Par­ties boy­cotting meet­ing are trou­ble­mak­ers: junta


The Nation - - FRONT PAGE -

JUNTA LEAD­ERS yes­ter­day branded po­lit­i­cal par­ties boy­cotting to­day’s meet­ing as trou­ble­mak­ers, with the prime min­is­ter say­ing they were like box­ers who re­fused to abide by the rules and would not lis­ten to the ref­eree’s ex­pla­na­tions.

How­ever, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist said this only pointed to the junta’s fail­ure in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts that have been con­stantly high­lighted by the coup mak­ers over the past four years.

Wan­wi­chit Boon­prong said the Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der (NCPO) has now be­come part of the prob­lem.

Mean­while, Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the par­ties “are like box­ers who will not re­spect the rules or lis­ten to the ref­eree. If they don’t come, then they should just stop box­ing”.

Gen­eral Prayut, who heads the rul­ing NCPO, also said that peo­ple should them­selves de­cide on what should be done with politi­cians who refuse to join a meet­ing that aims to ex­plain the “rules and reg­u­la­tions” of the up­com­ing elec­tions.

The na­tional vote has been ten­ta­tively sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary 24.

Deputy PM Prawit Wong­suwan, who is also de­fence min­is­ter, said yes­ter­day that par­ties boy­cotting the meet­ing were trou­ble­mak­ers.

“They are just mak­ing trou­ble, but I don’t think there will be any im­pact. We have in­vited them for a dis­cus­sion. There is no rea­son not to come,” he told re­porters at Gov­ern­ment House.

Gen­eral Prawit, who is a key junta fig­ure in charge of na­tional se­cu­rity, was re­fer­ring to the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties Pheu Thai and Demo­crat, as well as some new par­ties in­clud­ing Fu­ture For­ward, Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Chat that have boy­cotted the meet­ing.

He said the meet­ing was be­ing held for the par­ties to have their queries about the elec­tion an­swered. “We are ready to ex­plain what­ever they want to know,” Prawit said.

Wan­wi­chit, mean­while, said the stance the two key par­ties have taken in­di­cates fail­ure right from the start. He said this de­ci­sion could stem from a cou­ple of rea­sons: the pro-junta Pha­lang Pracharat Party steal­ing former MPs from other par­ties; and an elec­toral sys­tem that clearly favours Pha­lang Pracharat.

This is why many par­ties are feel­ing un­com­fort­able about join­ing to­day’s talk, Wan­wi­chit said.

Also, he said, their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the event could be seen as a move to le­git­imise Prayut’s plan to re­tain power, which is why they have re­jected the in­vi­ta­tion.

He said that in­stead of sort­ing out the is­sues that led to the 2014 coup, the coup mak­ers are now seek­ing to main­tain their po­lit­i­cal power. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are also feel­ing vic­timised, as the junta leader is man­i­fest­ing his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, while hold­ing the reins of the elec­tion, he said.

105 par­ties in­vited

Mean­while, NCPO spokesper­son Colonel Sirichan Ngath­ong said yes­ter­day that the junta has in­vited 105 po­lit­i­cal par­ties to the meet­ing.

“The NCPO wants all par­ties to co­op­er­ate so the elec­tions can be held with­out any prob­lems,” she said. “We call on them to be open-minded and take part in the dis­cus­sion.”

Also, she said, the NCPO wanted all sides to hear rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about the vote. “The au­thor­i­ties will also hear sug­ges­tions from the po­lit­i­cal side,” she added.

As for par­ties boy­cotting the meet­ing, Sirichan said she hoped they would change their minds.

Jarungvith Phumma, Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (EC) sec­re­tary-gen­eral, said yes­ter­day that some 60 par­ties had ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion.

The EC is sched­uled to re­port its pre­pared­ness for the elec­tion as well as rel­e­vant laws and reg­u­la­tions at the meet­ing.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Wis­sanu Krea-ngam, mean­while, said he ex­pected the NCPO to set an elec­tion date at the meet­ing, and hinted that a “sur­prise” will also be dis­closed at the event.

“What I can say is that cer­tain things will be un­veiled at the meet­ing. We have a lot in store,” he told re­porters.

The junta, its or­gans and the EC is sched­uled to meet with po­lit­i­cal par­ties to­day at the Royal Thai Army Club. This venue was where Gen­eral Prayut, as Army chief, had held me­di­a­tion talks with con­flict­ing po­lit­i­cal groups in May 2014, but ended up seiz­ing power after fail­ing to se­cure an ac­cord.

In De­cem­ber last year, Prayut, in his ca­pac­ity as NCPO head, had is­sued an or­der em­pow­er­ing the junta to “work with” the EC and rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to set an elec­tion date.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, mean­while, are call­ing on the junta to lift po­lit­i­cal re­stric­tions put in place since the 2014 mil­i­tary coup.

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