BANGKOK – Thailands Military backed Government is now in “Panic Mode” over the economy and is failing to heal the country’s deep political rifts, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday in unusually strident criticism of the countryâ€™s ruling generals.
His remarks come just two days after his arch rival, self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, also hit out at the junta’s nearly two years in power, an indication of how bitterly divided political camps increasingly see eye-to-eye on military rule.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to kickstart the economy and end the kingdom’s cycle of political violence and corruption with a new constitution, the country’s twentieth since 1932. But in a speech to business leaders in Bangkok, Mr Abhisit said the regime was failing to carry out necessary economic reforms, especially in the flagging agricultural and industrial sectors.
“Despite two years of relative calm and also initiatives being taken by the current government when it came to power, there has been too little progress even on this front and now it’s almost in panic mode,” he said.
He was equally scathing of the draft constitution.
“I think it’s also clear that we’re not going to get the kind of constitution that many of us want, whether in terms of democratic standards, whether in terms of a document that will lead to true reforms that are much needed, or even on the issue of so-called reconciliation,” he said.
Many supporters of Mr Abhisit, an Eton and Oxford-educated Bangkokian who was in power from 2008-2011, were at the forefront of protests against Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, and cheered the 2014 coup that toppled her government.
But even the military’s natural allies have begun to chafe under their protracted rule and Mr Abhisit’s remarks mimic recent comments by Thaksin on the army.
In a speech and a series of press interviews in New York this week, Thaksin accused the military of clinging to power and said the generals had little to show for their time in office.
Mr Abhisit also hit out at the military’s claim it was rooting out graft after a series of corruption scandals enveloped senior military officers.
“Given some of the things that have already happened, I’m not so sure they can say they’re better than politicians. And I’m talking about corruption, I’m talking about abuse of power,” he told delegates.
Speaking to AFP after the speech, Mr Abhisit ruled out meeting Thaksin. “I don’t see the need for that,” he said.
But he said he would meet his political opponents if they “move beyond the interests of the Shinawatra family and Thaksin’s agenda”.
Asked whether ordinary Thais were tiring of the military he said: “I think the Thai people in general still feel that Gen Prayut means well, he’s serious, he’s blunt, straightforward and that he wants to do good things. And that’s why I think he’s been allowed to carry on.”
“But in terms of concrete achievement of what’s been done I think even people who support him find it hard to identify those accomplishments,” he added. – AFP