PM takes huge funds vow to Buri Ram
฿20.7bn package, Newin meet on cards
All eyes are on the mobile cabinet meeting starting Monday in Buri Ram, with the government set to announce an injection of more than 20 billion baht into the province and nearby areas amid scepticism that the move is politically motivated.
The two-day cabinet trip led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been labelled by critics as another ploy to canvas support from local politicians. This time, it is the Bhumjaithai Party and its co-founder Newin Chidchob, a veteran politician who has turned his focus to football and motorsport in the province.
One of the key moments of the trip will be when Gen Prayut addresses more than 30,000 people expected to greet him this afternoon at Buriram United's Chang Arena, which Mr Newin owns.
According to the government sources, at least 21 development projects worth about 20.7 billion baht for Buri Ram and lower Northeastern provinces will be proposed for approval at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The projects include infrastructure development worth 11.8 billion baht, improvement to water management worth 3.4 billion baht, improving peoples' quality of life worth 3.6 billion baht, promoting border trade and investment worth 1.4 billion baht and tourism development worth about 500 million baht.
Buri Ram airport will also see a new terminal built and its runways expanded to accommodate larger aircraft and increased tourism brought by the MotoGP races, a global motorcycle racing championship which Thailand will host between 2018 and 2020 at Buri Ram's Chang International Circuit developed by Mr Newin.
Gen Prayut will visit the circuit Monday to inspect preparations ahead of the PTT Thailand Grand Prix, the country's first MotoGP race on Oct 5-7.
Early in the day, Gen Prayut will visit Chong Chom border pass in Surin to inspect trade there. Then, the prime minister will return to Buri Ram to chair a meeting with authorities from the lower Northeastern provinces to outline policies for economic and social development.
In the evening, he will take his cabinet ministers to visit Sroew Gound Walking Street where they will meet Buri Ram residents.
Meanwhile, the private sector in Buri Ram will propose that the government promotes the province as a sports hub and suggest that a sports-oriented university also be built.
Even though no official meeting between Gen Prayut, Mr Newin and Bhumjaithai politicians is scheduled during the trip, Bhumjaithai party leader Anuthin Charnvirakul will join Mr Newin to greet Gen Prayut at Chang Arena this afternoon.
Unlike previous provincial trips by the prime minister, there will be no closed-door talks between the three to avoid criticism that his party and the government are making a political deal, Mr Anuthin said.
On a previous trip to the Eastern provinces, Gen Prayut met Chon Buri-based Phalang Chon Party heavyweight Sonthaya Khunpluem and Democrat deputy leader Sathit Pitudecha, sparking rumours of a possible alliance being formed, which the prime minister denied at the time.
However, Gen Prayut last month appointed Mr Sonthaya as his adviser and named Mr Sonthaya's younger brother Itthiphol, former Pattaya mayor, an assistant to Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak insisted the Buri Ram visit is not politically motivated.
The government chose the province as Buri Ram is among the poorest provinces in terms of people income, he said.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the objective of the mobile cabinet visit is to interact with locals about the problems they are facing and has nothing to do with politics.
Lt-Gen Sansern also responded to criticism from fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who recently warned from Singapore that the only politicians the government might succeed in luring into its fold would be "grey" people only interested in exploiting the benefits offered to them in exchange for their support.
"Good politicians with sound political ideologies will not be tempted to join," Thaksin was quoted as saying when he met a group of politicians from Thailand.
Gen Prayut, Lt-Gen Sansern said, had explained that all governments of the past had worked with other politicians to achieve their goals.
What this government wants to do is find capable persons who want to help the government move the country forward and no special incentives are on offer to anyone, said the spokesman.
The prime minister had not specified any names but would listen to proposals on who should be invited to help the government.