Regime 'strays from the path of reform'

Regime 'strays from the path of reform'

Democrat key leader Nipit says current government has lost its way amid political inaction and scandals

Nipit Intarasombat says the government has lost its way in a maze of ennui and scandals that have effectively killed chances for the reform it promised.
Nipit Intarasombat says the government has lost its way in a maze of ennui and scandals that have effectively killed chances for the reform it promised.

Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat has offered his take on why Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will prefer to be an unelected prime minister after the general election.

He said achieving political reform under the new constitution is an increasingly remote prospect considering that some key figures in the government are embroiled in scandals stemming from allegations over a lack of transparency.

The problems remain unresolved while efforts have been made to protect them which has only run counter to the public mood, Mr Nipit said.

InquiryLines, published bi-weekly on Mondays is a Bangkok Post column to present in-depth details of a range of issues from politics and social interest to eye-catching everyday lives.

A case in point is the scandal over the luxury wristwatches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon -- the regime's "big brother" who is regarded as the closet associate of Prime Minister Prayut, Mr Nipit said.

Gen Prawit has become an indispensable part of the government and managed to keep his post because he still has the respect of the military.

"If Gen Prayut makes decisions like a soldier, he will never abandon Gen Prawit. But if he is a politician, he must learn how to let it go," Mr Nipit said.

These scandals would have been dealt with more decisively if they had been handled by elected governments or governments that take reforms seriously, he said.

In particular, when Gen Prayut announced that he is now a politician who used to be a soldier, the prime minister must realise that politicians must gain the trust of the public, Mr Nipit said.

"I think several people surrounding the prime minister gain little trust from the public, but they still manage to remain in their posts, which runs counter to the public sentiment and goes against the prime minister's remarks that this is a period of reform," Mr Nipit said.

He said that while Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was prime minister, two of his cabinet members were embroiled in legal cases stemming from allegations of irregularities. The two ministers resigned before the cases were concluded.

The two are Witoon Nambutr, who resigned as social development and human security minister following suspected irregularities relating to the distribution of rotten canned fish to flood victims in Phatthalung, and Witthaya Kaewparadai, who stepped down as public health minister following suspected irregularities worth 86 billion baht in the ministry's procurement plans under the Thai Khem Khaeng project.

Both were later cleared of the allegations, Mr Nipit said.

"They resigned when they knew the people were unhappy. They were later proved innocent, but they has already made the sacrifices. We did it for the sake of righteousness even before the period of reform," Mr Nipit said.

But now the government and the regime seem to be moving away from the path of reform as the regime begins to interact with political groups which were former allies of the Pheu Thai Party, such as politicians from the Sasomsap family who wield political influence in Nakhon Pathom province.

This sparked rumours that Gen Prayut was courting small parties and building alliances which would come in handy in case an unelected, outsider prime minister is needed to fill a leadership vacuum in the next government. Gen Prayut later denied this.

But Mr Nipit said it was strange the regime is more keen to foster ties with certain politicians than the Democrat Party, which is the chief rival of Pheu Thai.

Mr Nipit said this is probably because Gen Prayut may have something to bargain for with them.

The prime minister has mechanisms of state scrutiny at his disposal such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and may use them as leverage to drive a bargain with politicians, Mr Nipit said.

Mr Nipit admitted Gen Prayut still enjoys a high level of public support, but if and when the premier openly announces that he will continue to take the reins as an unelected prime minister after the poll, this will be a retrograde step to an outdated mode of politics, which will only re-ignite political conflict.

With solid public support for Gen Prayut, those in the government and the regime believe the prime minister will remain a "selling point" and should be encouraged to stay on in power after the poll, Mr Nipit said.

The Democrat deputy leader also predicted it will be easy for Gen Prayut to gain more than half the votes in parliament, or 375 out of 750 votes comprising 500 MPs and 250 senators, to become an outsider prime minister after the poll.

If he becomes prime minister, Gen Prayut would become a magnet drawing MPs from small parties and some from major parties to form a fairly stable government, which would revert to an outdated mode of politics, Mr Nipit said.

He said that if Gen Prayut wants to return as prime minister after the poll, he should opt for a more dignified path by being among prime ministerial candidates from parties' lists.

Gen Prayut does not need to be a party member, but he can still have any party put him among its three prime ministerial candidates. This way, he would no longer be labelled as an outsider prime minister, Mr Nipit said.

However, being among parties' lists of prime ministerial candidates may present difficulties for Gen Prayut as he would have to make compromises with parties, Mr Nipit said.

It would be better if Gen Prayut is invited to become an outsider prime minister as he would not have to bow to the needs of political parties, he said.

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