Pro-coup party supports Prayut for post-election PM

Pro-coup party supports Prayut for post-election PM

One day after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon pledged no military involvement in politics, plans were announced for a pro-coup political party to try to draft Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha (above) as unelected prime minister. (EPA photo)
One day after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon pledged no military involvement in politics, plans were announced for a pro-coup political party to try to draft Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha (above) as unelected prime minister. (EPA photo)

One day after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon indicated no military involvement in politics, plans were announced for a pro-coup political party to back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the post-election prime minister.

At an impromptu press conference after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Gen Prayut neither accepted nor rejected a reported move to request he serve as an outsider prime minister following the election.

He confirmed he plans a general election for the House of Representatives next November, but did not set an exact date.

Both steps came after the government-sponsored draft charter was backed by voters in Sunday's referendum.

"I won't give an answer," said to questions about a planned "People's Reform Party" that would try to draft him as unelected premier after November, 2017.

"This has nothing to do with me. It's about politics. Political parties will bring in an outsider only if they have trouble. But do you think they won't be able to name a prime minister?" Gen Prayut replied.

On Monday, immediately after referendum results were announced, Gen Prawit, who is also deputy head of Gen Prayut's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) vowed the military would stay out of politics.

"The charter was not drafted to allow the military to rule," said Gen Prawit at that time.

"[P]oliticians will still exist under the constitution."

The self-appointed leader of the new pro-military party is Paiboon Nititawan, a Buddhist activist who was a member of Gen Prayut's original National Reform Council, formed in May, 2014, but now defunct.

Since then, he has been known mainly as a strong campaigner against the Dhammakaya sect, opposing the official nominee for Supreme Patriarch. He is closely aligned with the activist Buddhist monk and Bangkok Shutdown leader Phra Buddha Isara.

On Monday Mr Paiboon announced his intention to set up a party and run in the next general election for the House of Representatives.

He said after the draft charter passed the referendum, he consulted a number of people who shared the same ideology and decided to set up a party "by the people, of the people and for the people" to be named the "People's Reform Party".

Paiboon Nititawan, seen here with activist Buddhist monk Phra Buddha Isara, says his planned 'People's Reform Party' will welcome retired generals and try to draft Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as post-election premier. (File photo by Apichart Jinakul)

His party will be open for retired military officers, he said. "Retired officers will become ordinary citizens and can join my party."

Mr Paiboon, also a former Constitution Drafting Committee member, said he would not take a Senate seat but would run for the House of Representatives, as an MP can better push for reforms.

"I will tell the people to begin building a network to create a party with three intentions: to reform parties and politicians to improve Thailand's politics; to reform Buddhism; and set up a people's council in every province to serve as a monitoring agency," he said.

Mr Paiboon said his party would not place emphasis on the number of MPs but on their qualities. After a new political party law is in effect, he will register the party and start to conduct political activities.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayut also brushed aside calls to lift restrictions on parties' activities as the country heads toward a general election expected next year.

Following the draft charter's endorsement in the referendum, foreign organisations have called on the regime to allow freedom of speech and move towards elections while parties wanted the regime to permit them to resume political activities, including holding party meetings to prepare for the election.

Gen Prayut confirmed the general election process will begin next year as planned, probably no later than December.

Asked if he will permit parties to resume political activities now the country is moving towards the general election, Gen Prayut said: "Did I make any agreement with them? You should know who sets the rules now. When the rules are ready, then we'll talk about it."

Backing the prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the ban on political gatherings will be lifted after the organic laws on elections are enacted just before the polls.


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