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Prem: Choose role models carefully

Feb. 16, 2006.

A Songkhla _ Gen Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday counselled school graduates to be careful in choosing role models as local residents turned up in force to give him moral support and demand an apology from talk show host Samak Sundaravej.

The elder statesman and Privy Council chairman also noted that His Majesty the King had taught Thai people "to be decent and to feel duty-bound to give something back to their motherland".

He made the remarks at the graduation ceremony at his alma mater, Mahavajiravudh Changwat Songkhla, which is located in his hometown.

Gen Prem's visit confirmed local residents remained dissatisfied with Mr Samak's response to the public anger at remarks critical of Gen Prem.

"Quitting the talk shows has nothing to do with it. We demand nothing less than an apology from him," said Surachet Pa-yuenyong, head of the school's alumni association. "If he fails to do so, Songkhla people will come up to Bangkok and stage a rally outside his house," Mr Surachet warned.

Mr Samak and co-host Dusit Siriwan found themselves in the firing line after criticising Gen Prem who made a recent public speech spelling out the need for a leader to have a moral conscience. They were forced to step down from their roles on their talk shows, although Mr Samak offered no apology to Gen Prem.

In speaking to the school leavers, Gen Prem cited His Majesty's pledge at his coronation in 1946: " I shall rule the kingdom with dhamma [justice]".

"The King has taught Thai people to be decent and to feel duty-bound to give something back to their motherland." Gen Prem said.

He was delighted to find that the teaching of "giving back to the country" was widespread. It is only decent people who know how best to serve the country and do it willingly, he said.
Graduates should choose a suitable role model to follow, he added.

"You must be careful in copying proper models who pursue respected careers and discard those unscrupulous ones." he said. Students should be self-disciplined, wise in their spending, be grateful to their parents and be morally decent people among other things, he said.

The ultimate happiness in life is making others happy. It is unfortunate that most ignore this kind of happiness, he said

"I am happy sitting in front of the students and talking to them. This is the first time I have participated in the ceremony. I am mostly concerned for the children because the future of our nation lies in their hands," he said.

Gen Prem said that when one makes a pledge to do something, one must keep it in mind and try to fulfil it.

More than 1,500 people from across Songkhla province gathered to welcome the former prime minister at the school.

They carried banners supporting the Privy Council chairman and demanding Mr Samak apologise to him.

Ref: Bangkok Post

Prem Tinsulanonda Center for International Education, Chiang Mai, Kingdom of Thailand