Democrats Accuse Prayuth of Illegal Canvassing

Hello 2019! Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha during his visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market on Saturday.

BANGKOK — Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called upon election regulators Monday to investigate whether junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha has abused his office to canvass for votes.

At a campaign stop this morning, Abhisit slammed the incumbent prime minister’s Saturday visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market where he greeted vendors in a campaign-style appearance. Abhisit said it was little different than the type of campaigning that Prayuth is forbidden from engaging under election law.

“When I saw the news, I wasn’t sure how the prime minister’s field trip could be related to running the government,” Abhisit said while campaigning in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao district. “Since Gen. Prayuth decided not to resign, he should focus on working on policy and solving existing problems. But from what I’ve seen, his visits didn’t solve any problems.”

He also told reporters the Election Commission should look into the case. Abhisit and other politicos have long accused Gen. Prayuth of breaking the law set by his own government, which bans the use of political office to canvass for the March 24 poll.

“My main point is: Why don’t we properly stick to the standard?” Abhisit said. “We want to progress like other civilized countries, but that will be difficult to do if we don’t enforce standards in our politics.”

Apart from holding office as the prime minister, Prayuth has been nominated to return as prime minister by the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.

Phalang Pracharat spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana today disputed Abhisit’s claim. Thanakorn said the junta leader was merely listening to the people in order to find solutions for their problems.

“If a prime minister’s visit to help the people is taking advantage, I wouldn’t know what to do,” Thanakorn told reporters. “And the party will not engage in this debate, because the people won’t benefit from it. I believe the people understand that Prayuth has worked hard for them.”

But Prayuth got a note of support from an unlikely source: the Pheu Thai Party, which routinely lashes out at the junta, defended his appearance as legitimate.

Speaking at a Sunday rally, Chalerm Yoobamrung said he’s “not narrow-minded like the Democrats.”

“Even though I disagree with the coup, now that he has his name as a prime minister candidate, visits are normal,” Chalerm said. “But the losers here are the Phalang Pracharat, because they don’t have the talent to campaign on their own. No one listens to them.”

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