PM urges focus on economy
Says poll theories can wait as Nov 1 nears
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Wednesday he was confident of meeting all the challenges on his plate and was unfazed by any rumours of political conflict.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Defence Council, however, he asked reporters to switch to other topics beside the next election, such as the economy. He had enough to deal with handling the Covid-19 crisis, Thailand's imminent reopening, trade conflicts and other concerns.
When asked if he ever felt discouraged by having so much to contend with, he answered: "No, I don't. Never."
Gen Prayut would not be drawn about his plans in the event he faces legal hurdles that bar him from continuing in his current post, as controversy continues to swirl over when his term should end.
The opposition and some academics insist that the date should be Aug 24 next year, as the constitution bars anyone from serving as premier for more than two four-year terms -- regardless of whether the terms were served consecutively or not.
They maintain that, as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), his term began when the NCPO seized power in a coup.
Several parties have in recent weeks come forward and nominated either their leaders or other figures to vie for the prime ministerial post after the next election, which many believe will be scheduled some time next year.
Earlier this month, the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) resolved to nominate Gen Prayut as its prime ministerial candidate. This was later confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, the PPRP leader.
The issue of when Gen Prayut's tenure technically comes to an end is being fiercely debated as this will serve as a key indicator of when the poll will be held. Opposition parties are expected to petition the Constitutional Court to rule on the issue.
Asked whether he expected to win enough support to return as prime minister, Gen Prayut deflected the question and suggested the reporter should ask the voting public instead.
In related news, the prime minister yesterday instructed the armed forces and Royal Thai Police to fully support the government's plan to reopen the country on Nov 1.
The armed forces and police have been assigned to cope with an expected rise in the number of illegal migrants attempting to cross the border into Thailand for jobs after the reopening, as well as out for other crimes such as human and drug trafficking, said Col Wanchana Sawasdee, assistant spokesman of the Defence Ministry.
They have also been asked to work more closely with those countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter Thailand, said Col Wanchana.
Gen Prayut also reiterated his gratitude for the hard work of healthcare workers, which has begun to pay off with the number of new Covid-19 cases gradually winding down, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
Thailand recorded 8,918 new Covid-19 infections and 79 deaths yesterday, the sixth straight day of declining numbers.
Since the pandemic began early last year, there have been 1,811,852 cases, with 1,689,859 complete recoveries.
The death toll stands at 18,486 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Details for visitors to Thailand in the planned reopening will be announced soon, as the Tourism Authority of Thailand looks set to unveil colour-coded zones involving restricted access.