Prayuth’s Ex-Deputy Says Junta Leader Shouldn’t Be PM Again

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula in 2014.
Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula in 2014.

BANGKOK — A former Deputy Prime Minister under Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s first administration launched a scathing attack on the premier Monday detailing why he wouldn’t support his former boss to become PM again after elections.

Writing for Isranews Agency and Daily News in a long article, Pridiyathorn Devakula cited eight reasons for which he wouldn’t support Prayuth to become an elected prime minister. These included lack of fiscal discipline – particularly on military spending – close ties with China at the expense of Thailand, reinforcing military supremacy over civilians, nepotism and lack of will to do the right thing.

“What’s very ugly is that the state’s budget has been used to boost his popularity and political parties on his side,” Pridiyathorn wrote, adding that the so-called mobile cabinet meetings upcountry are nothing but another thinly-disguised political campaign.

Reacting to the criticism, Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan accused Pridiyathorn of having a “personal dislike” for Prayuth.

Pridiyathorn also criticized the military regime in which he once served for using state money in cash handouts to the poor just before the promised elections.

On military supremacy over civilian, Pridiyathorn said civilians became the governed under the military.

“Summoning people to have their ‘attitude adjusted’ by the military inside military compounds and their overseeing of officials’ work at the Interior and Agriculture ministries at a local level makes it feel as if the army is the ruler and civilians are under military rule,” the former deputy premier wrote.

Pridiyathorn cited the slow investigation by the National Anti Corruption Commission over the alleged irregularities in the construction of the controversial Ratchapak Park the military built in Hua Hin, Prachuab Khiri Khan province as another reason for his disapproval of Prayuth’s candidacy.

He also spoke of the lack of fiscal discipline as another reason for not supporting the junta leader. Pridiyathorn – who was in charge of the economy during the first year of the military regime – expressed concerns about excessive future budget commitments made for the purchase of arms. He referred to the 3 trillion baht pledged to buy submarines and added that the government’s expenditures are “growing faster than its income” and fiscal deficit.

He added that the future budget the military government committed to over the next five years, at 117 trillion baht, is the highest in history.

“If Gen. Prayuth is prime minister anew he would likely choose a person who would yield to him to become finance minister. There will be greater fiscal deficit… debt will grow to the point where the financial status of the country will weaken,” he said.

Pridiyathorn sad that another reason for which he does not support Prayuth for prime minister is his perceived “lack of decisiveness” due to the fear of losing popularity. He cited that the regime’s retreat from pushing for a coal-powered plant in Krabi province as an example. He said Prayuth would not be able to push for reforms if he became prime minister again due to his indecisiveness.

He also criticized Prayuth’s lack of appropriate behaviour when abroad. He added that Prayuth often strays from the main issues when addressing the public abroad to the point where foreign media stated that “Thailand’s military junta is led by a clown.”

Lastly, Pridiyathorn accused the junta leader of often speaking with “hostility” and “angry mood.”

“He has never been careful in speaking. He doesn’t even know how a person who is a prime minister should conduct himself or speak to be appropriate,” Pridiyathorn wrote.

In further reactions, Prawit also denied that Prayuth was trying to set up an oil company in an attempt to eventually establish a monopoly in the industry with his army friends as alleged in one of the eight reasons cited by Pridiyathorn for not supporting Prayuth.

“There’s none. What old company? There’s none… It’s just personal dislike,” Prawit said Monday.