Activists plead for Sonthi to remove PM
More than 50 activists from the Assembly of Isaan People met with General Sonthi Boonyaratglin yesterday, appealing for him to remove Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont from office before the country falls apart.
Sonthi, as chief of the Council for National Security (CNS), was reported to be sending a signal to Surayud that his time as PM was running out.
In an uncommon approach to his visitors, Sonthi opened a meeting room in the Army's headquarters to welcome the group and then promised he would consider their request. They took group photographs after the meeting.
Reporters noticed that Sonthi gave the group special treatment that was markedly different from other groups who had earlier appealed for his help. He regularly sends his aides to accept complaints.
However, Sonthi met Surayud's opponents by himself yesterday, in the same manner he treated Sondhi Limthongkul, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), at the peak of the anti-Thaksin protests in February 2006.
Thaksin faced so much pressure that he had to dissolve the House by the end of the month. Sonthi later led a fresh coup to oust Thaksin on September 19.
Group leader Chaiwat Sinsu-wong said after the meeting that he asked Sonthi to "make a sacrifice" for the country by removing Surayud as prime minister to pave the way for a new government.
The group alleged that Surayud had attempted to protect deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra from being scrutinised by the Assets Examination Committee. Mean-while, his government had perform-ed poorly since assuming power seven months ago, causing serious damage to the country, it said.
As Surayud had said he would resign only when the ongoing conflicts led to violence, Chaiwat be-lieved it was a mistake to wait that long. The whole country would be at risk, he said.
Sonthi, as the CNS chief, has the power to sack the prime minister following the interim 2006 constitution's rules.
The Assembly of Isaan People also handed a letter to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, asking him to advise Surayud to review himself as the leader of the government.
The group is linked to PAD and Sondhi Limthongkul. Chaiwat is a key PAD member who fought along with Sondhi during their movement to oust Thaksin. Media tycoon Sondhi is close to key CNS member General Saprang Kalayanamitr.
Last month, PAD leaders sent an ultimatum to Surayud to quit. They accused the PM of failing to complete the coup's four-pronged mission and "making a deal" with Thaksin behind the public's back.
With PAD's apparent goal of attacking Surayud, its latest move may be regarded as paving the way for a fresh coup.
Surayud has reportedly been pressured by CNS leaders to resign for months. He has disobeyed the junta on several occasions. The last straw for the CNS was when Surayud refused to declare a state of emergency in Bangkok so that the army could handle anti-CNS protests.
However, he rejected the offer for his resignation. Instead, he reshuffled his Cabinet members to show his willingness to solve the national crisis, and convinced the public that an election would be held in December under his administration.
Moreover, Surayud has invited Sonthi to join Cabinet meetings since the end of April in a bid to respond to Sonthi's criticism that the whole Cabinet was inefficient.