Caretaker PM denies taking leave to avoid Sunday forum


LAMPANG, Dec 13 – Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday denied taking leave to avoid participating in the government-proposed political reform forum this Sunday.  

Ms Yingluck’s explanation came as she inspected the newly-renovated northern rail route from Chiang Mai to Lampang province. Caretaker deputy prime minister Phongthep Thepkanjana has been assigned to supervise the political reform forum on Sunday, she said, denying that she was taking leave only to avoid her responsibility as caretaker premier.

During her Friday ride, State Railway of Thailand governor Prapat Chongsanguan briefed her on the renovation updates and plans to improve landscaping along the railroad.

The caretaker premier stressed the importance of rail transportation safety as well as transforming Thai provinces with train access into tourist destinations.

Ms Yingluck was warmly received by locals throughout her trip amid tight security. A number of Red Shirt supporters were waiting to give her flowers and provided her moral support all the way from Chiang Mai to Lampang province. As she arrived in Lampang, the caretaker premier alighted from the train and greeted supporters waiting at the station.

The northern route was closed for repairs in September, and service resumed December 1.

In other development, Chuchai Ratanachaicharn, secretary-general of the Council of State, today said in a national televised address that the general election which is set for February 2 cannot be postponed.

He said the Constitution stipulates that the election must be held within 60 days after the lower House is dissolved, in this case, Feb 6 is the last day to hold election as the king endorsed the royal decree on House dissolution on Dec 9.

Postponing the election beyond February 6 is unconstitutional, he said, no matter if the dialogue to find a way out of the nation’s crisis will conclude in time or not.

Regarding the government’s political reform forum this Sunday, permanent secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office Tongthong Chandrangsu said 100 representatives of different sectors will be invited to help brainstorm and find a solution out of the current political stalemate.

He said the forum will be live broadcast via Channel 11 and among those invited are seven business organisations, media, permanent-secretary for ministries, the Council of the University Presidents of Thailand, military, police, King Prajadhipok’s Institute, former lawmakers, anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

Roadmap shaping Thailand’s political future is expected to be complete before New Year, paving the way for the general election on February 2, Mr Tongthong said.