'We will still retake Govt House', says Thai labour minister

Thai Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung.

THAILAND - The Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order still plans to retake Government House as the first target of its operation to reclaim five areas occupied by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), even though anti-government protesters walled up the gates to the compound yesterday.

For the sake of transparency, Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, the CMPO director, has instructed the Public Relations Department to produce a special programme called "Peace for Bangkok Mission" for live broadcast of the reclamation mission by channels 11 and 9, deputy government spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat said yesterday.

Chalerm said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had instructed him not to resort to violence.

Depending on the situation, the CMPO would decide on whether to retake all of the five PDRC rally sites - Government House, Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road, Democracy Monument, Energy Ministry and Interior Ministry.

Chalerm shrugged off the pre-emptive move by Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the PDRC, to forestall the government's plan to return to work at Government House.

Suthep yesterday led a group of PDRC followers to seal off Government House. They were joined by the Students and People's Network for Thailand's Reform, which is camping out near Government House, in putting up concrete and sandbags in front of two gates of the seat of government.

The PDRC's move was prompted by Chalerm's vow on Sunday to reclaim five PDRC bases and Yingluck's aim to resume work at her regular office tomorrow. Yingluck has been using the office of the Defence Ministry's permanent secretary as her temporary workplace sometime after the anti-government rally started.

Suthep said Yingluck was acting at the recommendation of her soothsayer that she resume work at Government House on Wednesday.

Talks needed: Paradorn

Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the Internal Security Operations Command, said negotiations would be the main medium to recover Government House.

He admitted that Yingluck's plan to return to Government House had to be delayed.

Chalerm accused Suthep of lying when he said he would stage activities only at Asok, Lumpini, Ratchaprasong and Pathum Wan but then Suthep led 4,000 protesters, 500 of whom were guards and less than 10 per cent were Bangkok residents, to Government House.

Chalerm laughed off the protesters' cementing of the entrance of Government House, saying a backhoe could quickly tear down the wall.

Chalerm threatened to regain those PDRC rally sites with fewer protesters and strictly enforce the law against any illegal activities.

He said Suthep took to the rally stage to launch a stinging attack on Yingluck because he was disappointed that the PCRC's special event held over the long weekend failed to attract a large turnout. Only 10,000 people showed up. On Sunday only 7,000 joined the rally, he said.

Chalerm said he would leave the business of repossessing the five areas to police because he was told that politicians should not get involved or they would face the same fate as that faced by the Democrats when they were in power.

"Besides, the National Human Rights Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission are waiting in the wings to attack the government. People who are backing Suthep are very mad that I have cooled off.

"So don't provoke me. It's okay if we cannot recapture those areas fast. In the end the people will tell me what to do. I should not be hasty,'' he said.

Phra Buddha Issara, a core PDRC leader, said that within a few days he would meet an important person who had earlier met with other PDRC leaders to discuss ways out of the country's political crisis.

Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Buddhi-pongse Punnakanta and Chumphon Junsai led PDRC protesters to enter the Education Ministry and urge officials there to stop working.

The protesters left after about an hour.