PM's 6 questions 'designed to rile critics'

PM's 6 questions 'designed to rile critics'

Pundits say Prayut's move shows his plan to survive the general election

The Prime Minister's Six Questions clearly show his ambitions to retain full power after elections planned for November, 2018, but also have the bonus effect of riling his critics. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)
The Prime Minister's Six Questions clearly show his ambitions to retain full power after elections planned for November, 2018, but also have the bonus effect of riling his critics. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The latest round of questions posed to the public by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shows fairly unequivocally that the regime hopes to retain its grip on power after next November's election, either with the help of an existing political party or one that could be set up for this purpose.

It also reflects the regime's intention to block old power cliques, according to political observers.

The questions have drawn flak from politicians from parties as well-supported as Pheu Thai and the Democrats -- parties that have long been fettered and bound by the regime's political restrictions.

Suriyasai Katasila, deputy dean of Rangsit University's Social Innovation College, told the Bangkok Post the questions indicate that a post-election government has already been designed by Gen Prayut in advance.

Mr Suriyasai said the general election will be held according to legal and constitutional rules but will only serve as "a ritual", as Gen Prayut will remain prime minister of any new government and prevent Pheu Thai from rising to power.

Pheu Thai may yet win the highest number of House seats, but it will be hard for the party to win more than half, Mr Suriyasai added. "A pro-military party will be set up and it will join other small parties to form a government," he said.

Mr Suriyasai, a former coordinator for the People's Alliance for Democracy, said the six questions expanded on the four Gen Prayut posed in May, when they centred around old and new parties during the transitional period.

But the new round shows a clean intention to set up a new pro-military party without the need to conceal it any longer, Mr Suriyasai said.

Some of the questions cast politicians in a bad light, which, if politicians respond by criticising the government, would give the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) an excuse not to lift the ban on political activities.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said during a radio show on FM 101 that while the prime minister and NCPO have the right to support any party they so choose, they should act responsibly and fairly rather than exercise their power as state authorities.

Resorting to the latter would simply make the the regime as bad as previous elected governments that caused much trouble for the country, Mr Abhisit said. This is a concern as the prime minister's power is total and limitless, particularly given his access to the all-powerful Section 44 order from the former charter, Mr Abhisit added.

He said it's obvious to any educated onlooker that Gen Prayut's questions are politically motivated and they will only serve to stir up more conflict and confrontation by angering politicians.

The Democrat leader singled out the last question, which asked why parties and politicians have come out to discredit the government on an usually large scale.

If the government felt its critics spoke out against it unfairly, it could use various mechanisms to clear things up, he said. The prime minister should not inflame conflict and reignite political confrontation, Mr Abhisit added.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan said yesterday there are no provisions in the new charter that prohibit the NCPO from setting up a political party.

Moreover, each member of the NCPO has the right to support whoever they choose when they head to the polls to cast ballots, Mr Meechai said.

The six questions were a thinly veiled attempt to seek reassuarance, said Phonlaphum Wiphatphumprathes, a former Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok.

The prime minister probably posed them because he was unsure if any new political party that bore the support of the NCPO and Gen Prayut would be acceptable to the public, Mr Phonlaphum said.

Somkid Chueakong, a former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said there was no need for the prime minister to ask such questions as the clock is ticking for the regime.

The government should focus on preparing for the election while the NCPO must remain neutral in the lead-up, Mr Somkid said

He said Pheu Thai does not care which party the premier supports because the voters will have the final say. The NCPO was using the questions to bait politicians, said ex-Pheu Thai MP Cholanan Srikaew.

Angry politicians who rise to the bait would play into the hands of the regime, which would use this as an excuse to stay in power by claiming peace and order has not been restored, Mr Cholanan said.

Gen Prayut's questions are as follows:

Do we need new political parties or new politicians for the people to consider in the next election? Will the old politicians or political parties bring about national reforms and comply with the national strategy?

Does the NCPO have the right to support a political party?

Do people foresee a better future because of the government's work over the past three years?

Is it appropriate to compare the current government with previously elected governments?

Did previous governments show efficiency and good governance, or contribute to long-term development?

Why have political parties and politicians come out to discredit the government on an unusually large scale during this period?

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