Prayut's job safe even with PM nod

Prayut's job safe even with PM nod

Wissanu lays down limits on PM's campaign role

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, assisted by his wife, Naraporn, puts up a lantern paying homage to an image of Phra Buddha Chinnarat at Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok on Saturday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, assisted by his wife, Naraporn, puts up a lantern paying homage to an image of Phra Buddha Chinnarat at Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok on Saturday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha can continue performing his duty as prime minister even after he has been nominated by a political party to be its prime ministerial candidate for the next election, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

However, Mr Wissanu warned of the legal quagmires Gen Prayut would face if he was listed as prime ministerial candidate. The pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has said Gen Prayut emerged as its ideal potential candidate.

For example, Gen Prayut cannot assist the party which nominated him in canvassing for votes even outside office hours.

"There are also other instances where the law could be broken. As to what these risks are, it's best that I tell the prime minister in person," the deputy premier said.

He admitted members of the government who belong to a party might have an edge over other parties contesting the next poll because they can put in place national policies which are apparent to the voters.

PPRP is led by Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana with Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee serving as its deputy leader.

Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong is the party's secretary-general and Prime Minister's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool was appointed spokesman.

Mr Wissanu said on Saturday the law clearly bars government insiders from taking advantage of other parties. "But to some people there's a fine line between whether the government is taking advantage or not taking advantage. It's a matter of perspective," he said.

The deputy prime minister said if and when Gen Prayut is nominated as a choice of premier for the next poll, he can carry on his job as usual.

This is because he is a contender whom a party nominated for premiership of a post-election government and not a candidate as MP for that party.

On Jan 3, Gen Prayut declared for the first time since he seized power in 2014 that he is a politician, though he also reminded people he is "a politician who used to be a soldier".

The name of a prime ministerial candidate must be submitted to the Election Commission within five days of MP candidate applications being opened, according to Mr Wissanu.

However, there are rules which Gen Prayut must follow if and when he becomes a prime ministerial candidate. Gen Prayut must take care when he speaks that he does so as head of the government, not as prime ministerial candidate of a party, he said.

Mr Wissanu added mobile cabinet meetings can still take place until the election day, expected to be held on Feb 24.

The mobile meetings have been slammed by critics as giving the government an opportunity to get up close and personal with voters and possibly organise poll campaigns in disguise.

"There's nothing inappropriate about holding mobile cabinet meetings [after Gen Prayut is nominated as prime ministerial candidate]. Cabinet ministers must meet anyway," he said.

Meanwhile, the EC has finished drafting regulations for election campaign leaflets and posters, according to an EC source.

For example, the images that appear on an MP candidate's poster may not include anyone else other than that of the candidate, the party leader and prime ministerial candidate nominated by the respective party.

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