Thaksin likely to chair Cabinet today; return labelled illegal
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra could possibly chair today's Cabinet meeting for the first time since he took a break from politics almost two months ago, Government Spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee, said yesterday.
Meanwhile, a Thammasat University law expert said Thaksin's return was illegitimate as he had lost his caretaker premiership status since taking leave.
"Several conditions which forced PM Thaksin to take leave have changed," Surapong said.
He referred to a claim by Thaksin on April 4 that the premier took leave to pave the way for the national reconciliation, which would benefit preparations for the national celebration of His Majesty the King's 60th year on the throne.
With a new election expected to be held in October - five months from now - Thaksin realised he could not leave the responsibility of dealing with the economic problems to his deputy Chidchai Vanasatidya, Surapong said.
On April 7, the Office of the Secretary of the Cabinet issued a circular to announce Thaksin, as the prime minister, would like to take leave. In the circular, he told the Cabinet that after working for five years without a rest, he would like to take a break from his duties until the new Cabinet was formed.
Surapong said Thaksin would surely inform the Cabinet about his return if he chaired the meeting today.
He claimed Thaksin told the Cabinet in a meeting on April 5 that he would return to work if "such significant tasks" needed decisions by the prime minister arose.
The current situation was relevant to this condition and needed Thaksin to take a hands-on approach, Surapong said.
Although Surapong did not confirm whether Thaksin would chair the Cabinet meeting, a Government House agenda for today shows he will sit as the meeting's chairman.
Thaksin's full return was expected throughout last week after he made short visits to Government House, where he met a group of villagers waiting to give him moral support.
However, law expert Banjerd Singkaneti dismissed the legitimacy of Thaksin's return. He said that when Thaksin announced on April 5 he would take leave from his duties until the new Cabinet was formed, it was legally and practically his resignation.
Banjerd claimed the law only permitted the appointment of someone to perform the duty on behalf of the prime minister in the event the premier could not perform his duty, either because he was ill or absent.
But the fact is, he said, Thaksin has been around most of this period and has not been sick at all.
On that basis, the appointments of Chidchai and other deputy prime ministers to perform Thaksin's duties were illegal, he said.
Banjerd said he and his law fellows would carry out an "act" to clarify Thaksin's status by this week.
Thaksin came to Government House early yesterday morning and met with several caretaker Cabinet members - including Chidchai, Somkid Jatusripitak, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, Suriya Jungrungreangkit and Surakiart Sathirathai.
His move has been viewed as a complete return because the ministers he had discussions with were heads of key government panels involved in security in the deep South, drugs suppression, health, economy and education.
Thaksin also met with a group of about 80 people, who came to give him moral support. The group wanted Thaksin to return to solve the national crisis.
Thaksin left Government House shortly before 8.30pm last night after spending about 11 hours at work. He left his office after having a meeting with Deputy Premier Chidchai Vanasatidya and a few other Cabinet members about the government's fight against drugs and poverty.
In a related development, the Central Administrative Court yesterday accepted a case filed by Law Society of Thailand members Nitidhon Lamlua and Nakhon Chompuchat against the prime minister, the Cabinet and the Cabinet Secretariat regarding Thaksin's absence from work.
However, the court yesterday did not award an injunction requested by the plaintiffs who sought to have the defendants ordered to refrain from submitting decrees for royal approval until the court makes a ruling on the case.
Supreme Administrative Court judge Damri Wattanasingha, has been appointed as the presiding judge in the case.
Nitidhon said yesterday the court refused an injunction on the grounds there was no emergency. He said with Thaksin's return to work, he would be able to argue there was urgency for an injunction.
The lawyer said he viewed Thaksin's document submitted to the Cabinet as a resignation letter, and not a notice of leave.
Meanwhile, Senator Karun Sai-ngam said yesterday that he and Law Society of Thailand representative Varin Thiemjaras, would today petition the Administrative Court to accuse Thaksin and his Cabinet of issuing an unlawful order about Thaksin's absence from work.
The senator said he believed that by law Thaksin could not return to work after announcing his decision to take a break from politics until a new government was formed.