PM rips Pheu Thai over Thaksin
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PM rips Pheu Thai over Thaksin

Trades barbs with Cholnan in debate

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was locked in a fierce debate with the opposition on the first day of the no-confidence motion as he challenged the Pheu Thai Party to bring two former prime ministers in self-exile abroad back to solve the country's problems.

Gen Prayut was responding to accusations made against him by Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew during the censure debate in parliament on Tuesday.

"As the prime minister, I don't know everything. I am not good at everything. I am not someone you might say is the cleverest person. But where is he now?'' Gen Prayut said, in what was believed to be a jab at fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I know you may admire some people who previously held this position and praise them for doing a better job than me. That's fine. Just bring them back if you can," Gen Prayut added, in an even more pointed reference to Thaksin and his sister, ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

Gen Prayut also defended the government's performance, saying his government has steered the country hit by one crisis after another toward economic recovery.

He said Thailand has been praised for its efforts to deal with Covid-19 over the past two years, serving as a model for other countries to follow.

Since its reopening, the country has welcomed back large numbers of foreign visitors, generating huge revenue to stimulate the economic recovery, he said.

"Everything must be backed by facts and figures. More than 2.2 million tourists have returned, with 1.25 trillion baht in revenue.

"This is the government's performance. Isn't it obvious to you? Like previous debates, you just repeat yourself, but we are still always ready to explain [our actions]," he continued.

"I never said I would stay on for two more years. I mean they [projects initiated by the government] will yield results," he said.

Gen Prayut also defended his decision to involve the National Security Council (NSC) in efforts to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

"You don't want to enlist [the NSC] because you don't trust the military ... The NSC is responsible for overseeing security and deals with new forms of threats to national security," Gen Prayut said.

He insisted the government has dug deep into its budget to ease the plight of people affected by economic hardship, solve problems related to household debt, teachers' debt and find ways to mitigate poverty.

The prices of crops have been rising and famers are satisfied with this, he said, adding that the loans borrowed by the government benefited people during the pandemic.

"In conclusion, what you said is not correct,'' Gen Prayut said in response to the accusations from Dr Cholnan.

Dr Cholnan took aim at Gen Prayut during the debate, accusing the prime minister of lacking leadership skills.

"If Gen Prayut were a brand of product, I don't believe people listening to the debate would buy this brand any longer," he said.

He accused Gen Prayut of mishandling the economy, which led to the rising cost of living, and failing to generate revenue for the country.

"The economy has collapsed. People have become poor across the country. Prices have increased. People have lost hope," Dr Cholnan said.

"The government has borrowed almost to the limit of the legal ceiling every year. Large businesses have grown but most people became poorer," he said.

He accused the government of failing to deal with the pandemic and alleged that money was spent to buy votes from MPs in exchange for their support in parliament.

Dr Cholnan also claimed Gen Prayut ordered coalition parties to vote for the use of 500 to calculate party-list seats to destroy political rivals despite coalition parties previously supporting an alternative method.

"There is a separation of powers [between the executive and legislative branches]. You have no right to interfere. You destroyed the fundamental principle of governance," Dr Cholnan said, while also accusing the government of corruption.

The Ratsadon protest group on Tuesday set up camp outside parliament to monitor the censure debate.

They earlier sought permission from parliament president Chuan Leekpai to access the grounds.

But their request was denied as the firm contracted to build the new parliament complex has not handed the premises over to the secretariat of the House of Representatives yet.

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