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Prayut shifts responsibility for sacking Somchai to unnamed agency


PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday he had dismissed former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn from office at the request of a state agency.

Prayut, who also serves as the head of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the agency had made the request because staff had felt that Somchai had caused “considerable confusion” about the election date.
He did not identify the agency in question, but said it related to legal affairs.
On Tuesday, Prayut issued an Article 44 order, which grants him near-absolute powers in his capacity as NCPO head, terminating Somchai’s term in office as a member of the Election Commission (EC).
“It was necessary for me to issue the order. In fact, I did not want to issue such an order against anyone. I ask the media not to play up this matter,” Prayut told reporters during his working tour in the northeastern Nong Bua Lamphu province.
Prayut said he had made it clear that the next general election would be held no later than February of next year, but that Somchai had still said the national vote could happen this October.
“What he said caused a lot of confusion, although he might have had a good intention,” the prime minister said. “But I don’t want to get involved anymore.”
Prayut also said Somchai’s dismissal did not mean he did not listen to other people’s opinions. 
“I listen to useful comments. Don’t you see that I have listened for the past four years? And we are now going to have an election. But someone has caused a lot of confusion.”
Somchai appeared to have become even more critical of the government after his sacking.
In a Facebook message yesterday, he posted a verse from a poem written by the late rebellious author and historian Chit Phumisak. “Trying to close the sky with bare hands. Can you succeed? What a pity!” said the poem in Thai.
Earlier, just a day after he had been sacked, Somchai on Wednesday signalled he was now free to comment more broadly on politics – while he had been limited while serving as an election commissioner. 
He told reporters as he left his workplace on Wednesday: “Now that I am no longer in the EC, I will be able to give more diversified and broader comments than before, when I could only talk about elections and political party activities.”
Meanwhile, another key government figure said yesterday Somchai had the right to comment publicly on politics as long as he did not break the law.
Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan was asked by reporters at the Defence Ministry in response to speculation that Somchai would become a new critic of the ruling NCPO after he was removed from office.
“Let him [Somchai] make his moves. But he must not do anything that goes against the law,” Prawit said.
 

Published : March 22, 2018

By : The Nation