PM: Divide nation could mar election

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that a general election will be held by November this year. The Bangkok Post has set a 329-day countdown from Jan 1 to the last Sunday of November, in accordance with the prime minister’s announcement. (Post Today photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Sunday the nation needs to stand together as the often deeply divided nature of Thai society, especially when it comes to politics, poses a threat to this year’s general election.

He urged all concerned parties to help foster peace and stability to ensure the highly anticipated poll goes smoothly in November.

The premier stressed he did not expect the poll to be delayed again but merely wanted to point out that an election marred by divisiveness was unlikely to bring peace but rather trigger social unrest and conflict.

Gen Prayut made the remark when asked about his New Year’s wishes and expectations for 2018.

He said he expected to see poverty levels reduced and a peaceful transition of power from the coup-installed regime to a democratically elected government.

“I’m concerned about the election if the situation remains highly divisive. So try not to fuel conflicts. If we want an election, we must help foster peace and order. Without that, conflicts will continue after the election.

“I’m not saying I will postpone the poll. I just want to warn those who plan to create trouble. People need to watch out for these characters and steer clear of them,” he said.

The prime minister said he wanted to see an administration with good governance and politicians with integrity and transparency who would steer the country in line with national strategies that are being laid down.

“I want the Thai people to be happy and not deprived of anything. If we want to solve people’s problems sustainably, we have to do what I’m doing. We need to set objectives and directions for each group because they have different needs. These are my expectations,” he said.

“I don’t want to see unrest. I don’t want conflicts,” he added.

He rejected criticism of his move to use Section 44 of the charter requiring members of political parties to register again, saying there was no hidden agenda.

Prime Minister’s New Year’s card

May the powers of the Three Gems, the sacred forces and the powers of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Her Majesty the Queen, His Majesty the King and members of the royal family bless the members of the media and all Thais.
May they all be happy, prosperous and succeed in their lives and in their professional endeavours. It may be hard going today but everything will be better if we stay true to committing good deed

The prime minister said parties should not have to worry about members defecting if their policies are sound enough.

Several parties saw the requirement as a de facto “resetting” of party membership and a move to make it easier for members to defect to new groups, possibly including military-backed ones.

Gen Prayut said the order had nothing to do with a “reset” and that it was issued so all membership databases are updated without any duplication.

Asked about speculation the move was to draw politicians to military-backed political parties, the prime minister said he was usually treated with mistrust by the media and urged reporters to treat him fairly.

“Why would I form a political party? Could I do that?” he said when asked about the possibility of the regime setting up a party to contest the poll.

While acknowledging that some people have pledged to support him and nominate him as prime minister for the election, he said no one has approached him on the matter and he has not made any decisions.

Critics were concerned that politicians with military affiliations would use the new rules under the charter to have a non-elected outsider appointed as premier.

“It is up to the public to decide who they want to cooperate with. Some people are worried about me becoming a non-elected prime minister. There are a lots out there. Why me?” he said.

Under the constitution, senators can join MPs in proposing a motion to suspend the rule requiring prime ministerial candidates to come from political party lists, paving the way for an “outsider” prime minister to be selected, if a prime minister cannot be chosen from the lists of candidates for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, rumours continued to circulate that key politicians were being approached by the regime.

A source in the Pheu Thai Party said yesterday contacts were made with core party members in several provinces including Chon Buri, Buri Ram and Suphan Buri. According to the source, the regime apparently targeted key figures in each region.

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