PM defends himself amid question flap

PM defends himself amid question flap

Prayut cites talk of rice scheme revival

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday defended the four questions related to future elections that he asked the public to answer, saying they were intended to urge people to reflect on what they needed.

Gen Prayut said he had not received any answers to his questions.

The premier caused a political stir when he raised the questions in his weekly television programme on Friday, saying he would use the public's responses as guidelines for the government's work.

Addressing the criticism over his questions, Gen Prayut said they were not for himself but for the people, and there was a political campaign underway to distort facts and attack his administration.

According to Gen Prayut, politicians at local levels have been talking about introducing subsidy schemes and possibly reinstating the controversial rice-pledging programme of the previous government. He said these prompted him to float the questions.

"Since they have come after me, I want to ask them: Do we have to listen to them alone? I want the people to reflect on all of this. And elections will take place no matter what, and they will be held as specified in the roadmap," he said.

"These questions have nothing to do with whether I will stay on in power. They are about what the people will do in the future. I don't mean to change anything," he said.

The prime minister's questions were criticised by politicians, academics and civil sector leaders as an attempt to test the waters for another delay in the election roadmap.

The first question asked whether people think the next elected government can guarantee good governance.

The second question asked what should be done if there is no such government after the next election.

In the third question, while admitting that an election is an important element of democracy, he asked whether elections that fail to take into account matters relating to the country's future, reforms and national strategy are the right thing.

His fourth question asked if politicians guilty of inappropriate behaviour should be allowed to run in the election, and if so, who and what methods would regulate them.

The prime minister said the media were also aware of political activities to discredit the government. These politicians did not want to see any changes or any new regulations.

"Do the people want changes? If they do, they need to think about what I've asked. Those questions aren't for myself.

"I'm asking what the people want, not if they want elections," he said.

He said the answers would be processed and used to speed up the national reform process. They would also be forwarded to the media to help raise awareness, he added.

Gen Prayut posed the questions to the public following a bomb blast at Phramongkutklao Hospital last Monday that left 25 people injured.

Earlier, he said the general election could be delayed unless peace and order is maintained.

Interior permanent secretary Grisda Boonrach said the ministry has asked provincial governors and district chiefs to collect public opinion about the premier's four questions.

He said the ministry and the Damrongtham complaint centres, which are assigned to collect feedback, will make sure the process is open and transparent.

Meanwhile, Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan voiced support Monday for the prime minister's questions, saying the answers could be useful for scrutinising related organic laws.

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