TRT in retreat as judges hit back
Leaders claim no plan for Thaksin to return, as court moves to sue Buri Ram MP for threat
Thai Rak Thai yesterday retreated from its stance backing the return of caretaker Premier Thaksin Shinawatra from "a political break" if a new election is held. In contrast to strong support for Thaksin by party MPs in recent days, party leaders claimed they had not discussed the issue.
"It is not the right time to talk about the future," TRT secretary-general Suriya Jungrungreangkit said. He was replying to speculation Thaksin could stand as the party's number one party-list candidate in a new poll if the Constitution, Administrative or Supreme courts nullify the April 2 election.
Thai Rak Thai leaders attempted to present a softer, more accepting face yesterday in the wake of another controversy. One said that threats by MPs-elect to impeach judges - if they nullify the April 2 poll - were damaging and must be stopped.
The Administrative Court reportedly plans to sue Buri Ram MP Sophon Phetsawang, a Thai Rak Thai MP-elect who claimed they had no right to nullify the April 2 poll. Judges are said to be collecting evidence for a defamation suit - mostly Sophon's interviews with the media.
Akaratorn Chularat, president of the Administrative Court, yesterday countered Sophon's claim that the court had no authority to invalidate the election because it could only rule on cases of conflict among government agencies or conflicts between government and private agencies.
"The courts know if they have authority to rule on the case," he said. "Nobody needs to tell us."
In recent days, a group of TRT MPs expressed support for Thaksin to return after the three top courts indicated they may rule that the April 2 poll was illegal, which would pave the way for a new election. They claimed that if the poll was nullified it would be legitimate for Thaksin to stand as a candidate for prime minister again.
Thaksin announced on April 5 that he would not assume the prime ministership, despite Thai Rak Thai getting at least 15 million votes when 29 million people went to the polls last month.
But Deputy TRT leader Somsak Thepsuthin said yesterday he had yet to talk to Thaksin about the possibility of his return.
And Sudarat Keyuraphan, another TRT deputy, also claimed she had not talked with the caretaker PM about the issue. She believed Thaksin was waiting until the courts rule on whether the April 2 poll was legal.
Sudarat, who heads the party's Bangkok faction, also asked Thai Rak Thai's newly-elected MPs to drop their challenge to impeach the Administrative Court if it nullifies the April 2 election.
"The move is not only irrelevant to the party's goal, but damaging our image," Sudarat said in response to a move against the court on Tuesday by MPs in TRT's Wang Nam Yom faction. They included Buri Ram MP Sophon Phetsawang, Nakhon Phanom MP Phaichit Sriworakhan and Chiang Rai MP Buasorn Prachamon.
Sudarat said she would tell Somsak, a Wang Nam Yom leader, to stop Sophon from making any more such moves. This included Sophon's call for the 485 endorsed MPs to convene today [May 4] to discuss solutions to the political crisis.
"We, the Thai Rak Thai Party, will accept and follow the court's ruling, although it could rule in favour of a new election," she said.
Sudarat would consult TRT executives about getting all party MPs together for a meeting, she said. "They need to stop before things get worse," she commented.
Sudarat and Somsak are known rivals who have struggled for power in the party.
MPs-elect from the Wang Nam Yom faction called on Tuesday for the House to be opened despite the possibility of the April 2 election being invalidated by the Administrative Court. They said they were endorsed as MPs and the court had no right to nullify the election.
Somsak ruled out speculation he backed Sophon's move to challenge the Administrative Court. "They [his faction MPs] acted on their own," he said.
Wang Nam Yom MP Prasert Boonreung also called on Sophon not to make any further moves. All sides should respond positively to His Majesty the King's plea for national reconciliation, he said.
Suriya, who heads Wang Nam Yen, said senior party members had agreed to follow the court's ruling. But they had not discussed Sophon's move, he said.