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Lese majeste dominates debate on govt's performance

The parliamentary debate on the government's second-year performance report was dominated by nearly four hours of argument about whether the government had done enough to protect the monarchy, especially in the case of one particular WikiLeaks' cable.

Both sides ended up accusing each other of being disloyal to the throne.

Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan alleged the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration had done nothing to prosecute senior citizens, including two members of the Privy Council, who were quoted in the controversial WikiLeak.

Jatuporn told the Lower House yesterday that Abhisit kept quiet after receiving a complaint about it from some red shirts. "I have thus made a complaint to the Crime Suppression Division to arrest Abhisit for neglecting his duty."

Jatuporn also accused the government of not doing anything to block the website of the London-based newspaper The Guardian, claiming "millions" read the cable in its online report.

The MP and red-shirt leader went on to say that instead of having one of the three people arrested, Abhisit went to ask for a "blessing" from him.

"You appear as if you are leading a crackdown against those defaming the institution but in the end, those who violate it are people on your side," he said. "Or is it that your people can defame [the monarchy] while others can't?"

Abhisit insisted he had forwarded the case to the police the day after he received the complaint, saying it was the duty of the police and prosecutors to decide what to do next.

"But who protested that their rights of expression had been violated when their websites [alleged to defame the monarchy institution] were shut down," Abhisit said.

In response to Jatuporn's attack, Abhisit said he went to see Prem Tinsulanonda because he was still the Privy Council president and only HM The King could relieve him of the position, adding that "a number of people" around Jatuporn fell into the anti-monarchist category.

Abhisit said the leaked cable claimed the three people made the comments but this didn't constitute solid proof that they had really said the words. The US government had also refused to confirm the authenticity of the leaked cables, he said.

Defending the government, Justice Minister Peeraphan Saleeratwipak said 17 lese majeste cases were in the pipeline and three new arrest warrants had been issued. "For all of us, the monarchy institution is more important than national security," he said.

Other issues raised in the debate included the rising cost of living and corruption. Government MPs said the prices of major economic crops were higher than expected, bringing more income to farmers.

Opposition Pheu Thai MP Chalerm Yoobamrung said that aside from setting up funds for the elderly and disabled people, the government had been a failure.

Chalerm said many organisations regarded the government as the most corrupt in recent memory.

"I can attest that Abhisit is not corrupt but what about the behaviour of the people surrounding him?" asked Chalerm.

The charge was denied by a number of Democrat MPs, with some suggesting that Thaksin Shinawatra's administration was more corrupt.


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