THAILAND: Prin no-show at Manager office
Maj-Gen Suwannadhat says political talk show host defamed Thai monarchy
Thursday, November 17, 2005
By Wassana Nanuam
First Infantry Division commander Maj-Gen Prin Suwannadhat sent a protest letter to Manager daily founder Sondhi Limthongkul yesterday over alleged offences against His Majesty the King, but failed to appear in person, citing work commitments.
Maj-Gen Prin said he was not able to meet Mr Sondhi, who also hosts the political talk show Thailand Weekly, as he had to attend a meeting on the Dec 2 parade of royal guards, when they pledge their allegiance to the King.
"I'm not afraid of meeting Mr Sondhi face to face. I would happily do it as a royal guard and as a Thai," he said.
"What he is doing is improper and I want him to stop involving His Majesty in his personal conflicts."
He denied that higher-ups put a brake to his plan to lead his troops to meet Mr Sondhi, saying he really was busy.
However, sources said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin urged Maj-Gen Prin to "calm down" and submit a letter of protest, to preserve the reputations of Mr Thaksin and the military, rather than get into a confrontation.
Lt-Col Thanasin Sukkho, head of the First Infantry Division's manpower unit, and three army majors arrived as representatives of Maj-Gen Prin at the head office of the Manager daily on Phra Arthit road in a military van about 10am to present Mr Sondhi with the protest letter.
Mr Sondhi apparently told the officers he had been looking forward to meeting Maj-Gen Prin in person.
The letter signed by Maj-Gen Prin, said royal guards, who swear to sacrifice their lives to protect the monarchy, are unhappy that Mr Sondhi referred to His Majesty the King in seeking support for people he is in conflict with.
The headline of the Nov 15 edition of Manager daily -- "Return Royal Power to the King" -- could be considered lese majeste, Maj-Gen Prin claimed. It could lead to the misunderstanding that His Majesty the King had no power or had seen his powers wane, he said.
Maj-Gen Prin claims all members of the royal guards want Mr Sondhi to stop referring to the monarchy in such a way.
Mr Sondhi asked whether Maj-Gen Prin was trying to protect the monarchy or Mr Thaksin. He doubted Maj-Gen Prin was speaking for all 14,000 royal guards or that his action was approved by the chief of the army or the First Army commander.
Mr Sondhi urged troops to put pressure on Mr Thaksin instead, because he was creating problems for Thailand.
Supreme Commander Gen Ruangroj Mahasaranond said Maj-Gen Prin had the right to protest against Mr Sondhi as a royal guard and as a Thai citizen. It was "improper" for Mr Sondhi to involve the monarchy in his conflicts.
The Thai Journalists' Association said Maj-Gen Prin's actions could lead to the use of force to threaten press freedom and the public's freedom of expression.
Maj-Gen Prin had every right to express his feelings, but he should not do it by using his position as a senior military officer, or intimidate people through his words or gestures, the statement said.
Date Posted: 11/17/2005