, 2011

Warning to Democrats not to attack Yingluck

Bankok Post


The government worked to shield Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Sunday's censure debate, arguing she should not be included in the opposition's attack on the handling of the flood crisis.

After weeks of flooding, controversy over how the disaster was managed and allegations of irregularities in the distribution of relief supplies, the opposition is under pressure to address public concerns.


Froc chief and Justice Minister Pracha Promnok defended himself on Sunday against an opposition censure motion alleged the official flood relief work he headed was plagued by corruption and mismanagement.

As director of the government's Flood Relief Operation Command, Pol Gen Pracha was responsible for overseeing nationwide relief efforts.

The Froc's work headed by the minister was grossly inadequate, said Democrat Party lawmaker Jurin Laksanavisit. He said both the state's flood aid budget and private donations had been embezzled by Pheu Thai Party officials.

Apirak Kosayodhin, the former governor of Bangkok who has been charged with corruption himself, said the government's appointment choices were squarely to blame for what he called a lacklustre response to the crisis.

"The government has not arranged for the appropriate people to be in key jobs, which has caused the assistance for flood-affected people to be very slow and inefficient," he told parliament.

Pol Gen Pracha defended his record and denied the corruption allegations, telling parliament that ruling Puea Thai lawmakers had worked tirelessly to help their constituents during the floods.

The censure vote is expected be held Monday. Parliament is to adjourn on Tuesday.

The censure motion also took aim at a reported royal pardon for fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Jurin saying the opposition could no longer trust the justice minister after "the cabinet secretly passed the royal pardon plan which we believe was meant to help one person".

The government last week ruled out a royal pardon for Thaksin after strong criticism from opponents to a reported draft decree.

Pol Gen Pracha denied any wrongdoing over the proposed pardon decree, and insisted he had "no hidden agenda to benefit any specific people". (With reports from AFP)

In its motion, the opposition Democrat Party has singled out Pol Gen Pracha in his capacity as the director of the Flood Relief Operation Command (Froc).

The decision not to include Ms Yingluck in the censure debate is partly technical.

A constitutional requirement stipulates that the opposition submit a prime ministerial candidate when it seeks to censure the sitting premier.

This was deemed inappropriate for the Democrats because of the party's resounding defeat in the general election four months ago.

However, the opposition is expected to attempt to make Ms Yingluck the focus of the debate because she signed the order appointing Pol Gen Pracha as Froc director.

Her leadership, in giving that responsibility to Pol Gen Pracha, is expected to be scrutinised.

A Democrat source said 10 MPs, including the Democrats leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Apirak Kosayodhin and Trang MP Sathit Wongnongtoey, have been selected for the debate, which aims to establish any wrongdoing in the government's flood management.

"The damage caused by flooding is about 20% [natural], and the rest was caused by the government's mismanagement," said the source.

Mr Sathit said yesterday that the Democrats have three charges against Pol Gen Pracha _ corruption, failed management and violation of laws.

He said the censure would also touch on the decree seeking a royal pardon for convicts, which is under the responsibility of Pol Gen Pracha.

It is believed that the decree was planned to favour Thaksin.

The Democrat MP admitted that Pol Gen Pracha is likely to survive the censure debate due to overwhelming support for him in the House.

But Mr Sathit said: "We hope the censure will make the people see some light and lead to changes in the administration."

Pheu Thai MP Paichit Sriworakhan said the party is gathering information for other cabinet ministers who may need to address the House.

He warned the Democrat Party not to try to grill Ms Yingluck and Thaksin.

"[Ms Yingluck] is not the target of the debate, but we are OK with a little criticism," said Mr Paichit.

"As for the ex-prime minister [Thaksin], he should be left alone because he is an outsider."

Pol Gen Pracha yesterday played down the debate, saying it was nothing but a set of questions he would answer.

"They make inquiries and I answer. It is nothing but a set of facts," he said.

He said that he did not care how the coalition parties vote.

"If the people want me to do the job, I stay on. If they don't, I stop. I became an MP through elections, not a lucky draw," Pol Gen Pracha said.

He said he was summoned to clarify the flood control methods before the House committees and was left with little time to do his work at the Froc.

Pol Gen Pracha said that the Froc's operations involve several ministers, including Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, who is in charge of flood relief supplies, Transport Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat, who is in charge of the big bag flood barrier, and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Theera Wongsamut, who oversees reservoirs.
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