Anti government protector, People’s Alliance for Democracy, in Songkla fight against the government at Had Yai train station yesterday.
Caretaker Transport Minister Santi Prompat yesterday insisted he halted the resumption of rail service in the South chiefly for safety reasons.
He cancelled all eight trains scheduled to leave for Bangkok yes¬terday.
Santi brushed aside People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accusations he issued the order out of fear that more antigovernment supporters would travel to Bangkok if the trains were running.
"I never thought about it," he said with a stern face.
Santi said after meeting yester¬day with State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Yuthana Thapcharoen and the SRT's labour union that even though service must be reinstated as soon as possible, the railway must emphasise safety, especially since the workers had been on strike for a full two weeks.
He pointed out that the south¬ern operations were a delicate issue, since the trains passed through sev¬eral sensitive areas.
"I want to make sure the SRT thoroughly inspects its operations, because we're not sure what the protesters could have done to the system," he said. "We must be certain about resuming services, or else the SRT will have to take responsibility for whatever happens. Indeed, the union members should have returned to work when told to do so by the governor days ago."
Yuthana said normal service should resume on Monday, because security units are inspecting the lines, although the labour union would have preferred to start yesterday.
An SRT source said Santi and the labour union engaged in a heat¬ed debate over the weekslong stop page.
The minister believes the PAD influenced the strike, while the labour union insists its members were only trying to win government support for their proposals. SRT labourunion chief Riangsak Kaengkan said the trains stood ready to resume service at any time and that the union was independ¬ent and did not take orders from the PAD.
Antigovernment protesters yesterday gathered at the main southern terminal in Hat Yai, pressuring Santi to allow service to resume.
Sumit Nuanmanee, a PAD leader in Songkhla province, said the alliance members had submit¬ted an open letter to Santi. He said the SRT had spent two full days preparing for the resumption of service yesterday; thus, safety could not be given as the reason to keep service halted.
Sumit said the government in reality feared that more protesters would join the demonstration in Bangkok. He promised that pro¬testers would gather at the Hat Yai station to pressure for the resump¬tion of all services within 24 hours.
The letter also asked for Santi to take responsibility for the delay by resigning.
Saroj Rakchan, head of the SRT labour union's southern branch, insisted the route was 100percent ready, even though the Transport Ministry said in its order that the route was unsafe following the twoweek work stoppage.