No deadlines for govt tasks, says new Thai PM

No deadlines for govt tasks, says new Thai PM
File photo of Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Despite having a "roadmap", Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday that his government would neither work under the pressure of a time frame nor allow the timeline to become an obstacle for his mission.

People always asked about my [government] time frame but I don't set one. From now on, the Cabinet won't have a time frame because I don't want it to become an obstacle or a source of pressure," he said at a weekly meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). However, he added that his Cabinet needed to perform well.

"My four working principles are act first, do it seriously, yield results in 2015, and be sustainable," he said without elaboration.

He told the meeting that someone had asked about his mobile-phone number and birthday for arranging feng shui at Government House.

"I'm not aware of feng shui but I believe in goodness. Goodness will overcome badness and we will get through it," he said.

Prayuth, who is head of the junta as well as prime minister, also said that after his policy statement address to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the NCPO would reduce its role and focus only on security affairs and internal security, as well as protecting natural resources and the environment.

He said he would later announce the rules of engagement between the NCPO and the Cabinet.

He urged the NCPO to complete urgent missions before his policy statement address to the NLA.

The PM insisted that martial law needed to be enforced for the time being to keep the country in order. However, he had assigned First Army Area commander Lt-General Teerachai Nakwanich to evaluate the overall situation before proposing whether the junta should relax the law.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday warned the Prayuth Cabinet to expect tough challenges as it guides the country through reform in the face of plummeting prices for produce, limited budgets and a volatile world economic situation.

He said two major issues presented problems for the new government: the difficulties in pushing for progress in its reform mission, and dealing with the country's economic problems as the government has limited financial resources.

"A huge chunk of the 2015 fiscal budget, worth more than Bt100 billion that was approved by House, has to be used for debts incurred from populist policies at the expense of development projects. On the reform front, everyone wants to see reform - but once the button on energy reform is pushed, there will be differences of opinion," Abhisit said.

He said that over the past three months, although the public was satisfied with the military's taking control of the country - restoring peace and paying the government's debts to farmers, as well as cracking down on mafias - the next chapter could be different.

"Job approval ratings may sag if no further progress can be made. No one can tell what will happen after six months, nine months and one year - because the job is tough," Abhisit said.

He said the public accepted newly appointed ministers who were from the private sector since they were known for their competence, skills and experience. However, he said he was concerned about ministers who were civil servants who might not perform as competently.

"If the country were in a normal situation, they would be able to manage, but … the Cabinet has to make a lot of decisions related to important policies," he said.

Abhisit said he understood Prayuth had not many choices and he needed to depend on civil servants whom he trusted and those he believed he could control to ensure the country moved forward.

He said there was a need for checks on the government's work and its use of power.

"Without checks, there is a risk of abuse of power. I would like to see transparency and disclosure of information. The media must be allowed to criticise and present views," Abhisit said.

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