Prawit defends PM's 'close the country' gaffe

Prawit defends PM's 'close the country' gaffe

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (left) gets clarification from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after Gen Prayut told the five-rivers meeting Wednesday he might have to stay in power indefinitely. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (left) gets clarification from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after Gen Prayut told the five-rivers meeting Wednesday he might have to stay in power indefinitely. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday came out in defence of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he remarked he would stay on in power and "close the country" if peace in Thailand proves elusive.

"The prime minister did not mean it literally," Gen Prawit insisted yesterday.

During his Wednesday address before members of the so-called "five rivers" of power -- the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly, the Constitution Drafting Committee and the National Reform Steering Assembly -- Gen Prayut threatened to prolong his stay in power and "close the country" if political conflicts lingered.

"Politicians do not have to be suspicious of me. [The media] writes every day that I intend to cling to power. I must make it clear. If there is no peace and order, I must stay on and if we have to close the country, so be it," Gen Prayut said.

Gen Prawit said people should not read too much into what the prime minister said. "Don't imagine this and that. Let me ask you what we should do if elections can't take place. Should we let violence erupt? We can't. That's what the prime minister is concerned about. Don't think too much," Gen Prawit said.

He said that without peace and order, the country would be in turmoil and the NCPO roadmap would be disrupted. Asked if the NCPO had a contingency plan in case the political situation took a turn for the worse, the deputy prime minister said the country was on the right track and there was no need for a contingency plan.

When told Gen Prayut's remark was making people nervous, Gen Prawit said he had explained the matter now and hopes for understanding. "They could feel nervous but I have already clarified it. If they understand, I'd be really thankful," he said.

Gen Prawit said if the elections could not take place, it would not be the government's doing. The government was not anyone's enemy and it was trying to solve the conflicts and restore peace to the country. 


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