Prime Minister Prayut at an informal media gaggle at Government House. Academics say a key to regime survival is for Gen Prayut to delegate tasks such as this. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should speak less to the public and use government figures and officials to communicate with the media to ease the pressure being piled on the administration, academics said.

The suggestion came as Gen Prayut and his government have come under a barrage of criticism over the luxury watch scandal involving his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, the possible delay of the election from November to February next year and the administration’s ability to handle economic issues.

Wanwichit Boonprong, deputy dean of Rangsit University’s Political Science Faculty, said the popularity of the prime minister has waned primarily due to the postponement of the election.

The prime minister’s promises of poll dates have now been pushed back three times, and this has caused the public to feel fed up with the regime, he said.

Gen Prawit, meanwhile, has become the softest target in the regime since political elements understand that the deputy premier is key to the government’s stability, Mr Wanwichit added.

Over the past four years in office, the government has focused on one-way communication by trying to explain what it has done, he said, adding it did not open channels where people can offer feedback and voice their concerns.

He said Gen Prayut appears to have too much confidence in his popularity without paying heed to people’s feelings towards the administration, which is changing.

“The prime minister should not speak out alone anymore,” Mr Wanwichit said. “Ministers should be allowed more opportunity to help explain certain issues or give opinions.”

The public focus is now on how the government will address economic woes. The figures in charge of economic affairs should deal with the task, he said.

“The prime minister’s words alone are not strong enough to stoke confidence in the economy, as opposed to those of economic ministers who can present a clearer picture,” said the lecturer. “This would help reduce pressure [on the prime minister].”

According to Mr Wanwichit, the prime minister’s remarks are always interpreted as political messages, such as an attempt to cling to power and push back the election. More effort is needed to prevent what he says from being taken out of context.

Speaking during his weekly televised speech on Friday, Gen Prayut said he wants to invite the public to follow the government’s communication channels.

These include the Facebook page ThaiGovSpokesman, managed by the Prime Minister’s Office and recently re-designed to create easy access and a modern look. (Screen capture below)

Gen Prayut said the Facebook page would allow people to raise questions or suggestions, while short video clips by the prime minister, ministers and heads of government agencies will be uploaded.

The government, Gen Prayut said, will also conduct a monthly forum on issues of public interest as well as hold a “Meet the Press” event every Thursday.

Mr Wanwichit said the “Meet the Press” events would help to clear the air over contentious issues which the media might have questions about. It will also make more inroads into media space in a bid to boost public understanding. He said this would lead to changes in the government’s information dissemination and enable it to stay on top of current affairs and issues.

Boonyou Khorpornprasert, a communication arts lecturer at Krirk University, said the government is late in seeking to establish a two-tier communication channel via Facebook. The government must refrain from forcing people to hear what it has to say but present its information in a more catchy way, he said.

Mr Boonyou also said various platforms need to be used for different demographics.

He also suggested Gen Prayut avoid speaking alone. Experts with knowledge of specific issues must be chosen to speak and help clarify matters, such as the younger generation of state officers.

It is an outdated practice for a PM to speak about every single issue, he added, noting the premier will only expose his weaknesses by touching on subjects he is not familiar with.

News Reporter

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