Prayut stands firm on ban on political activity

MONDAY, MAY 30, 2016

PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday he wants to continue the ban on politicians carrying out political activities.

“It is not yet the right time,” he said. “Have politicians improved themselves? What parties have not changed?’’
Politicians who spread messages via social media still insist they are correct, Prayut said, adding that “they will not stop”. 
“I do not see them as the enemy, otherwise I would have punished them, but they did not appreciate how I treated them, just insisted they were right without thinking of the rule of law,’’ he said.
The prime minister also denied that he decided to lift the travel ban on some politicians and activists because of pressure from the international community’s recent criticism of human rights in Thailand. The move was also not related to the public referendum on the charter draft in August, he said.
“No one can pressure me. I do it for Thai people and Thailand. Everyone wants me to relax regulations, so I responded to the call,’’ he said.
The travel ban was only partly lifted, as politicians who are face ongoing trials cannot leave the country.
Prayut added that he could not guarantee that corrupt politicians would not flee the country under his regime. 
“I do not allow them to flee but I allow them to go visit their families. If they flee, I have nothing to do with them.”
In reference to the travel ban, the PM said he had not thought about whether politicians might take advantage of the world stage to talk about Thailand’s democracy and the political situation. 
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has urged the government to allow political parties to resume their activities. “We have many things to do, not just preparing for a general election, but we should be allowed to reform our parties,’’ he said.
If the government lifted the ban on political activities, it could always review the decision and reinstate the ban if parties caused trouble in the political arena, he said.
Abhisit also expressed concerns that the Constitution Drafting Commission might utilise state mechanisms to explain the content of the charter draft and end up misleading the public. That scenario would be unfair to people who oppose the draft, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the decision to lift the travel ban was made solely by Prayut, but he also rejected calls to lift the ban on political activity. “We cannot allow meetings of political parties or political activities because this would lead to political conflicts and turmoil. It is okay the way it is,’’ he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said he expected the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to relax more rules, depending on the appropriate timing.
“We are not going to say what other rules will be eased. The NCPO will judge by impact and side effects of the relaxation. The council must be confident that the action will not renew conflicts or crises. We believe there could be a new crisis,’’ he said.
“Today we cannot relax all the rules because we may not be able to manage the problems,” Wissanu said.