Former Parliament president Bhichai Rattakul spoke to “Prime Time by Thepchai” news programme on Nation TV 22 about revival of the “Prem Model”, by which a candidate can take the helm of government with the backing of Parliament and political parties, rem
Excerpts from an interview with the 90-year-old political veteran.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE POSSIBILITY OF “PREM MODEL” REPEATING ITSELF?
The world and the country’s situation has changed greatly. It is not easy to use a model adopted for one person in the past in today’s situation. But if this can be done, that is very good.
I personally adore and respect Prem as my superior, brother and colleague because he has got a clean reputation. In addition, he was capable of selecting competent and having good people in his Cabinet. And he is polite.
Prem took office not solely because of the Senate, as extensively reported, but also because political parties agreed to back him and invited him to take the helm as the 1978 constitution allowed non-elected premiership.
If Prayut only seeks the support of the Senate, I think it won’t be graceful and sustainable. I see him as a good man who has devoted himself to the work. He has almost the same qualities as Prem but possesses a different personality.
Prayut needs support from political parties to ensure his rise to power would be as graceful as Prem’s. What Prayut must do is get the backing of political parties and be softer.
Prem could restore the country’s economy because he picked the right man for the right job. He asked political parties to nominate morally good people as Cabinet members, while using good and quality government officials to implement policies. He also invited the private sector once a month for talks. Prayut should follow this pattern. He may not achieve 100 per cent results because of the difference in personalities, but Prayut should not be disheartened if he believes this is a good way to go.
He already has the backing of the military. But this alone is not enough to address the country’s social and economic woes. The question is how to convince political parties to adopt this model. If he is willing to do that, I believe political parties will see the same benefits to the country. If Prayut adopts an aggressive approach, no one will extend a hand.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN AFTER THE ELECTION IF THE PREM MODEL IS ADOPTED?
Prayut may need to make a great deal of effort to get political parties to join forces. If he fails and a general election is called, and the Senate backs him, Prayut would be attacked by political parties non-stop. We will get stuck in endless quarrels. I believe Prayut has a way out. And I believe the country will not reach a dead end, but Prayut must improve himself in several aspects.
If politicians want to become PM, the only way they can beat Prayut is if three or four large parties join hands and the party with the largest MP seats gets the PM’s post. Prayut may not like such a scenario.
CAN THE PREM MODEL ENSURE THE COUNTRY’S POLITICS WILL NOT GO BACK TO SQUARE ONE?
The model emphasises on how to best manage politicians so that they do not engage in wrangling with one another and the country is not marred by such wrangling.
Still, during Prem’s administration, there were at least two coup attempts. If politicians are not alert, they will never get democracy and we will continue to experience such events.
OUR SOCIETY IS STILL DIVIDED. HOW CAN YOU MAKE PEOPLE OF OPPOSITE CAMPS RECONCILE?
I flew down a few years ago to meet Thaksin to solve the problems because I know the key to the problem is Thaksin. He can make both sides join hands, but he must accept the court verdict. Related cases must also be handled in an upfront manner. I admire former prime ministers Yingluck Shinawatra and Somchai Wongsawat for facing reality in the court. Thaksin’s struggle is still a key to help resolve the conflict. If he comes back to fight the case, the government must ensure justice for him as well.
WHAT ABOUT CRITICISM OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM OF OUR COUNTRY? THE VERDICTS ON THE TWO LARGE PARTIES ARE IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS.
If we dare to confront the cases, we should dare to confront the consequences as well. We must adhere to law, not double-standard treatment. I believe in the Thai justice system and I think the court is impartial and rational. I’m now a senior citizen and I wish to see parties reconcile with one another.