Prawit tells protesters to retreat

Prawit tells protesters to retreat

70 million accept poll roadmap, he claims

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon warned activists to revise their plans to march on Government House on the fourth anniversary of the coup on May 22. (File photo)
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon warned activists to revise their plans to march on Government House on the fourth anniversary of the coup on May 22. (File photo)

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has warned pro-election protesters they will face tough legal action if they march on Government House, claiming that almost the whole population accepts the roadmap pointing to an election in February next year.

He claimed only a small portion of people want the election this year, while as many as 70 million people understand the government's election roadmap.

Pro-election activists of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) gave an ultimatum to the military government to call an election by November this year. The group also demanded the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) step down and the armed forces withdraw support for the NCPO.

Without a positive response to the demands they threatened to march to Government House on May 22, the fourth anniversary of the 2014 coup.

Gen Prawit warned that the group must revise their plans to hold the rally.

He said he did not understand why this group could not wait two to three months longer as clearly stated in the government's election roadmap.

"In fact, they totally understand it [the roadmap] but are pretending they don't," he said.

Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister, said authorities are also trying to find out who actually pulls the strings in this political movement.

"They are finding out if any particular political groups are supporting the movement. This new political unrest suddenly erupted after a few people came out to say something," he said.

"The country has been at peace for four years and the polls are due soon. So, why on earth do they need to stir up unrest?"

Gen Prawit shrugged off demands that the NCPO and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha step down.

One of the DRG leaders, Rangsiman Rome, meanwhile posted a quick response to Gen Prawit's remarks, on his Twitter account.

"The ones who actually don't understand is the NCPO. We are moving against the NCPO because we know full well that the NCPO is tempted to cling on to its dictatorship powers and is more than ready to keep postponing the election shedule as long as it still isn't ready to implement its plot to stay on in power. [It's] the NCPO that is pretending no one else knows the truth, for God's sake", tweeted Mr Rome.

"As the use of force to achieve the last coup well reflected how undeveloped and violent this country still was, the legal action that will be pursued against those who speak out about their pro-election stances is tantamount to rejection of the basic rights of the people.

"I can't believe that Thailand has been this deep in a backward way [in democracy development]. So, May 22 will be the day we end the NCPO regime," he added.

Although the number of people now coming out to assert their pro-election stance remains small at this point, if the government takes into consideration findings from previous national public opinion polls, it will see that more than half the population wants the election, Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said.

To be fair, he said, past surveys found that more than half the public who said they wanted the election, agree that the most proper timing for it is early next year, he said.

He said what is now more worrying is the Constitution Court's expected interpretation on disputed areas in three organic laws associated with the next general election.

He said he believed one or two of these organic laws will need to be rewritten. He refused to go into details as to which laws he was referring to, saying any further comments could be deemed to be in contempt of court.

The time frame for drafting any of the organic laws again isn't stated in the constitution because it was not expected that the National Legislative Assembly would have sought the court's interpretation on the laws, he said.

If the court rejects any of the organic laws, the decision will lie with the people in power as to how long the process of rewriting the rejected law will take, he said.

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