By THE NATION
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.