Prayut fears reform work will go to pot
Govt defends 6 queries amid growing backlash
The six questions on future governance posed to the general public by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha are designed to highlight that the government’s efforts to reform the nation in the wake of the 2014 coup will not go to waste after next November’s general election, the regime said yesterday.
Govt spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd made the remark after critics blasted the premier for posing the questions — particularly the one about whether the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has the right to support a political party — which some pundits see as a political ruse aimed at extending the power of Gen Prayut and the ruling junta.
Lt Gen Sansern said the premier merely wanted to show how the work undertaken by the regime over the past three years will benefit the nation, and that the questions aim to determine whether the public agrees.
Some 1.1 million people responded to a previous round of four questions on a similar theme posed by Gen Prayut in late May, according to data gathered from the government complaint centres nationwide.
However, early reports from the first two days of answer-collecting for this batch suggested a lower turnout.
Media reports that emerged yesterday alleged that local community leaders have now been ordered to visit the complaint centres and fill in the question forms regardless of whether they want to.
Lt Gen Sansern said Gen Prayut is keen to know whether the public would be disappointed if politicians who come to power after the next general election ignore all the work and measures initiated by the current regime.
He said the the prime minister is curious what he should do to keep these measures intact, according to the public’s perception.
“The prime minister would definitely find it regrettable if all the work he has initiated does not pan out as planned. When he [staged the coup], he did not want all the subsequent effort to be wasted,” Lt Gen Sansern said.
The spokesman urged the public to contribute their opinions and offer ideas about how to best preserve the government’s initiatives.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon denied yesterday the claim by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva that community leaders have been ordered to answer the questions.
After Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul said he found the questions “insulting” to politicians, Gen Prawit insisted the NCPO is on friendly terms with all of the political parties and does not favour one over the others.
He also dismissed talk that his questions were meant to pave the way for the regime to retain its grip on power beyond the election.
Mr Abhisit said he was informed that a number of community leaders had received instructions via the popular chatting app Line to mobilise local people to answer the questions at their local Damrongtham complaint centres.
The Democrat leader said the prime minister should focus on gauging public opinion on more bread-and-butter matters, such as falling crop prices, and discuss measures to resolve such pressing concerns.
He did not think the six questions would yield any significant benefit and suggested the government could put state resources to better use by tackling problems closer to people’s daily lives.
Mr Abhisit said the NCPO should avoid reigniting conflict and confrontation with politicians and that it was not fair to cast all politicians in a negative light.
The answers to the six questions are being collected nationwide over the next three weeks.
Chatchai Promlert, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, insisted no one had been ordered to answer them, and that the low turnout on the first day was normal.
The public have been invited to volunteer their answers but no one is forcing them to visit the centres and fill in the forms, Mr Chatchai said.
He said the Interior Ministry will gather the answers and forward them to the government.
If was not clear when or indeed whether the answers will be revealed to the public.