The military on Sunday said they had not put pressure on Ubon Ratchathani University students and academics ahead of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s field trip to the province today.
“Still, we have to look case-by-case whether their movements could be deemed illegal because if that is the case, it will ruin the province’s image of being a good host,” said 2nd Army Area Commander Lt-General Tharakorn Thammawin.
“Some of our officers talked to people, but we did not put any pressure on anyone. We merely prepared security measures around the campus area prior to the PM’s visit,” Tharakorn added.
He was referring to military officers visiting Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the university’s political science faculty, who was told that there must be no protest or demonstration on the campus when Prayut would be there.
“We were told to be patient because the PM had already made a social contract that the general election would be held in 2019 despite multiple delays for various excuses,” Titipol wrote on his Facebook status detailing military attempts to “meet”, “inform” and “seek collaboration” with those who were deemed to need close monitoring.
He also told the visiting officers that having military trucks driving on the university campus every day is “very intimidating”, although the military claimed to mean no harm and was merely providing extra safety and security for university students and staff.
From today to Tuesday, Prayut is scheduled to be in the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen for the latest in a series of “field visits”, as well as heading a mobile Cabinet meeting.
Around 500 people would be arranged by local authorities to “welcome” the junta premier at each of his destinations in Amnat Charoen.
Some ministers such as Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat, Digital Economy Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj and Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith formed an advance party to observe projects of interest before others arrived.
Apart from discussion local economy and development projects, speculation is rife that Prayut will meet with local politicians to build political support ahead of next year’s election, a ritual he developed in his prior provincial visits.
Tharakorn, however, brushed aside such speculation. “The premier will visit here only because of a change of plan,” he said. “The meeting was originally planned to be held in the northern provinces but due to the Tham Luang cave incident, the plan was replaced.”
The initial plan for Prayut to meet local leaders this afternoon was cancelled following public criticism of the electoral-politics nature of doing so.