Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pledged to tackle falling crop prices in what is seen as a bid to woo voters in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Gen Prayut, who is now a member and chief strategist of the United Thai Nation Party (UTN), is the top choice for prime minister among voters in Nakhon Si Thammarat, followed by Paetongtarn "Ung Ing" Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party, according to the latest opinion survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, or Nida Poll.
The poll was conducted from Feb 3-8 on 1,310 eligible voters aged 18 and above in the southern province, where nine seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs in the coming general election.
Gen Prayut on Monday led a delegation to Nakhon Si Thammarat to inspect government development projects there. He was accompanied by Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda and Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, the prime minister's secretary-general.
They were welcomed by local authorities led by provincial governor Apinant Phuekphong in Chulabhorn district.
At the welcoming ceremony, the governor said this was the seventh time Gen Prayut had visited the province.
"Since Gen Prayut became premier, Nakhon Si Thammarat has received 132 billion baht in budget allocations, one of the highest in the country.
"Up to ten thousand people have turned up to welcome the prime minister here. When you visit other [districts], you will also see equally large numbers. This shows you are very much admired by people in Nakhon Si Thammarat," the governor said.
Speaking to reporters during the visit, Gen Prayut said he wanted to follow up on the progress of state-backed development projects.
He emphasised that tackling falling crop prices remains a priority as the government is trying to come up with the best solution.
"Low rubber prices are the most pressing issue. Most of our rubber products are exported, with only one-third kept for domestic use. We have to think of how two-thirds of the products can be used in the country to shore up prices.
"The government has spent 30% of the national budget to deal with the falling prices of all sorts of crops, and we will try to do more to take care of the matter," Gen Prayut said.
The PM also stressed that industrial growth and the protection of the environment must go hand in hand.
"Tourism has recovered in several provinces. It is now the government's job to find ways to attract more tourists. The next government must also turn satellite cities into principal cities and provide modern transportation systems.
"There are 77 provinces, but I also attach importance to Nakhon Si Thammarat. Flooding is a major problem in the South. The government has come up with flood-management measures, which include water-catchment areas known as kaem ling [monkey cheek ponds]," he said.
The government is also finding ways to boost exports of agricultural products, and push for products with protected geographical indication (GI) status, the prime minister said.
GI is a label which identifies a product as originating in the territory of a particular country, region or locality that has unique characteristics or qualities. It can increase a product's market value in developed countries.
Meanwhile, Ms Paetongtarn, the Pheu Thai Party's chief adviser on public participation and innovation, visited Khon Kaen to woo voters during a pre-election campaign at the weekend.
Ms Paetongtarn, who has been touted as the party's prime ministerial candidate, holds a wide lead over the prime ministerial candidates of other parties in Chon Buri, according to a National Institute of Development Administration survey.
The survey was conducted over the telephone between Feb 7-14 among 1,100 respondents.
Chon Buri has been allocated ten seats in the House in the upcoming election, up from eight in the 2019 election.
In the last election, the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) took five seats; the rest of the seats went to the now-defunct Future Forward Party, which has rebranded itself as the Move Forward Party (MFP).