Thai junta accused of attempt to retain power

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has come under criticism by politicians after he raised four questions during his weekly television programme on Friday. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has come under heavy attack for asking “leading questions” that are seen as an attempt to gather public support for the regime to stay on in power.

He came up with the questions following a blast at Phramongkutklao Hospital last Monday that left 25 people injured.

Gen Prayut earlier said that next year’s general election could be delayed if law and order continues to be disrupted by bomb attacks and other threats to peace.

Politicians from major parties including Pheu Thai and the Democrats on Saturday came out to strongly criticise the prime minister after he raised four questions during his weekly television programme on Friday.

Gen Prayut said he wanted to ask the public for their opinions on four issues so that their feedback would be used as guidelines for the government’s work.

The first question asked whether the next elected government will have good governance.

The second question was what should be done if there is no such government after the next election.

While Gen Prayut said elections are an important part of democracy, he questioned if elections that fail to take into account matters relating to the country’s future, reforms and national strategy are the right thing.

His fourth question asked if politicians who behave improperly should have a chance to run in elections again. If they do and problems occur again, he asked who will deal with them and in what way.

Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former deputy prime minister of Pheu Thai, noted that Gen Prayut only wanted the public to give the answers he wanted.

“The questions show that Gen Prayut is like he is lost in a desert and does not think of trying to go anywhere,” Mr Chaturon said.

Regarding the question on good governance, Mr Chaturon said it seems that Gen Prayut was questioning the merit of the new constitution, which puts in place mechanisms and measures to deal with governments that fail to live up to good governance practices. Asking this question means that Gen Prayut himself does not believe in the new charter, he said.

Regarding the question on how to deal with “badly behaved politicians”, Mr Chaturon said the constitution and the laws are in place to punish offenders and there is no need for Gen Prayut and his fellows to stage a coup again.

“Gen Prayut has asked leading questions and also doubted the merits of the constitution. He also shows that he is addicted to power and he hopes that the public will ask him to stay on in power for longer,” Mr Chaturon said.

Watana Muangsook, another Pheu Thai key figure, wrote on Facebook that the people will have the right to elect their MPs in the next election and that an elected government will be legitimate under the new charter.

Gen Prayut should not be in doubt about the new charter, which has been touted as an efficient one to keep corrupt politicians at bay, he wrote.

“An elected government will be better than the current government. If it does not do the right thing, mechanisms under the constitution are there to deal with it,” he said.

“If you ask about the next government’s good governance, you should have it first yourself. At least you must be ready to be scrutinised.

“The people are mature enough to decide the political future by themselves without being dictated to by anyone. Three years after the coup, the country has been in bad shape and the people have suffered from economic problems.”

Former Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong said a government blessed with good governance will be established only when the people can vote in a clean and fraud-free poll and their votes are respected.

He also echoed the view that Gen Prayut was attempting to ask leading questions and show disregard for politicians.

“Are these questions intended to benefit anyone or to prolong a hold on power? The prime minister should honestly tell the people if the election will be allowed to take place under the new charter,” Mr Watchara said. – Bangkok Post

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