Prayuth Backing Off Campaign Plans, Party Leader Says

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at Government House on Tuesday.

BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha may not hit the campaign trail for those who nominated him to be prime minister after all, a party leader said Wednesday.

Although the Phalang Pracharat Party announced Monday that Gen. Prayuth would step onto its rally stage for the first time, party executive Sontirat Sontijirawong said today that plan could change because the junta leader seems reluctant to go along.

“The prime minister’s intention is to meet the people, but now that there are protests, we have to listen,” Sontirat told reporters while canvassing in Lumphini Park. “We have been consulting with Gen. Prayuth. Since he has his worries, we will adjust our plans.”

Sontirat, who served as Commerce Minister under Prayuth’s cabinet until earlier this year, said the party is worried that his appearance at political rallies could cause conflict.

Sontirat Sontijirawong plays badminton during his campaign at Lumphini Park.

“We don’t want opposition to Gen. Prayuth’s appearance with the party or interpretation of what we can do or cannot do,” he said. “If society is really concerned, the party will find other ways.”

The Election Commission recently ruled that Prayuth is free to campaign for Phalang Pracharat so long as he does not break any law.

But critics of the junta have widely condemned the ruling, arguing that Prayuth is blurring the line between governance and politics. Prayuth has long been accused of abusing his power for personal gain.

The general himself expressed reluctance to join party activities. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, he declined to confirm whether he would attend a Phalang Pracharat rally in Korat on Saturday as the party had announced.

“It will be difficult for me to go on stage,” he said.

Asked if that meant he wasn’t going to the rally, Prayuth replied, “The media doesn’t care for me at all? Don’t you care whether I might get sued?”