Prayut admits rival Srettha may have stronger economic management credentials
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha tacitly admitted that he does not match Pheu Thai Party’s likely prime minister candidate, Srettha Thavisin, in economic expertise but insisted that he has a strong economic team.
“I’m not competing against him,” Prayut replied when a reporter asked him whether he considered property tycoon Srettha a formidable rival in the upcoming election.
“But please take a look at the overall picture of my government now. Everybody is capable. Some may say that I lack economic knowledge but I have been prime minister for several years so I’ve learned and I have several capable people to assist my work.”
Pheu Thai has hinted that Srettha, a successful property tycoon, would be among its three prime minister candidates.
Prayut denied that his government was rushing to approve the budget or new projects to try to woo support from voters.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the Interior Ministry’s proposal to double the pay of officials of tambon administrative organisations (TAO), amid criticism that it was a ploy to win support from members of the grassroots-level administrations that are directly connected to voters.
But Prayut said on Thursday that the pay hike of TAO officials had been prepared much earlier and it was a proposal of a coalition partner, not by him.
On his ties with General Prawit Wongsuwan, a deputy prime minister and the leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Prayut said: “He’s still my brother.”
Observers believe that ties among the clique of three generals — Prayut, Prawit and Interior Minister Anupong Paonchinda — have turned cold after Prayut distanced himself from the PPRP to seek another term as prime minister as a candidate of the United Thai Nation Party.
Prawit, who has announced himself as PPRP’s prime minister candidate, has posted two articles on his Facebook page blaming elites, who do not trust democracy, politicians and grassroots voters, for continued political polarisation in the country.
When told that Prawit’s articles talked about coups repeatedly, Prayut appeared annoyed and asked reporters: “Who will stage a coup again? … Doesn’t Thailand has democracy now?”
When told that Prawit seemed to have a different political stand now, Prayut said Prawit has a lot of aides and his stand might reflect the opinions of the people around him.
Prayut argued that he was now an elected prime minister of an elected government although he had staged a coup several years earlier.
Prayut insisted that he had to stage the 2014 coup against the Pheu Thai government to end political conflicts at that time and bring peace to the country.
“Which conflicts are we having now?” Prayut quipped when a reporter said that Prawit had offered to lead the country out of political conflicts.
The reporter replied that Prawit had mentioned political polarisation.
“What polar? I don’t see any,” Prayut asked.