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Pheu Thai warns it will counter-sue junta if its leaders are charged over public statement

THE PHEU Thai Party yesterday threatened to counter-sue the junta after it faced charges over a public statement the party made ahead of the fourth anniversary of the 2014 coup.

Chusak Sirinil, who heads Pheu Thai’s team of legal advisers, said he would wait for the formal charges to be pressed by police after legal officials from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Thursday filed a complaint against key party figures. “If we find the charges are too severe, we will exercise our legal right to take legal action against them in order to protect our rights,” he said. The politician said that as representatives of the people, the former ruling party had the duty to protect the country’s and the public’s interests.
“Whether it has been elected or not, the government is accountable to the people. It can be criticised for bad work and damage done to the country,” he added. Chusak is one of eight senior Pheu Thai figures named in a complaint the NCPO officers filed with the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday night. The others named are caretaker party leader Wirode Pao-in, caretaker secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang, Noppadon Pattama, Chaikasem Nitisiri, and Kittiratt Na-Ranong. Police investigators have summoned the eight Pheu Thai politicians, as well as administrators of the party’s website, to acknowledge the charges against them by next Tuesday, deputy national police chief Pol General Sriwara Ransibhramanakul, said yesterday. They are accused of violating the junta ban on political gatherings of five or more people, inciting civil commotion or sedition, and entering false information into a computer system. Phumtham yesterday said the Pheu Thai figures involved simply exercised their constitutional rights and liberties in criticising the government. On Thursday, Pheu Thai held a press conference under police surveillance at the party’s headquarters. Three key Pheu Thai figures read a five-page statement accusing the junta of failing to achieve key promises made when staging the coup, including reconciliation, fighting corruption, protecting rights and democracy, and improving the economy. “The past four years under the NCPO will take the country into a dark and dangerous future … It is the duty of all Thai people to return to a constitutional monarchy and not allow the absolute regime to destroy democracy any further,” the Pheu Thai statement said. NCPO spokesman Maj-General Piyapong Klinphan yesterday maintained that the police complaint was not meant as persecution or bias. “The NCPO has tried to keep peace and order in the country. We need to take legal action when there is provocation for public commotion or violation of the NCPO’s orders,” he said. “We won’t tolerate violation of law. We have to maintain peace.” The spokesman said that Pheu Thai leaders had ignored a warning by police officers present at its headquarters that the NCPO ban on political activities had not yet been lifted. “They refused to cancel the press conference, so the NCPO had to take legal action accordingly,” he added. Deputy Premier and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday was asked by a reporter if the NCPO’s legal action would lead to the dissolution of Pheu Thai. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said he did not think the NCPO’s legal action would lead to the party’s dissolution. However, he said, it was possible the Pheu Thai figures involved could be deprived of electoral rights – and barred from contesting future elections – if they were found guilty. “This could be a problem for them,” NT – EP

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