PM tries to reassure anti-regime activists
Reaffirms election pledge ahead of rally
The general election will definitely be held early next year, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Tuesday, apparently to ease political pressure given a rally planned by anti-regime activists this week.
Gen Prayut said his repeated assurance should satisfy those threatening to stage a prolonged rally on Saturday.
However, the activists issued an ultimatum on March 24 at their last rally in Bangkok that the election must be held this year.
Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), made the demand. The DRG, together with Start Up People led by Sirawith Seritiwat, marched from Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus to the army headquarters, calling on the army to stop supporting the NCPO.
According to police, about 400 people joined that rally while more than 600 security officers and riot police were deployed to keep order at the protest.
The groups have scheduled their next rally for this Saturday, again at the Tha Prachan campus.
The anti-military activists said they will step up pressure by staging a prolonged rally to oust the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ahead of the fourth anniversary of the coup on May 22.
On Tuesday, Gen Prayut said the security agencies will find out whether the rally will be attended by new faces or the same groups of people, and who the gathering is financially supported by.
He insisted the election, previously moved from November this year to February next year, was pushed back due to a delay in the passing of organic laws essential for organising the poll.
"Please, the country is doing well. After we announced a prospective election date for early next year, no other countries raised an objection. We're following through [with the election roadmap].
"Do not worry that the election will be delayed again. I have no intention of doing that," Gen Prayut said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said no special security measures have been prepared for Saturday. He added he did not think the protest will be a protracted one.
Security personnel will be on hand at the rally site in case violence erupts within the activist groups, he said.
Also, Gen Prayut has denied he had a hand in the alleged practice of former MPs being "siphoned" into a new political party backed by the regime which could emerge as the core party in the next government.
He said he has checked with some parties whether they would support him as a candidate for the premiership after the general election or had tried to recruit former MPs by offering them political sweeteners. "The answer I got was a 'no'," Gen Prayut said.
Meanwhile, key Pheu Thai Party member Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan described the act of headhunting former MPs obsolete and dubious.
She said party politicians in some Bangkok constituencies told her they had been approached with "special offers" to defect. However, they insisted they would remain with Pheu Thai to contest the next poll, she stressed.
Khunying Sudarat, who is reported to be a frontrunner for the Pheu Thai leadership, was speaking at Wat Phra Si Mahathat in Bangkok where she was merit-making to mark her 57th birthday.