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General news >> Thursday April 05, 2007
Authorities close in on Prem's foes

Critics keep up heat with ouster petition


Sonthi: Orders legal violation inquiry

Both the coup leader and the national police chief stepped up efforts yesterday to try and silence outspoken critics of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda. The police and military measures are being centred on the anti-coup group the Saturday Voice, which has incensed the Privy Council president and his supporters by trying to gather 100,000 signatures to petition His Majesty the King to remove him from the post.

Council for National Security (CNS) chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said yesterday that legal experts had been ordered to investigate any legal violations regarding negative references towards the Privy Council president. If violations were found, legal action would immediately be taken by police, Gen Sonthi said.

The CNS order came amid growing unease with coup-critics and political activists who are continuing to target Gen Prem, accusing the former prime minister of interfering in politics. Some of those involved in the criticisms against Gen Prem are alleged to have connections with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As the CNS was exploring ways to silence the privy council president's detractors, police were undertaking their own attempts yesterday to try and end the public criticisms of the elderly statesman.

Police have been searching through the website, which promotes the Saturday Voice group.

Acting national police chief Pol Gen Seripisuth Temiyavej said he had checked the website that was inviting people to sign an online petition for Gen Prem's removal and found that its content was clearly defamatory.

Gen Prem was considered the damaged party and could authorise someone to file charges against the website on his behalf, the acting police chief said.

''That is considered a legal violation. I have ordered the legal division to gather as much evidence as possible from the website including details of the webmaster and those who gave their names to support the petition,'' Pol Gen Seripisuth said.

A source close to Gen Prem said yesterday that he was extremely upset at both the actions against him and the government and the CNS for letting the movements continue.

According to the source, Gen Prem felt that the move to gather signatures to petition for his dismissal as president of the Privy Council was too aggressive. He has already had close aides examine the people behind the Saturday Voice group that planned the petition and believes people associated with People's Television (PTV) could be involved in the Saturday Voice movement, the source said.

PTV was set up by former members of the Thai Rak Thai party founded by Mr Thaksin.

Gen Prem had already signalled for Gen Sonthi to take decisive action, the source added.

But Saturday Voice representatives, speaking at a press conference yesterday, insisted they would continue with their plan to collect the signatures.

Wiputhalaeng Patanaputhai, a member of the group, said Gen Prem should not have a hand in politics and thus should resign to show responsibility. He called for the public as well as Mr Thaksin to financially support his group's attempts to restore democracy.

But Vice-Admiral Pachun Tampratheep, Gen Prem's secretary, argued that the Privy Council president had nothing to do with the Sept 19 coup and never sought protection from any party because he had done nothing wrong.

The moves to clamp down on Saturday Voice were welcomed by the Chart Thai party. Party leader Banharn Silpa-archa urged Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to take direct action against any moves directed against Gen Prem. He said it was clear who was behind the movements, and that they continued because the government and the CNS were too indecisive.

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