Activist Says Naming Bridge After Prayuth May Cost Him Premiership

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on Jan. 16, 2020.

Update: PM Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday afternoon rejected the proposal, saying he does not allow the use of his name. 

BANGKOK — A transparency campaigner on Friday said a request by a government lawmaker to name a proposed bridge after PM Prayuth Chan-ocha risks breaching the nation’s highest law.

Activist Srisuwan Janya said naming the bridge, which would link Nakhon Si Thammarat’s mainland with the popular tourist island of Samui, after Prayuth may violate Section 186 of the 2017 Constitution, which bans the Prime Minister from using his title to advance his interests, whether directly or indirectly.

“Therefore, whoever means well but wishes badly for him, then hurry up and use the Prime Minister’s surname to name the bridge or any other building constructed by [taxpayers] money,” Srisuwan wrote online. “So we can have a new Prime Minister sooner.”

The naming proposal was made by Sayan Yutitham, Phalang Pracharath MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat, during Thursday’s Parliament session. He said the authorities should “honor” Prayuth’s accomplishments with the name.

Concept art of “Chan-ocha Bridge” as proposed by MP Sayan Yutitham.

Under the plan submitted to the Ministry of Transport, the bridge would allow motorists to drive to Koh Samui without having to rely on ferries, boosting local tourism and economy.

Sayan said naming bridges after government leaders during their tenure is nothing new. Sarasin Bridge in Phuket was named after Pote Sarasin, while Prem Tinsulanonda lent his surname to Tinsulanonda Bridge in Songkhla.

But Srisuwan said the precedents are irrelevant because no law banned such action at the time.

The government distanced itself from the proposal. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said the Prime Minister was not responsible for the plan, which she solely attributed to MP Sayan’s idea.