PM seeks blessing from Privy Council president

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BANGKOK, April 26 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday sought blessing from Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda at his Bangkok residence in a traditional custom of paying respect to elders on the traditional Thai New Year.

The premier, donning pink jacket, was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister/Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, Deputy Premier Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa and Deputy Premier/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, attended the belated blessing ceremony at Gen Prem’s Si Sao Theves residence this afternoon.

Following the 15-minute meeting between the premier, her deputies and Gen Prem, the three deputies left the scene to wait outside the house while Ms Yingluck was inside with the privy council president.

After a brief talk, the premier and her deputies left the residence without giving any interview to the media.

The premier’s plan to seek blessing from the Privy Council president was both welcomed and opposed by several groups although she earlier said that the ceremony was simply organised in accordance with the custom of paying respect to elders during Songkran Festival and would not involve any politically-related discussion.

A man, identified as Sompong Phothino, who said he was a radio host in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, turned up outside Gen Prem’s residence with placard calling on the Democrat Party and the elites to take responsibility for the death of 91 persons during 2010 political protests, as well as urging the Pheu Thai-led coalition government not to exploit its Red Shirt supports.

Gen Prem, as Thailand’s elder statesman, normally opens his residence for well-wishers to pay courtesy calls and give as well as receive blessings during the Songkran New Year festival.

Gen Prem, prime minister from 1980-1988, was much criticised by some leaders and supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)—the Red Shirt movement–for his alleged role behind the 2006 coup ousting then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, elder brother of Prime Minister Yingluck.

The UDD chair Thida Thavornsreth on Thursday commented that the premier’s meeting with Gen Prem is her effort to create better atmosphere, paving the way for national reconciliation and restore confidence among the public that the government is stablised.

Ms Thida however noted that the reconciliation could be materialised if more than 40 detained Red Shirt protesters are granted bail.

“Although the UDD is still confident in the government but the government itself must be clear on creating justice based on the rule of law, otherwise, the government could face problems in the future,” warned the red shirt movement leader.