Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Army chief happy to meet Potjaman

Army chief happy to meet Potjaman

Anupong backs Pravit as defence minister


Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda yesterday denied press reports he has met Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, the wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin, but said he was open to doing so if it helped improve the country's situation. Gen Anupong said he would welcome any invitation from Khunying Potjaman for a meeting.

''If she came to see me to help improve the situation, it would be a good sign,'' he said.

Nevertheless, Gen Anupong said he had no idea what issues Khunying Potjaman would eventually raise with him.

''For ongoing corruption cases, they must go through the judicial system. But if she wants to discuss the restoration of a peaceful environment or reconciliation that would lead to peace and order in society, and a better environment for the economy and the stock exchange, then I think I should listen to her,'' the army chief said.

Gen Anupong's remarks were supported by Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas.

Gen Boonrawd said talks could lead to reconciliation, which is in line with His Majesty the King's suggestion.

Asked if he agreed with Khunying Potjaman's plan to meet Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda to resolve any conflict between them, Gen Boonrawd said he supported the idea if it could help improve the political situation in the country.

At the same time, Gen Anupong yesterday vowed he would not meddle with the selection of the defence minister by the new cabinet.

However, he did not hide his admiration for former army chief Pravit Wongsuwan, who is said to be preferred by the Council for National Security (CNS) to become the new defence minister.

Gen Pravit is well trusted by the military and qualified for the job, he said.

In response to a rumour that the CNS preferred Gen Pravit to be made the new minister rather than People Power party (PPP) deputy leader Gen Ruengroj Mahasaranont, a former supreme commander, Gen Anupong said the matter rests with the new government.

A CNS source said the CNS's suggestion of its preference for Gen Pravit, now a member of the National Legislative Assembly, came after Gen Ruengroj, who is closely connected to Mr Thaksin, was tipped to be made defence minister in a PPP-led coalition.

Gen Pravit was a Pre-cadet School classmate of Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, former CNS chairman. Other classmates are air force chief ACM Chalit Phukphasuk, Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niampradit and navy chief Adm Sathiraphan Keyanont.

Gen Pravit was Gen Anupong's immediate supervisor when he served in the 2nd Infantry Division in Sa Kaeo province.

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