Somchai jabs at PM's speech

Somchai jabs at PM's speech

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address about the rice-pledging scheme on Tuesday risks breaking the law, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says.

A message posted on Mr Somchai’s Facebook page yesterday said some observers noticed that Ms Yingluck’s address on the TV Pool network could be problematic as it was made during the election period.

He quoted the premier as saying that: “The programme [rice-pledging scheme] is aimed at leveling up income and quality of life to boost farmers’ prosperity, security and sustainability. 

“The government’s rice-pledging scheme has proven to be a success over the past two years, spurring farmers’ earnings and fostering economic strength at both the grassroots and national level.”

Ms Yingluck was also quoted as saying: “The government is aware of the hardships of farmers waiting for payments, so alleviating measures have been devised, which include a six-month extension of debt repayments by farmers.

“To help farmers gain access to loans for farming in the upcoming season, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) will expand the credit line to its present customers who have collateral, and the measure will cover farmers who are not BAAC customers.”
According to Mr Somchai, the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign.

Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.

Mr Somchai said he wanted people concerned to be cautious about the matter. He added the EC will call a meeting with the chiefs of the Public Relations Department (PRD) and state-run Channel 11 to discuss the media’s role during the election next week.

If they fail to show up at the third appointment, the EC could come up with some measures to deal with the matter, Mr Somchai said.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit yesterday hit back at Mr Somchai, saying Ms Yingluck as the head of the government needed to explain the matter to farmers who are waiting for payments under the rice-pledging scheme.

Ms Yingluck’s speech has nothing to do with the election campaign, he said. If the premier did not explain the matter, she would have been accused by her opponents of trying to shy away from the problem, he added. Mr Prompong also urged Mr Somchai to play a neutral role as election commissioner.

The spokesman said Mr Somchai’s comments appear to be guiding others to take action. He also asked whether the EC is abusing its power by calling a meeting with the chiefs of PRD and Channel 11.

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