'I'm Sorry' Is Not Enough

The Fat's in the Fire

Bangkok Post, September 19, 2001

Tinawat quits after pork-fat jibe smarts
Party forces him out, apology will not do

Embattled Thai Rak Thai MP Tinawat Maruekapitak quit under duress yesterday after upsetting the Muslim community with his pig-fat bombs jibe.

The joke backfired on Mr Tinawat who was condemned at a party meeting for his suggestion that the United States drop pig-fat bombs on terrorists holed up in Afghanistan in retaliation for last week's terrorist attacks. Mr Tinawat said he was heavily reprimanded by party members, who were taken aback by a remark they felt was blasphemous to Muslims worldwide.

He had earlier aborted an attempt to email the suggestion to US President George W Bush. On Monday, he issued a statement, saying he had been planning to convey the message to the US leader.

Mr Tinawat said he did not mean to offend Muslims. The pig-fat bombs could have pre-empted the use of highly destructive weapons, he said, adding he did not expect the suggestion to make people so upset. "It's too bad I was born an optimist blessed with too much humour," he said.

Mr Tinawat, a list MP and a talk show host, said party members agreed his remark had done serious damage which could not be rectified with a mere apology. Given the mounting pressure, he decided to resign. He said he apologised to Muslims nationwide and did not mean to trample on their religious sensitivity but to avert a pretext for global violence.

"I suppose I wasn't too mindful about what I said ... I shouldn't forgive myself for this," he said. Political repercussions were likely and he thought he should step aside to show responsibility.

Most of Mr Tinawat's critics are apparently the party's Bangkok MPs who feared the remark would hurt their support among Muslim voters. A source said members threatened to begin a process to expel Mr Tinawat if he refused to quit.

Thanusak Lek-uthai, another Thai Rak Thai MP, said Mr Tinawat had slandered Muslims, saying it was a case of "a person having nothing to do so he torched his own house". Coming from a man of seniority, such behaviour was unimaginable, he said.

Thawatchai Sajjakul, a Bangkok MP, denied Mr Tinawat's claim that he took part in conceiving the pig-fat bombs idea. It was unfair to try to put him in the same boat because, as a constituency MP, he had his supporters to worry about.

Prime Minister Thakin Shinawatra said Mr Tinawat's remark did not reflect the party's stand. Quitting was the right decision, the premier said, adding Mr Tinawat deserved to be forgiven. Mr Tinawat is to be replaced by Vichit Prungsrisakul, 73rd on the list and next in line for the seat.

Muslim residents in Satun and Chiang Mai decried Mr Tinawat's conduct and said his contemptuous view could expose the country to external threats.

Armeen Munyameen, deputy chairman of the Satun Islamic Committee, said Mr Tinawat should have known better. He said Muslims were disappointed with the prime minister for being hasty in siding with the US. Mr Thaksin should have thought it through as the country had ties with many Muslim nations.

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