PM must tread fine poll line
Prayut still coy on Korat appearance
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha must tread carefully when taking part in the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) election campaign as the party's prime ministerial candidate, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Monday.
The prime minister will have to be neutral, Mr Wissanu insisted.
Like other prime ministerial candidates, Gen Prayut is expected to strictly observe the law governing the election of MPs, especially Section 78 which requires government officials to maintain political impartiality, he said.
Mr Wissanu's remarks came with Gen Prayut expected to make his public debut as the PPRP's prime ministerial candidate and address voters in Nakhon Ratchasima, his birthplace, this Sunday.
The PPRP is making preparations for Gen Prayut to join campaign activities after the EC clarified last week that he can meet party candidates and voters but he must refrain from using his position, or state resources, in a manner that could advantage or disadvantage election candidates or political parties.
With campaigns entering their final weeks ahead of the March 24 ballot, the PPRP hopes that Gen Prayut's participation will provide a boost to their popularity. He is likely to join major campaign events in every region starting with the Northeast this weekend.
Talking about the prime minister's security detail, Mr Wissanu said security will be provided to the prime minister around-the-clock according to the same protocol that applied to his predecessors. However, like other election candidates, local police can be asked to bolseter security for Gen Prayut if there is a specific threat.
Gen Prayut remained non-committal when asked if he will attend the planned rally, saying the matter would have to be discussed.
PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana said that the party has made provisional plans for Gen Prayut to make his debut in Nakhon Ratchasima and close the campaign in Bangkok, but that they still depend on the prime minister's acceptance.
"We're working on the content of the speeches, schedules, and activities. We've made initial plans but we have to ask for his confirmation first," he said.
Mr Uttama also dismissed concerns by an election watchdog group, which has said it plans to monitor Gen Prayut's speeches and actions.
"We have no special concerns. The party's legal team is making sure everything is in compliance with the election law and campaign regulations," he said.
The Civic Election Participation Partnership (CEPP), a network of election watchdogs endorsed by the EC, earlier said it would pay special attention to Gen Prayut when he appears in the PPRP's campaign activities to make sure he complies with the ruling of the EC.
PPRP secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong said the party is waiting for Gen Prayut to confirm whether he will join the planned rally in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday.
"We've reviewed everything including the EC's guidelines. Let's wait and see on March 10 how much he can say," he said.
Mr Sontirat expressed confidence that Gen Prayut's participation would make the party's election campaign complete while insisting that Gen Prayut will not take part in any policy debates due to the possible legal complications.
A source said the PPRP and the prime minister's team would be making the necessary preparations to ensure that he does not overstep the mark in terms of what he says or does on the campaign trail.
The prime minister will wear clothing without any party logos and be chauffeured in a private car to a from events, said the source. His security detail would remain the same but its members will not wear a uniform of any kind.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he was not concerned about Gen Prayut's participation in the PPRP election campaign because the EC had made it clear that it would not contravene the law.
He added that no military officers would be involved in providing security for Gen Prayut during campaign activities when asked about the prime minister's security escort.
- Atiya commentary: Man of too many hats