Yingluck urges foes to hold off on legal salvoes

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

BANGKOK - Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, facing an impeachment threat and the court defeat of her Bt2-trillion (S$80 billion) infrastructure loan bill, yesterday pleaded with her political adversaries to show her mercy and create a space for everyone to live together instead of trying to corner her with legal weapons.

"If you are going to use laws to hunt us down every day, how can we find peace in this country?" she asked with a strained voice.

She was responding to a move by Democrat Party heavyweight Jurin Laksanawisit to solicit 20,000 signatures to launch impeachment proceedings against her and her caretaker Cabinet.

Yingluck spoke to reporters while on a trip to Khon Kaen, before flying to Chiang Mai later in the day.

"I ask for sympathy but that does not mean I will not follow the law. I respect the court's ruling. What we should be seeking is unity among Thai people and a way to strike a balance so we can live together.

"We are all Thais and should leave space for everyone in society to live together. If you keep hunting us down until we have no space to stand, then those who are bullied will fight back. We don't want this vicious cycle, which has been repeating itself for the past seven to eight years. Are we going to continue like this?

"This cycle will not end. If we have compassion and forgiveness and leave space for others to stand, I believe the checks and balances in society will condemn those who have bad intentions. They won't be able to live in society. This is better than using legal tools and procedures to create deep divisions,'' she said.

As for calls for her to take responsibility for the Bt2-trillion loan project, Yingluck said she would assign her deputy Pongthep Thepkanjana and legal teams to look into the issue since she had not received a written version of the ruling.

Despite the setbacks, resorting to heavy-handed measures against anti-government protesters and her political rivals would not bring about solutions.

"What would we gain from using such measures? Using drastic measures means using force or enforcing the law - neither way is good for the country.

"Today people have no fear of the law. Those who follow the law cannot survive, while those who cross the line can. If this is the case, how can we move on?'' she said.

Questions independent agencies

While it might appear that independent organisations were not being fair to the government, she said she would like to ask for understanding since the government had good intentions.

She pointed out that the rally at the Commerce Ministry by anti-government protesters yesterday was an example of how the government was finding it difficult to pay farmers for their pledged rice.

"Today we can't proceed with the rice distribution, even though it's lawful. It is obstructed, so how can farmers receive their money? If it becomes a legal case, the money won't be paid to farmers because the case will still be in progress. We will have to wait till it's finished. That means farmers will get paid even later," she said.

Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said he felt sorry for Yingluck, pointing out that though she has recently been seen with tears in her eyes, it did not indicate that she was weak.

He said her eyes were brimming out of frustration, adding that she never complains of being disheartened but instead lends moral support to her fellow Pheu Thai members.