THE PRIME MINISTER and a pro-junta political party are on the defensive, amid increased criticism and scrutiny of a pro-junta party in the run-up to the general election.
PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday rejected allegations of nepotism and abuse of power by his former Cabinet member, MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, according to Government Spokesman Buddhipong Punnakanta.
“The prime minister rejects all forms of corruption and he has ordered strict punishment for any wrongdoings, regardless of the wrongdoers,” Buddhipong said.
“He is not affected by any attempts to malign him and is still determined to serve the country and the people.”
Pridiyathorn is a former governor of the Bank of Thailand who had served as deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs in the Prayut government’s first Cabinet.
In a personal post yesterday, Pridiyathorn alleged that Phalang Pracharat Party was set up to pave the way for General Prayut to retain political power. He also accused the government of grabbing an unfair advantage over other political parties by wooing votes using the state budget and handout projects.
Pridiyathorn outlined eight reasons why he did not want General Prayut to return as prime minister after the election. These included the junta chief’s indecisiveness, his aggressiveness and lack of manners. He mentioned that Prayut was once referred to as “a clown” by foreign media.
The government spokesman said yesterday that Pridiyathorn’s allegations were inaccurate due to his mistaken understanding over the matters in his list.
Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday said Pridiyathorn’s allegations were baseless and originated from his “personal dislike” of certain government figures.
“He doesn’t like some people personally,” General Prawit said, adding that the dislike developed after Pridiyathorn left the post-coup government.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) is investigating allegations involving the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat regarding a recent fundraising dinner and the issuance of government welfare cards in exchange for party memberships.
EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said yesterday that he expected the results of the investigation to be |available within 30 to 60 days.
Jarungvith said the agency did not discuss the issue related to the welfare card and Phalang Pracharat Party yesterday. However, the investigation is underway with EC deputy secretary-general Dusadee Pornsuksawas looking into the matter, he said.
Because the action could be viewed as evidence in a video clip, the EC could immediately take the matter into its hands without anybody having to file a complaint, Jarungvith said.
The EC is also looking into a previously reported matter of Phalang Pracharat allegedly collecting people’s ID cards, the official said.
Regarding the controversial fundraising dinner by Phalang Pracharat, Jarungvith said the party was preparing to clarify the source of the donations. It has 30 days after receiving the money to do so, he added.
General Prayut said yesterday during his visit to Nonthaburi province that welfare cards are issued by the government and not by politicians. He added that there were attempts to portray this project as political.
Earlier, a video clip posted on social media showed people claiming that they had been forced to apply for membership of Phalang Pracharat in order to get their welfare cards, which entitled them to certain handouts and benefits.
Thai Raksa Chart Party’s key figure, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, yesterday said such an act was against the law and was liable to a penalty, including the possibility of the violating party being disbanded.
Prawit said a man who told villagers in Yasothon on Saturday that they needed to apply for membership of Phalang Pracharat to get their welfare cards had been arrested and questioned. “We still don’t know if he is a party figure or a member of an anti-government group,” he told reporters.
Yasothon Governor Nikorn Suksai told a press conference yesterday that this matter could have been caused by a misunderstanding.
He said officials distributed welfare cards to eligible local residents at a temple in Loeng Nok Tha district on Saturday. On the following day, a political party held its activity at the same location, he added.
“The local EC office is seeking facts about the claim of party membership in exchange for welfare cards,” the governor said.
In a related development, Phalang Pracharat deputy spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana claimed the party has come under attack because it has gained much support from the public due to its attractive policy platforms.