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With ripples of discontent, can Prayuth keep control?

Today, applications for members of the National Reform Council will commence.

Candidates will be nominated in two ways. The first will represent all the provinces. Each province will propose five candidates for the NCPO to select one person to be a member of the council. There will be a total of 77 members.

The second group will consist of candidates from 11 reform groups, each group nominating 50 candidates, for a total of 550 persons. The NCPO will reduce the number to 173 members. So the entire council comprises 250 members. The 11 reform groups are non-profit juristic organisations. This method is similar to the selection of senators under the 2007 constitution. One past problem was how suitable such a juristic entity was.

To select candidates with the required qualifications, the screening process should be "especially strict".

However, at the kick-off of the reform campaign last Saturday, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed "very confident" that he would be able to "handle" the situation and felt he had power over the participants, including red-shirt leaders.

Prayuth criticised, complained, at times ordered - as well as poked fun - at the audience. He appeared like a teacher delivering a speech to a group of submissive students who hid what they truly thought.

The question is whether Prayuth can really keep the council under his control.

It appeared some participants at the event kicking off the much-touted reform seemed reluctant to go ahead with the campaign but took part as "ordered". They were rival political participants.

Veerakan Musigapong, a core United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) leader, said "I attended this inaugural function at the invitation of the military. If you ask me whether I am voluntary or not, the answer is 'No'."

His remark reflected the general atmosphere of the event.

Veerakan also expressed his view, especially on behalf of the red-shirt group, when Prayuth asked for cooperation from political groups and those disagreeing with the NCPO to stop their opposition, for the benefit of the country.

"It hinges on the outcome of the administration and future conditions. I cannot answer on behalf of the UDD. In my personal opinion, the UDD is still alive. You'll have to wait and see in which future direction the UDD will move," concluded Veerakan.

His remark seemed to contradict the seemingly "calm" situation. The dormant conflict might erupt again in this unpredictable political situation.

A not-to-be-forgotten lesson to be learnt from the Yingluck Shinawatra administration was the passage of the controversial amnesty bill. Her government seemed capable of keeping everything in control at that time. But who could have imagined one mistake would have led to its collapse?

Therefore, the NCPO should be cautious and not make a mistake that can send shock waves around the community. Otherwise, the NCPO could face its unexpected demise.

Prayuth and his NCPO should administer the country with great caution. He must not be careless to think he can "control" everything in every situation as the prevailing political situation is still "highly volatile".


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