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Arms cache find seen as regime ploy
Unearthed weapons and ammunition are displayed in Bang Nam Prieo district, Chachoengsao, on Thursday. (Photo by Sonthanaporn Inchan)
December 2nd, 2017 | 12:19 PM | 1528 views
The recent discovery of a huge arms cache in Chachoengsao is now being used as an excuse by the regime not to lift its ban on political parties' activities anytime soon, say key figures from across the political spectrum.
The weapons and ammunition were unearthed in a rice field in Bang Nam Prieo district following their discovery by a local villager on Nov 24.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday he was told by police that the weapons were recently left and they remain functional.
He also said he had received intelligence reports that some groups of people had begun to form political movements.
Asked whether this situation would make it difficult for the government to allow political activities for parties, he said: "As there are still activities like this, the lifting of the political ban may not be possible. It may have to be done when the election is nearer."
He brushed aside the suggestion that the government's popularity is waning, and said criticism of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the prime minister and himself is unsound, and it is up to media outlets to decide whether or not they portray the government as being on a downward curve.
Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the national deputy police chief, backed the deputy prime minister, saying that police will seek arrest warrants from the Criminal Court for a few suspects next week.
He said the investigation has found a link between the weapons haul and a hard-line group of red shirts led by Wuthipong "Ko Tee" Kochathamakun. Mr Wuthipong reportedly fled to Laos over lese majeste charges but an unconfirmed report suggested he might have died after being abducted by an opposing group recently.
Responding to Gen Prawit's comments, leading Pheu Thai figure Chaturon Chaisang said there is a need for parties to proceed with their activities in line with the law.
It is important to allow people to voice their opinions so that parties can adopt suitable policies which respond to their needs, said Mr Chaturon, who is a former MP for Chachoengsao.
A delay in lifting the ban would cause further damage to this process, Mr Chaturon said.
Mr Chaturon added that he believed Gen Prawit is unwilling to make parties strong: "Following reports that a military-backed party may be formed, it is understandable that Gen Prawit may want this party to be settled and on a par with other parties first before lifting the ban."
Former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, Samart Kaewmeechai, expressed concern about the impact of the ban on parties which he said are now obliged to organise their internal procedures under the limited time frame imposed by the new organic law, which has been in place since October.
He said the law requires parties to report the number of existing members within 90 days but this cannot be done until all members are canvassed.
The NCPO, if it does not lift the ban soon, should write a transitional provision in the law, which would extend the process from 90 to 180 days, in order to ease these concerns.
"Citing the discovery of the weapons as a reason for forgoing the lifting of the political ban does not come as a surprise to us," said Mr Samart.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said the discovery of the weapons cache does not justify maintaining the ban.
"Please don't make a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "Gen Prawit needs to further clarify how the discovery of these weapons, believed to be linked to Ko Tee, justifies postponing the lifting of the ban."
He added that if the weapons were really found before the prime minister's trip to the South, as reported in the media, it was unlikely to have been set up by the government to deflect criticism. However, the location where the weapons were hidden could suggest that the owner feared the NCPO's presence in the area and wanted to dump them rather than stir up the situation.
Meanwhile, police retrieved more munitions from the Chachoengsao paddy field on Thursday evening.
They included five M16 assault rifle rounds, 37 training bullets and about 100 grammes of C4 explosive, which were found in a pond, according to Chachoengsao provincial police chief Teerapol Jindaluang.
In a bush across a road from the paddy field, officers also found two boxes of M79 grenades, containing 50 in total.
courtesy of BANGKOK POST
by Bangkok Post
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