BANGKOK – Thailand Interim Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan Monday insisted that elections must come before reforms because “it is the law”, rejecting anti-government protesters’ demands for changes before polls.
“We cannot stop the election, that is against the law,” he said. “We can have elections first and then reforms.”
Niwatthamrong, who replaced acting PM Yingluck Shinawatra after she was ousted by the Constitutional Court last week, was hopeful that general election could be held soon. He said anti-government protesters would not succeed in getting the senate to impose an alternative premier.
He said he would meet with the Election Commission on Wednesday to ensure elections will go ahead on July 20 as planned, but that they could delayed by a short amount of time.
“We hope and expect the meeting on Wednesday to be successful,” he told reporters on Monday.
“Hopefully, we will have an election soon but it may slip, depending on the meeting,” he said. “I can’t guarantee the election will be successful, but I have high hopes.”
Yingluck’s caretaker government has remained in office since the ouster of the premier and nine ministers following a proven nepotism case.
Niwatthamrong said he hoped that the opposition Democrats will take part in the elections for the sake of the country, but that ultimately “it is their choice”.
He pointed out the legitimacy of the current government, despite calls from People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s for a new prime minister and an appointed government.
Suthep, a former deputy prime minister in a government run by the pro-establishment Democrat Party, has called on the upper house Senate, the judiciary and Election Commission to step in and appoint a new prime minister.
Niwatthamrong said that would not happen.
“There are a lot of steps they have to do first. They can try but I don’t believe they will be successful,” he said.
Newly elected Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai called a special session on Monday to look at ways out of what he called the country’s biggest crisis.
“We will discuss how to draw up a road map to get Thailand out of this situation,” he said. “A neutral prime minister has not yet been discussed as part of the road map.”
Niwatthamrong also insisted that his government was committed to a peaceful solution to the current political crisis.
“We don’t want violence, we don’t want any killings I don’t think there will be a civil war,” he said.