The Nation notes:
Local media reported that Samak was buying more time by tossing this hot potato to the police, saying they would be the ones to decide whether Jakarapob’s controversial remarks on the monarchy constituted lese majeste. Strangely, for an incident that has been greatly politicised, Samak continues to deal with it as if it’s purely a law and order issue.
Jakrapob may have got to where he is by being a true Thaksin loyalist, but Samak will realise that letting Jakrapob go will not cost him much. Political rewards, it seem, can only go so far.
The Bangkok Post:
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej yesterday refused to bow to mounting pressure to remove PM’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair from office as he decided only to appoint a new member of the cabinet. Mr Samak came out to protect Mr Jakrapob, saying he could not act on the Democrat party’s demand for him to remove the minister over a controversial speech allegedly offending the monarchy.
Mr Jakrapob should be allowed to defend himself in court, the premier said.
Police are currently investigating Mr Jakrapob’s remarks and will then submit the investigation report to prosecutors, who will decide whether to indict the minister.
If the court accepts the case, Mr Jakrapob will have to step down from his position, the prime minister said.
The embattled minister’s speech, delivered at the forum organised by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in August last year, landed him in trouble as it was considered by many as an attempt to challenge the monarchy.
The Democrat party had already handed a letter with a translation of the speech to Mr Samak, asking him to look into the allegation against Mr Jakrapob.
BP: I should note his defence of Jakrapob’s position is more spirited on TV and the mention by the reporter that it was the Democrats who translated the speech and the Democrats calling for Jakrapob to go helped this spirited defence – Samak is an ex-Democrat and won’t want to be seen as giving into them.
So the police need to see it is an offence then the Attorney-General’s Office also needs to as well – this is where it is likely to be stalled as with a case against Sondhi L where the case was dropped out of the need to achieve reconciliation.* Samak has set the threshold quite high and for a while Jakrapob has a lifeline.
* I think reconciliation here is not reconciliation between the pro and anti-Thaksin groups but within the coup supporters at the time. They wanted Sondhi L onside.