Dialogue over dissent, spokesman urges

Dialogue over dissent, spokesman urges

Newly-appointed government mouthpiece Anucha Burapachaisri hopes he can be a voice of reason during a time of escalating conflict

"We intend to listen to all groups, and settle conflicts with discussion," said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Anucha Burapachaisri, the newly-appointed government spokesman, says his ambition is to facilitate a dialogue with people from different political backgrounds that might help them to understand how hard the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is working for them.

Having been in the position for more than a month already, Mr Anucha told the Bangkok Post how he envisions his role as spokesman for the Prayut administration and how he hopes to help it navigate towards a peaceful solution to the current political crisis.

Mr Anucha,53, was formerly secretary to Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, his first executive position after having served as a Democrat Party MP for over a decade.

"I'm not a media person and I wanted to work in a position that was more than talking to the press. I would rather roll up my sleeves to get things done,'' he said.

However, Mr Anucha said he decided to accept the role of spokesman after being given reassurances that the government wanted to bring all opposing groups together to talk.

He replaces Narumon Pinyosinwat who has been made deputy labour minister in the cabinet reshuffle.

"I thought by taking the position of government spokesman I could play a role in helping to prevent confrontation,'' he said.

Being ambitious and believing himself to be ready for a new role, Mr Anucha nominated himself as a candidate for the Government House spokesman position, but he insists he would have been happy to carry on his role in the Ministry of Education.

"I think I was chosen because of my character and reputation. When I was an MP, I did not judge or condemn anyone during parliamentary debates. When I was with the opposition, I even provided encouragement to the government and offered constructive suggestions If I could.

"I was chosen because I don't involve myself in needless quarrels, whether with opposing the side or other coalition members. I have always been like that,'' he said.

After he was appointed, Mr Anucha said he was told by the premier that his role is to communicate government policy to the public, including both the pros and cons, budget requirements and timeframe for implementation. He believes his ability to convey complex ideas in simple language that the public can understand will be an asset, particularly at a time when the government faces crises on a number of fronts, he said.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing anti-government protests, Mr Anucha said he still believed that retaliation is not an answer.

"We have to listen to opinions, particularly on the issues that many are divided over such as the students' political requests, economic problems, social problems, national security, government spending etc."

"It's a new normal way of handling differences in opinions. We intend to talk to and listen to all groups, and settle conflicts with discussion. I think if the government and the House of Representatives can do this with us, the current heated political climate will cool down and our economy, which depends on domestic and international investment, can recover," he said.

As for his working style, Mr Anucha says he values facts and teamwork and wants to end the current silo mentality and reluctance among all sides to work together on key issues.

When asked how he plans to deal with attacks against the government on social media, the spokesman urged people to think before they type.

''Do some research before you comment so we can have less anger and bickering online, which are not productive.

''Thai people are very friendly to foreigners and we always smile. If we can be mindful and control our emotions like good Buddhists, we will also be more forgiving on social media,'' Mr Anucha said.

The spokesman admitted his family worries that he too could become the target of a social media witch-hunt. However, despite being aware of the high profile of his new, being given a chance to convey a subject he is passionate about to the people was an opportunity to important miss due to such concerns.

''As government spokesman, I can cool down conflicts without fighting anyone and put across the message that this government is ready to listen to different opinions. I will also welcome feedback and comments so that I can improve my own performance,'' he said.

Mr Anucha added it was a government spokesman's responsibility to clarify the government's work to the public.

He said the government has no wish to stir up violence or allow injustices to persist and its budget spending was transparent.

Mr Anucha is known for having been a member of the now-dissolved People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) whose protests led to the most coup d'état in Thailand in 2014.

When asked about events leading up to the ousting of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, the spokesman said he had not criticised or judged anyone when he was with the PDRC, and had tried to make a positive contribution in parliament.

Yet, according to Mr Anucha, his occasions to speak as a member of the opposition party were limited, forcing him to address the people directly on the streets instead.

The spokesman reiterated that this government is ready to listen to opinions from all groups, referring to the ongoing anti-government movement consisting mostly of students.

''It is about listening and giving them space to express their opinions. In schools, they can do so via student councils. Protesting gets publicity but is the outcome acceptable?''

Mr Anucha entered politics 13 years ago when he ran in the 2007 election for the House of Representatives under the Democrat Party banner.

He was elected a Bangkok MP on the same team as Korn Chatikavanij and Somkiat Chanthavanich and was re-elected in 2011.

In the 2019 election, he ran for a House seat in Bangkok's Constituency 4 in Klong Toey and Watthana districts but did not win.

He later resigned from the Democrat Party to join the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and became Mr Nathapol's secretary.

Mr Anucha holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Adelaide, Australia, a master's degree in business administration from Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, and a master's degree in science from the University of Leeds, England.

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