Politicians step up election campaigns
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Politicians step up election campaigns

Some are confronted by critics in the field

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha smiles as he takes a selfie with supporters during his visit to a local community in Ban Pong district of Ratchaburi on Monday. (GOVERNMENT HOUSE photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha smiles as he takes a selfie with supporters during his visit to a local community in Ban Pong district of Ratchaburi on Monday. (GOVERNMENT HOUSE photo)

An anti-government group tried to confront Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during his official tour in Ratchaburi on Monday, as pickets against political parties at their campaign trails could be expected to be more common.

Gen Prayut, accompanied by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin and PM's Office Minister Thanakorn Wangboonkong­chana, travelled by helicopter to Ban Pong district of Ratchaburi on Monday.

He was in the province to inspect progress in eight developmental and infrastructure projects with a combined investment of more than 1 billion baht.

Projects inspection

His first stop was in Wat Hoob Krathing in tambon Berk Prai where he was greeted by students. Gen Prayut told the young supporters to be patriotic, pious and loyal to the monarchy and unite.

At the town hall of Bang Pong municipality, Gen Prayut addressed a gathering of people, saying he had witnessed and done a lot in the past four years of the government after he was elected premier by parliament.

He emphasised the priority to build more basic infrastructure for the convenience of commuters and freight transport.

However, he admitted there was a limit to how much the government could give, with regard to welfare schemes, to low-income citizens, citing budget constraints.

"Giving more than the government could afford is not an act of welfare. It's legally out of the question.

"I'm not heartless, though. What I'm doing is not for vested gain. Part of the state budget must be reserved for a rainy day," he said.

"The country's financial standing remains solid, and other countries commended the country for it," the prime minister added.

"They [critics] deride me for being ignorant about these things. But I've been prime minister for eight years. Would I be that dumb for lasting as long as I have? I'm not so half-witted," Gen Prayut said.

A prime minister was not immune to being criticised by his subordinates and state officials if they issued an order which does not make sense.

Facing insults

About 10 minutes before Gen Prayut arrived at the town hall, an elderly woman showed up and shouted insults at the premier. She was met with two plainclothes female police officers who tried in vain to escort her away.

The woman was later dragged from the scene, and the police reportedly put out an umbrella in an attempt to shield her from public view.

As Gen Prayut's motorcade went past, the woman shouted abuse at the prime minister.

Gen Prayut later told supporters he was aware that some people were picking fault with him. Apparently referring to the shouting incident, he jokingly said his opponents with only three fingers left on each hand should see a doctor.

He is believed to have directed his comment at youth-led, anti-government groups known for their symbolic three-finger salute.

"But I'm not upset with them or anything. We're Thais all the same," Gen Prayut said.

He added: "It's not terribly happy standing where I am. But it's a duty."

MFP on receiving end

On Sunday, a group of people picketed outside the Samyan Mitrtown shopping mall in Bangkok in protest against the Move Forward Party (MFP), which was unveiling its potential MP candidates for all 33 constituencies in the capital there.

Four people held up placards attacking the party. Pannikar Wanich, spokeswoman of the Progressive Movement, went out to meet them and asked where they came from. The group later left after 10 minutes.

The MFP fielded mostly new faces as potential candidates. Only two, Natcha Boonchai-insawat and Thao-pipob Limjittakorn, were named as potential candidates in Bangkok, who were elected in the previous 2019 election under the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.

No canvassing on duty

Also on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam dismissed an accusation by Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, Seri Ruam Thai Party's policy steering chairman, that Gen Prayut, a member of the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party, abused his power by electioneering during office hours and using state vehicles and resources for canvassing purposes.

He said the cabinet ministers were fully aware of the legal boundary that separates work from the election campaign.

The prime minister needs to visit provinces to follow up on government work in the localities, he said. "That's part of running the administration, which is a perfectly legitimate practice," he added.

Gen Prawit's inspection

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, as chairman of the Office of the National Water Resources, went to Koh Samui in Surat Thani on Monday to monitor projects on water sources development that serve Surat Thani, Chumphon and Ranong.

Gen Prawit, also leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) said the water management projects had made headway in preventing floods and drought in many areas.

Reservoirs were being dredged so they can store more rainwater, he said.

Pheu Thai out on Friday

Meanwhile, the main opposition Pheu Thai Party announced it would introduce its potential MP candidates for all 400 constituencies nationwide on Friday.

A party source said Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit were also defecting from the PPRP to Pheu Thai.

Party leader, Dr Cholnan Srikaew, said on Monday Pheu Thai would officially announce its prime ministerial candidates when the House is dissolved.

The dissolution is expected next week.

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