RESTRICTIONS ON political activities might be relaxed, but only to pave the way for tambon and municipal elections, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday.
He added that if local elections are allowed, candidates will be asked not to criticise the junta or otherwise stir up conflict.
The comment came after his fellow deputy PM, Wissanu Krea-ngam, said last week that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was considering allowing local elections at various levels.
Wissanu said the military junta had discussed the matter with Interior Ministry officials and it was possible that the ban on political gatherings would be lifted to facilitate the elections.
The NCPO ban prohibits political parties from holding meetings. Calls for the ban to be eased increased after Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that a national election might be held in 2019.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said the Interior Ministry is preparing the amendment of laws related to elections.
Any policy matters would be up to the NCPO to decide, he said, apparently alluding to the lifting of the ban on political gatherings. Anupong did not confirm whether the legal amendments would touch upon changes to the qualifications of candidates for the tambon and municipal elections.
National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai also said that the NLA would bring the issue of local elections to its whip meeting this week.
The NLA has assigned the local administration committee to study related laws to see which would have to be amended to pave the way for elections. The elections, he said, would not affect preparation of the organic laws, with just three last bills to be deliberated ahead of the national election.
As to when the ban on political gatherings would be lifted, he said that would be up to the NCPO.
Prawit, meanwhile, said the a Cabinet reshuffle would probably take place very soon.
But Prawit said he has not discussed the matter with Prayut , nor proposed any names to him, as the matter is for the PM to decide. Personally, he believes that Prayut will listen to feedback from polls in making his decision.
Prawit rejected the notion that he is among those burdening the government, saying people can say whatever they wish, but he did not take it seriously.
The reshuffle, if takes place, would be the fifth of the Prayut government amid a growing call for changes in the economic and agriculture portfolios.