Prayut appeals for more time at the helm

Prayut appeals for more time at the helm

PM calls on public not to lose faith in regime

Gen Prayut won't set an election date, but appeals for indefinite time in power to 'continue laying foundations'. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Gen Prayut won't set an election date, but appeals for indefinite time in power to 'continue laying foundations'. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has appealed to the public to let him stay on in power to "continue laying the foundations for the country", though he gave no indication of how long he intends to remain at the helm.

He urged the public not to lose hope in him or his government.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Gen Prayut said the government hopes to lay a firm foundation for the country's future prosperity but it is up to future administrations to decide how to carry the torch.

"Give me some more time to lay a solid foundation," he said, adding the time needed "depends on the law".

Despite a growing belief that the national election will be postponed from November to February 2019, Gen Prayut insisted he would stick to the road map.

In lieu of any legal problems, the election will take place "on time", he said.

He is understood to have meant that the election process will start after four poll-related laws have been enacted.

"Don't lose hope," he said. "We are trying our best."

Gen Prayut previously announced the election would be held in November but the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted on Jan 25 to extend enforcement of an organic bill on MP elections by another 90 days.

This would effectively delay the poll until February.

Responding to criticism that he is failing to honour his promise, Gen Prayut said he had merely promised to improve people's lives and make them happier.

However, he said, it is impossible to keep everyone happy at this stage in the game.

Some critics have found his latest U-turn on the poll date ironic given that he famously composed a song titled: We Will Fulfil Promises.

"In some respects I can return happiness to the people straight away, but in other respects [they must wait]," he said.

"It also boils down to fixing problems and ... future governments."

He denied he was making any excuses.

"Is the country more happy and peaceful now?" he asked.

"Has the economy improved? Have many problems been solved? Though it's not that much, it has resulted in more happiness for many people. This is my promise. I've done what I can, first," he added.

Asked to comment on his government's declining popularity, he said he has witnessed considerable conflict since the 2014 coup, with many people calling for change.

The government must find out which groups are unhappy and why, he added.

The premier also addressed rumours that anti-coup groups are galvanising against the government over the 90-day poll delay.

Some believe they have been emboldened by Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, who said in December that Gen Prayut has lost much of his support base.

But Mr Prem said the prime minister can still win the public over by serving as a positive role model.

Gen Prayut said it was only natural for a government that has run a country for nearly four years to face problems. The harder it works, the more problems it faces, he said.

Neutrals who refuse to take sides blame the government whenever any problem arises, which is normal, he added.

Previous governments faced similar challenges after four years in office, Gen Prayut said.

Lt Gen Phisanu Phutthawong, a close aide to Gen Prem, confirmed the latter will continue to support Gen Prayut and the government in laying the foundations for a stronger country.

He said Gen Prem's remark about Gen Prayut having lost much of his support base was misinterpreted.

Lt Gen Phisanu said Gen Prem did not blame Gen Prayut, but that his remarks were meant to advise and morally support the prime minister.

He said he hoped to encourage Gen Prayut to work to the best of his ability, thus generating public sympathy.

Also Tuesday, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the problem delayed poll is not his chief concern. Rather, he was worried about the potential loss of confidence in the government's credibility.

He said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has failed to clearly explain why it has not yet lifted the ban on political activities.

It should do so to give the public confidence and prevent groups from using this as a pretext to instigate unrest, Mr Abhisit said.

Democrat secretary-general Juti Krairiksh said the Democrat Party was not concerned by the changing poll date.

However, the NCPO can and should fix problems that cannot normally be solved by an elected government, he said, adding they should be dealt with before one comes to power.

Former Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmeechai slammed the prime minister, saying he has laid no solid foundations for the nation over the past four years.

"He should let the people decide the country's future," he said.

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