By THE NATION
AMID CRITICISM that the junta would prolong its hold on power after the next election with support from entrenched political groups, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha denied he had struck any deals after a photo of him with members of a prominent Nakhon Pathom political family was posted on social media.
“I insist that I have no deal with anyone. My duty today is to stabilise the country but in the future you [politicians] will have to choose which party you want to stay with – the party forming the government or the opposition,” the premier said yesterday.
Prayut was responding to a photo posted on the Facebook account of Pheu Thai key figure Watana Muangsuk on Thursday, which showed Prayut and Deputy PM Chatchai Sarikulya posing with siblings from the Sasomsub family that has a strong political base in Nakhon Pathom. The four siblings in the photo – Padermchai, Chaiyos, Anucha and Chaiya Sasomsub – are Pheu Thai Party politicians.
Watana did not post a caption or the date that the photo was taken but Chatchai, who was also seen in the photo, said it had been taken at a golf course in Nakhon Pathom last month and the meeting happened by chance.
The posting of the photo gave credence to reports that some political groups would launch a “military” party to support Prayut to become prime minister after the next election, and he would need support from former MPs too.
But Prayut pleaded with the public to not be “so paranoid”.
“If I wanted to make a deal, I would have done it secretly and not in a crowded location,” he said.
Prayut said he went to play golf in Nakhon Pathom but could not remember when he met the Sasomsub family. The family members were already there and he only found out later that they were owners of the course, too, he said.
He said many people asked him to pose for a photo with them and he could not refuse. “I can go anywhere and I am ready to meet anyone,” he said. You should not think of it as deal making. Otherwise, I cannot go anywhere.”
He said he had to visit and take care of people in the provinces and was sometimes welcomed by local politicians.
“I tell them [politicians] to help take care of the country in the future and make people happy and build public trust,” he said.
“ ‘If you [politicians] want to return to politics it should be for good governance’. That’s what I tell every politician. What’s wrong with that?” he asked.
According to Chaiya, the photo was taken on December 17, which contradicts Chatchai’’s statement that it was taken last month. Chaiya said he and his siblings meet at the golf club every week and when they heard Prayut also played golf there they welcomed the premier as their guest.
He denied any suggestions that they had discussed political issues with him.
The golf club named “Nikanti” in Mueang District is owned by Padermchai.
The Sasomsub family was not the first political group to have met Prayut since he staged the coup three years ago.
In September, Prayut met with politicians from the Chart Thai Pattana Party during his visit to Suphan Buri province, the party’s stronghold.
During his mobile Cabinet last Monday-Tuesday in Sukhothai province, Prayut met with political heavyweight Somsak Thepsuthin of Matchimathipataya Party, a former MP from the province, who urged the Cabinet to allocate a budget of Bt6.5 billion for the province and proceed with the Kaeng Sua Ten dam project.
Meanwhile, Government House reporters yesterday gave a New Year’s card to PM Prayut with a smiling Yaksa pop-up on the card.
The reporters said they would like to convey the message that Yaksa, a Thai mythical guardian, has several faces like Prayut, who is responsible for various duties. The Yaksa also has several hearts hidden in several places, so it cannot be killed easily, the reporters added.
Prayut thanked them for the card, saying his heart was with the Thai people and the media, whom he urged to convey good messages between the government and the people.
He also blessed them with the Barami [great power] of the three Buddhist refuges, and invoked the late King and other members of the Royal Family to help protect them and bless them with success.
PM Prayut also released his own New Year’s card featuring Thai Khu Fah and its newly constructed twin building, Bhakdee Bordin.