PM 'will not step down' if charter fails

PM 'will not step down' if charter fails

Voters to pick 'unclear future' or 'past failure'

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha gestures as he arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at Government House. (Reuters photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha gestures as he arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at Government House. (Reuters photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted he will not step down in the event that the draft constitution is voted down in Sunday's referendum.

"Do not say the referendum will define who loses or wins. I have never lost to anyone," Gen Prayut said at Government House Tuesday. "I am not willing to win over anyone. I just want to maintain my power to run the administration during this transition period."

Responding to calls by anti-coup groups that he should resign if the draft charter is shot down in the referendum on Sunday, Gen Prayut said the referendum on the draft charter is only part of a process leading to democracy, adding that next year's election cannot happen without the constitution.

He said he had to remain in power in line with the political "roadmap" and tackle existing problems, such as political conflicts.

"I have to stay in power anyway since I am also holding the position of the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO]."

He also shrugged off concerns about growing calls for the public to vote against the draft charter, saying: "I am not worried about anything. No matter what the outcome [of the referendum] is, I will still be in power in accordance with the roadmap and I will do my best when I am still in the position. I do it for the country and the Thai people."

"I will call a joint meeting between the cabinet and the NCPO next Tuesday to determine our future plans whether the charter fails or passes. A lot of work is still waiting," said Gen Prayut. "I must stick to the roadmap. This is what I can say."

The premier also insisted he had no intention of reshuffling his cabinet after the referendum.

Gen Prayut said the voters must decide between an unclear future or past failures.

"Between the future which is still not clear and past failures, you have to pick," he said without elaborating.

Responding to concerns Suthep Thaugsuban, former protest leader of the defunct People's Democrat Reform Committee, whose street protests led to the 2014 coup, and who said he would blow whistles to mobilise people to come out to vote in the referendum, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said: "The mobilisation of people must not be done. Voters should cast their votes on a personal basis."

Meanwhile, army officers took 10 people allegedly involved with the dissemination of letters containing allegedly distorted draft charter content in northern provinces from the 11th Military Circle to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) Tuesday. They were handed over to police after seven days in army custody.

The suspects include Boonlert Buranupakorn, chief of Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation (PAO); Tasanee Buranupakorn, vice-president of the Chiang Mai PAO and former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai; and Khachen Jiakkhajorn, mayor of tambon Chang Phueak in Chiang Mai's Muang district.

Two other suspects were not present. They are Wisarut Kunanitisan, detained in Chiang Mai, and Thevarat Rinta who is still on the run.

According to police, the suspects are charged with inciting public unrest and illegal assembly in accordance with Sections 116 and 210 of the Criminal Code as well as disseminating "distorted" draft charter content in violation of the referendum law.

According to police, Mr Boonlert, Ms Tasanee, Mr Khachen and Pairat Maichomphu, also vice-president of the Chiang Mai PAO, are the group's masterminds.

In a related development, 19 core members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have been released after reporting to police to hear charges of defying the junta's ban on political gatherings.

Accompanied by Winyat Chartmontree and other lawyers, the 19 red-shirt members reported to the CSD about 10am in response to a summons to hear charges in connection with the launch of provincial poll fraud centres to monitor Sunday's referendum.

The opening, attended by the 19 members, was held on June 5 at the Imperial Lat Phrao shopping mall.

They were formally charged and questioned by CSD officers in the presence of deputy police chief Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul.

After about two and a half hours, UDD chairman Jatuporn Prompan and other UDD suspects came out and told reporters that they had denied the charge of holding a political gathering of at least five people in violation of the NCPO order.

Pol Gen Srivara said the 19 UDD suspects had been released on the condition they must not do anything which might be construed as creating political unrest.

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