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Cabinet members urged to maintain neutrality in the countdown to poll

Cabinet members urged to maintain neutrality in the countdown to poll

TUESDAY, December 25, 2018
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THE JUNTA government yesterday told Cabinet ministers who are members of the new Phalang Pracharat Party to remain politically impartial and desist from taking part in the election campaign following a series of controversies surrounding the party.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday at the Cabinet meeting that all Cabinet members must maintain their full authority in public administration.
However, those who had become political party members must keep their neutrality and they cannot take part in election campaigning, he said. They could only encourage voters to turn up and exercise their right, Wissanu said.
Last week, the pro-junta party was hit with at least two hot potatoes. Questions were asked about ministers and public servants taking part in its extravagant fundraising dinner as well as who had paid for them. 
A couple of days later, a video clip went viral showing the party offering state welfare cards to low-income earners in exchange for their application to become members of the party.
Critics and observers are questioning if the junta was abusing its power and state budget for its own political interest, to boost its popularity ahead of the election. 
Previously, conflict of interest had always been a major debate, as Phalang Pracharat Party shared the same name as the junta’s major populist scheme. 
Following criticism, junta leader PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday distanced himself from Phalang Pracharat – a party that has made it clear all along that it would back Prayut to be the PM after the election.
Prayut said yesterday at a press briefing after the weekly Cabinet meeting that he wanted all parties supporting his return as premier to be careful when mentioning him.
“Unless I have already accepted your invitation, please don’t mention me,” Prayut said. “I haven’t made any decision yet.”
However, the junta chief did not rule out the possibility of him remaining in politics after the election. 
“If any party would like to make any offer, they will have to wait until all the electoral laws and regulations are in place. I will consider it again if I want to go on, and with which party. Please respect my decision.”
Regarding the video clip showing low-income earners being forced to apply for Phalang Pracharat |membership in exchange for |welfare cards, Prayut said yesterday that the concerned parties had already explained it was a |misunderstanding.