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Interim govt by Sept

Prayuth urges all Thais to join in recreating the country through intelligence and sacrifice

The junta chief announced yesterday that Thailand would have an interim government in place by late August or early September, and later a reform council to help end the long-lasting political conflict.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), also called for "re-creation of Thailand's democracy through the intelligence, sacrifice and participation of all Thais". He said this way would be cheaper and more effective than having "outsiders to manage who do not really know about our problems".

Prayuth made the remarks while delivering the junta's policy guidelines before a gathering of high-ranking bureaucrats at the Army Club. The event was broadcast live on the Army-run Channel 5 and the state-run NBT.

The meeting focused on the state budget for fiscal 2015, which begins on October 1.

The junta chief, also commander-in-chief of the Army, said it aimed to complete its work within three months after seizing power on May 22. This includes drafting a provisional charter, setting up a national assembly, and appointing a new prime minister and a new Cabinet.

"I think a new government should be set up in late August or early September. We need 15 days to seek royal endorsement. Then the new government will be able to focus on its work and setting up a reform council that consists of people from all sectors, particularly those from the conflicting sides," Prayuth said.

"Whoever wants to be the PM can raise his hand," he joked with the senior bureaucrats.

"Don't ask me who they are and where they come from," he said, referring to members of the new cabinet. The junta chief also did not rule out becoming prime minister himself.

Prayuth said he would not remain in power for too long and urged Thais to "please be patient. I wonder if this is a honeymoon period or not, but I hope it lasts a bit longer."

The junta chief said the budget for the next fiscal year would not exceed the "safety level" of Bt2.75 billion and wasteful expenditure would be reduced. The budget for fiscal 2015 would only be 2 per cent higher than that of the current fiscal year.

He said the junta would not approve funds for state agencies to organise study trips abroad. Critics said state agencies tended to abuse the foreign-trip budget to allow senior officials to bring their families along.

Prayuth said the junta would scrap the loss-making, corruption-plagued rice scheme launched by the ousted elected government led by the Pheu Thai Party and would not adopt the price-guarantee policy used by the previous appointed Democrat-led administration either.

The junta would instead explore ways to reduce production costs for struggling rice farmers.

He expressed his support for double-track rail lines while indicating his opposition to the high-speed-rail project. He said construction of double-track railways would facilitate transport of both goods and passengers.

Prayuth said he did not believe any company or country would build a high-speed rail route in Thailand for free. "You should ask yourselves if you can accept a 50-year concession that would see more than 100,000 workers being brought into the country and the concessionaire insisting on the right to develop land along the route," he said.

He denied that projects being implemented by the junta were populist. "They will not be so excessive that people choke on them."


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