Gen Sonthi 'tricked' into meeting anti-PM group
Junta chief distances himself from move to force Surayud out
General Sonthi Boon-yaratglin yesterday distanced himself from the campaign to oust Surayud Chula-nont as premier.
The Council for National Security (CNS) chairman said he was "lured" into having a meeting with Assembly of Isaan People members on Tuesday at Army headquarters. He said he was informed the group would brief him about the latest developments in the Northeast.
"I thought they were going to tell me about the undercurrents in the region," he said, using the euphemism for secret resistance by people still loyal to the previous administration. Sonthi said he was not concerned about the drive by political activists to have the premier removed, adding that he considered the matter "natural". He did not elaborate.
Prime Minister Surayud yesterday played down the latest attempt by political activists to remove him from office. He said Sonthi had not yet looked into the details of the move.
Under the interim constitution's rules, Sonthi as CNS chief has the power to sack the prime minister.
Meanwhile, a group of National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members are reportedly threatening to resign in a bid to pressure Surayud to step down.
"I don't think it has brought pressure on me," Surayud said of the Assembly of Isaan People's appeal on Tuesday to Sonthi to remove him as prime minister.
Surayud said he discussed the issue with Sonthi yesterday morning. The CNS chief told him the appeal had not been taken into consideration, Surayud said.
Surayud said he was open to criticism.
He refused to comment on a warning by the group, linked to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), that it would stage a mass rally against him if Sonthi did not sack him within two weeks.
Surayud urged all sides in the political conflict to cooperate and compromise to end the country's problems.
Mass rallies by the PAD contributed heavily to the ousting of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
NLA member Praphan Khoonmee yesterday acknowledged that some senior civilian and retired-military NLA members had planned to gather signatures of other members to pressure Surayud to quit, or otherwise they would resign.
They have serious concerns about Surayud's failure to solve various crises during his seven months in power, he said.
NLA member Chamlong Srimuang yesterday said he did not see Surayud's exit as a solution to the crisis, because a new prime minister would not do much better under a tight schedule before the end of the present government's term.
NLA Speaker Meechai Ruchuphan dismissed reports of a signature campaign, saying he had heard nothing about it.