Prayut and Abhisit spar over draft referendum

national April 13, 2016 01:00


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PM insists appointed senate may be needed to 'ensure' best leader is selected.

AN APPOINTED Senate might be essential to “help ensure” the best possible leader is selected, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
“People have chosen their premiers, and look what happened,” Prayut said during his weekly news briefing. “Some of them have even been prosecuted.”
The additional question in the referendum proposed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will ask if the Senate handpicked by the junta should be allowed to choose the new premier, together with elected MPs, to lead the next government for a five-year transitional period.
“The NLA said the question should be asked because the next government may not be trusted,” Prayut said. 
“You should not ask me about this. You should rather ask the next government to promise what they will do.”
The additional question has been criticised by members of the public and politicians, including Democrat Party leader and the former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said on Sunday that his party would vote against it.
If the Senate is empowered to take part in the vote for the next PM it will create an imbalance in the legislature, Abhisit said. He added that he hoped Prayut would understand that point, as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had earlier told charter drafters that a handpicked Senate should not be allowed to choose the PM.
However, Prayut, who is also head of the NCPO, said the proposal was completed. “It was already considered by the charter drafters and the drafting is done already.”
It would not always be necessary that the handpicked Senate would inherit such power, the PM said.
But he refused to give clear reactions to both the referendum question and the charter draft. The matters had been decided by the NLA and the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) respectively, he said.
Silent on alternative draft 
Prayut also remained silent on what would happen if the charter draft is rejected in the referendum. He explained that doing so could influence the way that people will vote in the referendum if another plan was revealed “too soon”.
No one could say the public needed to know everything about the charter draft and an alternative plan had to be revealed, he said. 
“Only 40 per cent of people will follow up on the draft so don’t say it will be for public benefit.”
Meanwhile, Abhisit insisted yesterday he would continue to talk about the charter draft despite the PM’s displeasure. He also said he would keep asking the junta to reveal what it would do if the draft were rejected in the referendum, reasoning that the money spent on holding the plebiscite should not be wasted because the public did not get sufficient details.
He asked Prayut to “calm down” and be more open-minded about opinions on the charter, as long as remarks are not aggressive or distorted.
“There is a difference between creative comments and those meant to create disruption,” Abhisit said. “I hope Prayut does not see all different commentators as his foes, or our country can’t move forward.”
The government and the NCPO should also not turn into “litigants”, he said.
The NCPO could get closer to achieving political reforms if they allowed more people to take part in the process, Abhisit said, adding that the government could open up public spaces for creative discussions on the charter draft.
Abhisit said the Democrats still rejected the extra referendum question to empower the Senate to choose a PM. If the measure was passed, he said Prayut could move from his middle position to have an NCPO-picked Senate choose the PM.
“I’m worried just as he [Prayut] is,” Abhisit said. “If you allow 250 people, all from the same source, to diminish the people’s will after an election, voters will feel that their right to vote was in vain. That will create serious conflict. Both he and I are worried that such a scene is not what Thailand wants.”
Abhisit, however, remained silent on the Democrats’ decision to vote for the charter, saying that an early revelation could create political conflict. He also insisted that the Democrats would not join hands with Pheu Thai Party, despite their similar stances against the referendum question.
Prayut also insisted that neither the NCPO nor himself planned to set up a political party, nor were they looking for future leaders in the political arena.
He also denied a report that the NCPO was looking at former deputy premier Surakiart Sathirathai to be the next PM.
Despite his furious reactions following the Democrat’s earlier announcement, Prayut insisted that he was only “annoyed” by politicians’ comments and not dissatisfied with them. “Why make bothersome comments that they don’t realise?” he said.
Army chief General Teerachai Nakwanich yesterday criticised political parties that had announced opposition to the charter draft as not respecting people.
“They must respect the people’s decision. The public should first look at the draft and make a decision on the referendum. This is the first step of democracy,’’ he said.

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