FROM PLANTING RICE and meditating to lecturing citizens about elections, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha kept busy during the first day of his field visit to Suphan Buri and Ayutthaya yesterday.
The two-day trip by Prayut and his Cabinet put a focus on Thailand’s Central region, with water management at the top of the agenda during the flood season. Other issues for discussion included land-sea infrastructure connectivity, irrigation, garbage management, and rice research and development.
But the essential purpose behind the field trip was for the premier to get his feet on the ground and come face-to-face with local people from all walks of life.
The first local resident he met was the abbot from Wat Pa Lelai Worawihan, where he made merit at the start of the trip. “Whenever you get stressed, just inhale deeply and exhale 10 times,” the abbot of Suphan Buri’s sacred temple told him. “Act like a hand. You can’t have something new if you don’t let go of the old thing.”
Prayut abruptly replied: “But the old things are not finished. What else can I do? Also, I can’t breathe and count to 10. I can do as many as three and then I burst again. Still, I’ll keep trying,”
Later in the day, he compared Thai people with the frogs from Aesop’s fable “The Frogs who Desired a King”, warning them that in next general election, they should choose the right person and not a “stork” who would devour them.
“I alone can’t solve everything. You have to seek your desired men or government by yourselves,” he said. “If you want the future to be full of conflict, be my guest. But being where I am now, I won’t let that happen.”
Despite his avowed aversion to politics, Prayut met with local politicians from the Chart Thai Pattana Party during a visit to the Thailand Rice Science Institute.
Among the party’s top figures in attendance were MP-turned-soccer-manager Warawut Silpa-archa, son of the late prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, Prapat Pothasuthon, and Korawee and Paradorn Prissanananthakul.
“Not all politicians are evil,” Prapat told Prayut. “I would only ask the government to distribute some of the budget from high-speed railway projects to help farmers. As long as people’s wellbeing is sustained, you can stay for another eight or 10 years and I won’t blame you for anything.”
Warawut added, “The election will be decided by you. We’ll just wait to play by rules.” Prayut replied, “Just don’t drag me in as a player. I’m just here as a referee to settle everything.”
At the institute, where paddy fields are available for farmers to practice techniques and develop rice breeds, the premier observed holistic rice development as well as cost-cutting production procedures. He also took a turn driving a tractor, making an impression on the field.
Because of the water supply, the Central region is well known for rice cultivation, especially of its world-class hom mali fragrant rice. But the region also suffers from flooding in the rainy season, causing damage to hundreds of rai of paddy fields each year.
Prayut also sought to create agreements between millers and farmers to expand market opportunities and support holistic practices in farming with irrigation equipment and technology.
Published : September 18, 2017
By : THE NATION