BANGKOK (The Nation): The duel between Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung and Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaungsuban on Thursday night was the heavyweight main event concluding the censure debate.
The irascible Chalerm, one of the most controversial ministers in Cabinet, was grilled by Suthep, a seasoned politician, who has proclaimed himself the “shadow interior minister”. Suthep claimed that Chalerm took advantage of his control over the Land Department to help his associates gain coveted plots of public land from some wealthy owners of problematic plots.
Suthep said Chalerm influenced the Land Department’s current caretaker director-general to unlawfully secure the holding rights to separate land plots in Phuket for the interior minister’s associates, some of whom are also in the government.
“He has no sense of responsibility as the interior minister. If he had been serious about this issue, things would have been better,” said Suthep.
Chalerm’s face turned red. But in fact he should not have been surprised, as he had urged other Democrat MPs earlier in the day to leave time for Suthep to quiz him.
But when Suthep did attack, Chalerm was apparently caught off guard. He implied that Suthep was envious of him. “I am the real interior minister. And you are just shadow interior minister. That serves you right,” he said.
Instead of answering Suthep’s charge, Chalerm teased Suthep about his dark skin, implying that he could not see Suthep properly because he was sitting too far away and in the dark. “Come on. You better sit here in the front. Are you sitting at the back because you are afraid of me?” Chalerm asked Suthep. The latter hit back, “I am sitting here according to the order that the House gave me. This is my number,” pointing to the badge that he was wearing.
Finally Chalerm lost his cool. He cursed back. “If I did as claimed by Suthep, may I be doomed and drop dead as soon as I leave this place. If I didn’t do that, may I prosper further, and may the Democrat Party be in the opposition forever,” Chalerm said.
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