Somsak had charter talk with 'person far away'
The Pheu Thai Party's spokesman has confirmed that Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont said he had discussed with "a person far away" the charter amendment and reconciliation bills in a secretly-taped audio recording.
Mr Somsak was heard in the recording, broadcast on Tuesday on satellite channel Blue Sky, addressing his supporters in Phetchabun at a private meeting.
In the audio clip, Mr Somsak allegedly said he had talked the "person far away" into agreeing not to push for debate on the controversial reconciliation bill in parliament to avoid public opposition.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said it was a normal conversation over political matters between Mr Somsak and about 50 close aides.
The Pheu Thai senior members were aware of the clip and had no problem with it.
"Mr Somsak informed [the party] that it was a casual discussion and he was merely expressing his views. He had no intention of influencing politics," Mr Prompong said.
The Pheu Thai spokesman dismissed the Democrat Party's demand that Mr Somsak, also the Pheu Thai MP for Khon Kaen, resign as parliament president to take responsibility for his comments.
He said Mr Somsak was voicing his own opinion and that he was not speaking in his capacity as House speaker.
Mr Prompong said the release of the clip appeared to be timed to coincide with the Constitution Court's hearing on the legality of the charter amendment bill scheduled for today and tomorrow.
Democrat list MP Boonyod Sooktinthai yesterday demanded Mr Somsak step down as House speaker.
The opposition member said the audio clip showed that Mr Somsak, as the head of parliament, served ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the clip was testament to how Thaksin influences the government.
Mr Abhisit urged Mr Somsak to act with neutrality as head of the legislative branch. He said the content of the clip mainly concerned Thaksin's interests.
He admitted in the recording that the charter amendment and reconciliation bills could spark political conflicts.
Opponents view the push to pass the two bills as an effort to whitewash Thaksin's wrongdoings and pave the way for his comfortable return to Thailand.
The former prime minister left the country just before the Supreme Court sentenced him to two years in prison for conflict of interest in his ex-wife's purchase of a state-owned land plot in Bangkok about a decade ago.
By Mongkol Bangprapa & Manop Thip-Osod
05 July 2012