Monday, August 26, 2019

Prayut rejects call to lift political activities ban

Apr 03. 2018
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By The Nation

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Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday dismissed a concerted call by major political parties to lift a controversial junta order that prevents political activities.

He said the directive “may be amended on certain issues” in order to help get rid of “administrative problems” raised by various existing and new parties.

Prayut, in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order, issued NCPO Order No 53/2560 last December. The directive allows certain political activities required by the new Political Party Act, while maintaining the junta ban on most other political activities.

It permits political parties to manage the confirmation of current party members, collect membership fees and find new members. But party meetings still require permission from the NCPO.

Prayut said his government and the NCPO would determine what amendments would be made to the directive. He noted that the Council of State, which is the government’s legal advisory agency, yesterday discussed the matter with the Election Commission and the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC). These bodies would later suggest to the NCPO how to amend the original order.

“Most of the restrictive points involve administrative matters. The government and the NCPO will see how the issues can be fixed,” Prayut said.

Meanwhile, CDC chairman Meechai Ruchuphan yesterday said he was unsure whether the NCPO directive could be amended at this time, now that the Ombudsman’s Office had sought a Constitutional Court verdict as to whether the order violated the rights of political parties.

The country’s major political parties, Democrat and Pheu Thai, requested earlier this year that the Ombudsman’s Office refer their petition to the court, but the court did so just last week.

“I can’t give you a clear answer if an amendment can be made” to the NCPO order, Meechai told reporters.

He said he did not know if the “problematic” issues mentioned in the petition were the same as the ones targeted for amendments. “If they are different, I think we may go ahead [with an amendment],” Meechai added.

Also yesterday, Prayut said former government leaders Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra should feel ashamed for appearing in public even though they are lawbreakers.

Prayut said he did not feel embarrassed after Thaksin and Yingluck travelled to Japan and stayed there for a few days last week. He said that Thai authorities had taken all the necessary legal measures regarding the siblings.

The Shinawatras are wanted by Thai authorities for separate alleged wrongdoings. They have lived in self-exile overseas after fleeing the country – Thaksin in 2008 and Yingluck last year. They have appeared together in several Asian countries over recent months.

“We cannot enforce our country’s laws overseas. If foreign countries do not send them back [for prosecution in Thailand], that’s it. Do you get it?” Prayut told reporters at Government House yesterday.

“I don’t have any feeling about them. They should have been ashamed. They broke the law and they still dare to go out,” he said.

When serving as the Army chief, Prayut led a coup in May 2014 that overthrew a government led by Yingluck’s caretaker successor. Yingluck had been removed from the PM’s seat a few months earlier by a court order after she was found to be guilty of abusing her power by moving the National Security Council secretary-general at that time.

Prayut also hit back at Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday for stating that his party did not welcome politicians who support the junta chief returning as an unelected government head after the next election.

“He should have been more careful with his words. Did he care for mutual respect? If I get angry and say something bad, the persons involved will suffer,” Prayut said.

“Let’s wait until after the election. How will his position change? Let’s see what will happen, and ask him again at that time,” he told reporters.

On Monday, Abhisit said politicians who back Prayut’s return as outsider prime minister need not consider joining the Democrat Party. “There are plenty of other choices for them,” he said, referring to new political parties being set up with a main goal of supporting the junta chief’s longer stay in power.


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