Prayut's former deputy launches scathing attack
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Monday played down a commentary criticising Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha penned by a former cabinet minister, saying it was driven by a personal grudge.
Reacting to a claim that Gen Prayut and former classmates from the military academy wanted to set up a national oil company, Gen Prawit said the accusation was groundless and it was driven by a personal vendetta.
The claim was part of an article "Eight reasons why I do not want Gen Prayut to return as the prime minister", written by former deputy prime minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, and published on the official website of Isra News Agency.
MR Pridiyathorn claimed if Gen Prayut made a political comeback, the general and his military classmates would push for the establishment of a national oil corporation which would centralise all authority in the management and allocation of national energy into one body.
When asked about this issue, Gen Prawit said: "That's totally groundless. They have had some personal issues since he left the cabinet".
When MR Pridiyathorn resigned as deputy prime minister in August 2015, it was not amicable and he refused to accept an advisory role.
Somkid Jatusripitak has succeeded him and is in charge of economic affairs.
In his commentary, MR Pridiyathorn wrote that it was clear Gen Prayut would seek a return to power and the regime leader was exploiting all the resources at his disposal to gain an edge over others.
While Gen Prayut prohibited political parties from engaging in political activities, the government organised mobile cabinet meetings and approved budgets which were intended to canvass for votes, according to the article.
The prime minister also turned a blind eye to cabinet ministers joining the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and campaigning for votes before other political parties were allowed to, MR Pridiyathorn suggested.
He wrote that the column was his attempt to warn the public of what lies ahead should Gen Prayut return as prime minister.
He was also not backing Gen Prayut to return as the premier because he thought it would weaken the economy.
According to MR Pridiyathorn, during the past three years, the nation's finances had weakened with 1.17 trillion baht tied-over already for the next five years including several projects approved for the Defence Ministry.
He said the navy's submarine procurement was given the go-ahead because the finance minister did not object, despite disagreement from ministry officials and the Office of Economic and Social Development Board.
"If Gen Prayut returns as prime minister, he will select a finance minister who is likely to yield to his demands. The budget deficit will increase and debts will increase and weaken the country's fiscal discipline," he wrote.
On the push to set up a national oil corporation, the former deputy premier claimed even though the initial plan was botched after it was removed from the new petroleum law, there was no guarantee the plan would not be revived.
He said a group of people who were close to Gen Prayut would find an opportunity to push ahead with it.
"If Gen Prayut returns as the prime minister and his political clout increases, the group may push it which will be disastrous for the country's economy. So I don't want him to become the prime minister again," he claimed.
He also criticised the Prayut government for making foreign policy specifically to curry favour with China.
He cited the Thai-Sino high-speed rail development project as an example and claimed Thailand should have courted bids from other countries that might have offered better deals in terms of technology and investment.
He praised Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad's decision to scrap certain infrastructure projects due to suspicions of Chinese "Neo-Colonialism".
MR Pridiyathorn also stated that the original draft of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) law would allow not only foreign investors but also their employees and family members to own land plots in the EEC.
He said it was fortunate the draft was later revised in the second reading to grant land ownership to investors only.
According to MR Pridiyathorn, another reason he did not want Gen Prayut return to power is that the premier is so afraid of losing support that it had affected his judgement on several projects.
"If a person who fears losing popularity returns as the prime minister, it'll be hard for reforms to proceed. Reform measures will definitely have certain impacts on certain groups. Failure to stand by what is right will hinder the reform process."