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Prayut’s ‘politician’ status a hint of his future ambitions, say observers

Jan 04. 2018
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By THE NATION

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PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha’s detachment from his military status is a hint of his political ambitions and also lessens pressure on the junta ahead of this year’s elections, politicians and an academic said yesterday.

Prayut, meanwhile, has not denied that he would continue to be the premier after the election, although he insists that no one has yet nominated him to be “an outsider PM”.

The PM described himself as a politician on Wednesday – the first time in his three years of leadership that he has conceded to being a politician, a label he has despised and blamed for “causing problems and conflicts” in the country.Chaturon Chaisang

Key Pheu Thai Party figure Chaturon Chaisang said that Prayut is attempting to legitimise himself for an opportunity to re-enter the post-election political arena.

While Prayut is a retired general, he still remains in military power as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), where the Army chief is merely a secretary-general. Such a status also grants him sweeping powers under Article 44, Chaturon said.

“If he uses the already built mechanisms and military support to linger in post-election power, that government would still be called a military [-installed] government,” the former deputy PM wrote on his Facebook post.

Independent academic Gothom Arya said Prayut’s remarks could indicate his intention to transform the military regime into a democratic power, where the junta-designed mechanisms would function, in order to maintain power.

“Given his improved attitude to politicians, this could imply a possible cooperation, directly or not, between Prayut and political parties,” Gothom said. “Still, it is too soon to evaluate whether Prayut would remain in future politics.” Abhisit Vejjajiva

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva supported Prayut’s move, as it would mark a distinction between politicians and military people. “It would be good to differentiate the roles of one from the other,” Abhisit said. 

Although Prayut dodged the election timeline to depend on the legislative process of the organic laws, the ex-PM said that the NCPO, with sweeping powers over the legislative and jurisdiction branches, must be held responsible.

Chart Thai Pattana Party’s key figure Varawut Silpa-archa said that Prayut’s words could reflect his improved understanding of national administration, which could not be run in a military style. 

“It means that he has become more flexible. It’s also a good sign as politicians are often branded as evil,” he said. “With this good start, hopefully he can keep the promise to hold the election later this year.”

Meechai Ruchuphan

Chief charter drafter Meechai Ruchuphan said that Prayut’s words merely reflected his current status as a political office holder. “I also believe that he would not turn into a professional politician,” the junta-appointed drafter said. 

Former junta-appointed reformer Paiboon Nititawan praised Prayut’s move as alleviating hatred against military people in the political arena.

“Prayut’s remarks should open and clarify his position more as he is always targeted by politicians as a military representative,” said Paiboon, who added that he is looking forward to setting up a pro-Prayut political party.

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