BANGKOK – Former Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula has slammed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as unfit to be Thailand’s next prime minister for a number of reasons, ranging from his lack of fiscal discipline and courage in making crucial decisions for fear of losing his popularity, to being temperamental and his appeasement policy toward China.
M.R.Pridiyathorn Devakula made his comments in a commentary published by the Isara news agency.
Noting that it is now crystal clear that the prime minister intends to stay on for a second term, M.R. Pridiyathorn said the prime minister had abused his authority to take advantage over the other parties by campaigning to woo voters under the disguise of mobile cabinet meetings in provinces while the other parties were prohibited from engaging in political activities.
He also accused Prayut government of rolling out several populist policies to curry favour with the people despite the fact that the handouts were taxpayer’s money.
In the past three years, the government demonstrated its utter lack of fiscal discipline as Pridiyathorn accused the government of spending more than it managed to earn and had used “future budget” of the next five years, totaling over one trillion baht – the highest amount in modern history – to invest in mega infrastructure projects, with the Transport Ministry bring allocated with the largest chunk of the money followed by the Defence Ministry.
From his past experience of working with General Prayuth, Pridiyathorn described the prime minister as someone who would resort to all means – even tricks – to acquire what he wanted. And if the finance minister tried to resist him, he would be replaced with someone more compromising, he claimed.
He cited the case of a former finance minister who objected to the Navy’s submarine project who was later forced to quit the cabinet.
Citing the coal-fired power plant project in the South as a proof of the prime minister’s lack of courage in making decisions in face of opposition, Pridiyathorn said that the project had gone through six public hearings and local residents did not object to the project, but the prime minister ordered the project to be put on hold after a handful of non-governmental organization representatives protested against the project.
In the past four years, he said the junta and the government had reduced the civilian population to the status of the “ruled” whereas the military was being treated as the “rulers”. He warned that if this lopsided relationship between the military and the civilian public is allowed to go on unchecked, resentment against the military by the civilian population may grow.
The former prime minister criticized the government’s appeasement policy toward China, citing a privilege planned to be given to Chinese investors in the Eastern Economic Corridor zone to bring into the country their relatives and dependents with the right of land ownership in the zone while the same privilege was not extended to other foreign investors.
Luckily however, he said the National Legislative Assembly rejected this idea of the government.
Regarding the prime minister’s notorious shifting tempers, Pridiyathorn said since Thailand has become the Asean chair this year, the prime minister should try to restrain himself harder otherwise he might cause embarrassment to the country if he allows his temper to flare in international forum.
The views expressed in this article the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank.