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in-focus

PM to call discussion on poll date while democracy rally mounts pressure on govt


PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha said he will call a meeting of relevant parties to discuss and decide an appropriate and acceptable date for the next general election.

In his weekly national address on television on Friday, Prayut said that after all the four necessary organic laws for the next election were published in the Royal Gazette, his Cabinet would inform the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to invite political parties, the Constitution Drafting Commission and the Election Commission to discuss the matter.
“The election date depends on the readiness and agreement of parties involved,” the PM said. “It’s an important national agenda. We may have to commit to it as a mutual contract on how we will move the country forward in accordance with the road map.”
The public in recent weeks has witnessed a series of delays in the passing and enforcing of laws and other legal manoeuvres that have raised doubts over the timing of the next election. Prayut, however, insisted that his government and the NCPO had never interfered with or given instructions to legislators to vote down any bill which could thereby result in postponement of the election.
Prayut last year committed to holding the next election in November of this year, but the poll was delayed to early next year after the National Legislative Assembly last month passed the organic bill on MP elections that included an unusual clause to delay for 90 days the bill’s coming into effect after it was published in the Royal Gazette. According to the 2017 charter, an election must be held within 150 days after the bill takes effect. 
Prayut also urged the public and politicians to help keep stability in the country and to avoid triggering conflicts or divisions in society.
“You [the public and politicians] must promise that after the next election, we will have the government and opposition joining forces to benefit the people as well as pushing national reform,” he said. 
Yesterday, pro-democracy groups continued to hold their political assembly after the junta failed to respond positively to their call for an election. The latest assembly took place the entire afternoon yesterday at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus despite pouring rains. The event featured mainly Hyde-Park style political speeches by student activists such as Rangsiman Rome and Siriwith Seritiwat. The speeches were mainly about the election delays, unfair treatment of democracy advocates by the regime, and the luxury watch scandal. The activists condemned the undemocratic rule and demanded an election this year. Led by groups of young activists from Democracy Restoration and Start Up People, the demonstration yesterday attracted more than 300 people despite the political ban imposed by the ruling junta.
The demonstration was the third in a series of anti-junta and pro-election activities planned by the groups.
A participant, who requested her name be withheld, said she always joined the assembly held by student activists because other protests against the NCPO were so rare.
“I feel the oppression and I want an expression,” she said. 
Pheu Thai Party’s former commerce minister, Watana Muangsook, was also at the venue, wearing a pink T-shirt. The politician said he came as an individual and was not afraid that he may be seen as a backer of the groups. 
The groups recently called on politicians to join them, but major parties Pheu Thai and Democrats feared that doing so might weaken the momentum of the young activist movement.
Watana said if the junta wanted to prosecute him for attending the protest, he was not concerned. He also called for Prayut to return power to the people and hold an election soon.
Protesters yesterday were enthusiastic as the activists reprimanded the NCPO. Political satire standees were erected around the venue. One portrayed a tank obstructing an election, while another featured a man with several watches waiting impatiently for an election.
Some protesters wore a paper mask of the PM's caricature with a long nose like Pinocchio's. The group dubbed the mask "Yutnocchio". 

Their next rally will be held on March 10.
 

Published : February 24, 2018

By : KAS CHANWANPEN THE SUNDAY NATION