Some members of the junta-appointed National Reform Council (NRC) are now making moves to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's continuation in power.
One NRC member said the public could start collecting some 20,000 to 30,000 signatures demanding that Prayut stay on for another two years to ensure the reform process could be completed. He said this would not be initiated by NRC members, as they could be accused of having a vested interest.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that such a move was possible, by including a clause in the referendum on whether to permit the government to stay on for two more years to carry out reform. But it is another matter whether it would be considered appropriate, he added.
Wissanu said the list of citizens supporting the move could be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration. The deputy premier refused to comment on the need for a two-year extension to carry out reform, adding there was no need to consider the matter at the moment.
Asked if such a move could end up being a repeat of an attempt by Senate members to amend the charter to extend their own term back in 2007, Wissanu said the lesson has already been learnt.
"No matter what is done, it should not be a repeat of past mistakes," he said, adding the matter of amending the provisional charter to allow a referendum on the draft charter is already in the pipeline but the date for submission to the National Legislative Assembly has not been fixed.
In a related development, NRC member Manoon Siriwan said NRC members have been discussing the matter through Line social media application although they are divided into those who support and those who oppose the idea.
Those who support the idea wanted to ensure that reforms are actually carried out before an elected government assumes power, as the reform process may not be continued by an elected government, said Manoon. Those opposing it, meanwhile, are concerned that it would be construed as the government and the NRC attempting to benefit themselves by staying on in power. Manoon added that the matter is still at a preliminary stage.
Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombut warned, however, that supporters of such a move must make it explicit as to what reforms they wish to carry out in the proposed two-year period and the course of action if the goal was not attained. He asked if there was any assurance that national reconciliation would be achieved after the reform.
"I am not surprised that some groups within the NRC clap in admiration and support the PM to stay on, as they were all appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order [which is also led by Prayut]. Let me warn the PM to be careful of NRC member Paiboon Nititawan and other NRC members and charter drafters who are cheering the idea - be careful as they may lead you astray," he said, adding that it would be difficult for Prayut to step down afterwards.
NRC whip spokesman Wanchai Sornsiri denied yesterday that the idea of having Prayut staying in power for two more years originated from the NRC or the National Legislative Assembly.
He said it was a result of those handling reform expressing a desire to see the work completed before elections were held, as they feared the Kingdom would be trapped in the same old cycle of conflict.
He said there were three conditions to make reform a reality, including the provisional charter being amended to allow a referendum on whether the PM should stay on for two more years.
It should also be made clear what reform needed to be carried out, such as anti-corruption measures and reducing social and economic disparities, while clear penalties must be stipulated if reform failed. Wanchai added that measurable criteria were needed to gauge the success or failure of reform.