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Permanent secretaries who fail to attend a Thursday meeting at the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) must be ready to justify their absence, National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut warned.
Lt Gen Paradorn, who doubles as a Capo member, stopped short of saying whether absentees would face disciplinary action.
Capo will hold the meeting of ministerial permanent secretaries to discuss how civil servants should act towards both pro- and anti-government groups.
Lt Gen Paradorn said the Internal Security Act, which remains in force in Bangkok, authorises Capo to call meetings of state agencies.
He said the security agency will exchange views on the matter with permanent secretaries, who are the top-ranking civil servants at each government ministry.
Capo will also brief the officials on planned demonstrations by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
Lt Gen Paradorn said the briefing would help the permanent secretaries understand the implications of actions by the rival groups and how protesters risk breaking the law.
He said any permanent secretary who cannot attend the meeting must notify Capo with a valid excuse.
Capo will contact all no-shows to inform them of the meeting’s resolution, he added.
Permanent secretary for public health Narong Sahametapat, who openly supports the anti-government PDRC, has already made it clear he will not attend the meeting.
Dr Narong invited PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban and other protest leaders to discuss the anti-government group’s reform agenda at the health ministry last week.
Permanent secretary for justice Kittipong Kittiyarak, who also met Mr Suthep at his ministry last week, confirmed he would attend the Capo meeting.
“I have decided to attend [Thursday]’s meeting,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “If I have a chance, I would like to explain the situation on April 8 [when the PDRC rallied at the Justice Ministry].
“Moreover, I believe Capo has called a meeting with me and my fellow permanent secretaries partly as a result of my talks with Mr Suthep, therefore I would like to explain my decision to my colleagues.”
Dr Narong, meanwhile, said he felt the meeting was inappropriate and that all ministerial permanent secretaries must preserve the dignity of civil servants.
He also said Capo’s invitation letters for the meeting had accused Mr Kittipong of “improper conduct” for his talks with Mr Suthep last week.
Dr Narong said it was improper for Capo to reprimand Mr Kittipong in the invitation letters.
Capo earlier warned that permanent secretaries and civil servants could face severe disciplinary action if they spend their office time welcoming anti-government protesters.
But Dr Narong said civil servants should listen to proposals on national reform and should be involved in efforts to help the country out of the political conflict.
Permanent secretary for defence Nipat Thonglek said Wednesday he is duty-bound to attend the meeting Thursday.
The meeting will provide information that will benefit all civil servants, Gen Nipat said.
Democrat Party deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul, however, urged all permanent secretaries to boycott the meeting.
He said the meeting is an attempt by the government to prevent civil servants from welcoming and supporting the PDRC, which was given a warm welcome during its visits to ministries in recent weeks.
Mediation proposal ‘breaches charter’
Calls by a group of retired officials for the Privy Council president to mediate political crisis talks are tantamount to trying to stage a coup, a representative for the Pheu Thai Party’s legal team has warned.
Panas Tassaneeyanont said no provision exists in the constitution to permit such an intermediary role.
“Old soldiers” have appealed to Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, seen at a ceremony last week with Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont (left) and army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha, to step into the political crisis with proactive steps. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
On Monday, a group calling itself Rattha Bukkhon (State Citizens) proposed that Privy Council president and statesman Prem Tinsulanonda act as intermediary in defusing the crisis.
Gen Prem could consult judicial agencies, the military and leaders of other organisations to draft a proposal to end the crisis, the group said.
That proposal could then be forwarded to the King, who could instruct the statesman on how to proceed, according to the group.
Mr Panas said Tuesday the proposal was a bid to engineer a coup, adding that it was bound to be opposed, particularly by red-shirts who are critical of Gen Prem.
He said the Pheu Thai Party has not yet decided its position on caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri’s plan to ask the government to invoke Section 7, seeking His Majesty’s recommendation to intervene if the court oversteps its authority and rules to disqualify Yingluck Shinawatra as caretaker prime minister.
Ms Yingluck has been accused of violating the charter over her order transferring Thawil Pliensri as National Security Council chief in 2011.
He added the party is expected to discuss Mr Chaikasem’s idea after the Songkran holidays.
A member of the Rattha Bukkhon group, Pramote Nakhonthap, said earlier the King’s wishes should be heeded in the event of national emergencies. But he made it clear the group is not asking the King to install a prime minister.
Mr Pramote insisted that using a statesman as the ”middle man” to help defuse the crisis would be constitutional.
Another group member, Gen Saiyud Kerdphol, said their proposal should be put into practice immediately, without waiting for the country to go into a leadership vacuum first.
However, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva argued that now is not the time to be mulling over the invocation of Section 7.
Mr Abhisit said proposals by both Rattha Bukkhon and Mr Chaikasem are out of the question and cannot be pursued until a political vacuum occurs.
If and when that happens, he said all sides would have to get together and agree on what steps to take to address the void.
Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut added that the constitution allows for alternative options to be used to resolve the crisis.
Gen Prem has yet to give his view on the Rattha Bukkhon group’s proposal, according to his close aide.
Lt Gen Phissanu Putthawong, head of Statesman Foundation Office, said Gen Prem was aware of the group’s proposal.
However, he said the Privy Council president has refused to answer questions about the plan so far.
Lt Gen Phissanu said he believed the Rattha Bukkhon group was trying to find a solution to the country’s political problems in good faith.
Their efforts could prove useful for restoring peace, he added.