Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday played down the findings of an opinion poll which critics say suggest the prime minister's popularity is declining.
According to the Suan Dusit Poll released on Sunday, most respondents said the government under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was generally reliable, although it was unable to solve economic and many other problems.
On factors that have hurt the government's reliability, respondents cited its inability to solve economic problems, failure to bring about reconciliation among rival political groups, frequent use of Section 44 of the interim constitution, and a lack of transparency and justice. Gen Prawit denied the findings show Gen Prayut's popularity is on the wane. "He works hard and dedicates himself to his work," he said.
Asked if the poll result was influenced by scandals surrounding the prime minister's inner circle, Gen Prawit insisted certain groups were bent on politicising allegations even though they were groundless.
In recent weeks, former defence permanent secretary Preecha Chan-o-cha, Gen Prayut's younger brother, has been accused of using state resources and personnel to construct a weir named after his wife, Pongphan. A delegation including Ms Pongphan was said to have travelled by air at state expense to the construction site in Chiang Mai.
Gen Prawit said Gen Preecha had requested the flight but he could not make the trip and asked his wife to go on his behalf.
In another scandal, Gen Preecha's son, Pathompol, was identified as a major shareholder of a company that won several construction contracts with the 3rd Army Region. Regarding the prime minister, Gen Prawit said police were looking into allegations against the premier on social media and would take legal actions against those who distorted information.
The defence minister himself came under criticism in the wake of a 20.9-million-baht chartered flight to Hawaii for a defence meeting.
When asked if critics of the Hawaii trip were in fact targeting his personal life, suggesting he had taken along someone he is romantically involved with, Gen Prawit said the media should focus on the government's work.
He also defended the appointment of 26 military officers to the National Legislative Assembly, saying they were to help with the workload and the appointment was not a reward.