Prayut 'no longer a soldier'
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared openly for the first time Wednesday that he is no longer a soldier and is a politician, though he said he felt compelled to become premier out of a sense of responsibility.
"I have to change because I am no longer a soldier. I am a politician who used to be a soldier," Gen Prayut said.
Asked if he will continue being a politician over the long term, Gen Prayut said that he had never entertained the idea of being a politician, but he felt compelled to out of duty.
"I never wanted to be a politician for a single day. Since Day 1 until now, I never wanted to. But I did it because of a sense of responsibility," Gen Prayut said.
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The prime minister also brushed aside a move by the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties to petition the Constitutional Court against a Section 44 order issued by him on Dec 22 to address political parties' immediate concerns that they could not meet Friday's deadline under the new organic law that requires parties to update their memberships and registrations.
Political parties have cried foul over the order, saying it will benefit emerging political parties at the expense of existing ones.
But parties suspect the regime is paving the way for a military-backed party which will draw members of existing parties to back it and support Gen Prayut and the regime to stay in power after a poll expected late this year.
The order gives new parties a month's head start over existing ones. Existing parties will be unable to begin registration until April 1, while new parties can start forming on March 1.
Existing parties also say that requiring all party members to register again amounts to a "reset" that would open the door for some to defect to new groups.
In a cheerful mood on speaking to reporters after resuming work at Government House after the New Year, Gen Prayut said: "Today is a happy day, a day with smiles all around. So, I'm smiling a lot. Previously, I smiled and stopped smiling fast. I'm not the smiling type."