Thai govt wins lukewarm praise

Thai govt wins lukewarm praise
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha admitted he didn't want to punish parents of teen racers but said society had to change to solve the problem, so the law also had to evolve.
PHOTO: AFP

THE government's performance over its first six months in office has received a mixed reaction after the prime minister gave a speech to mark the occasion yesterday, but people in the business sector mostly voiced satisfaction.

However, observers pointed to areas that they say the government needs to address urgently. They said a lot more still needs to be done to achieve the goal of reforming the country.

Business leaders commended the government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha for being open-minded when listening to opinions and suggestions from the private sector. They said the administration had shown real attention to tackling the country's problems despite many difficulties.

Voravan Tarapoom, chairwoman of the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisation, said that the government's performance in supporting investment in the real sector, such as special economic zones, deserved a score of eight out of 10.

"The government is doing a good job supporting the real sector but it has yet to provide any tangible support for the money sector," she said.

Thongma Vijitpongpun, president and chief executive of leading property firm Pruksa Real Estate Plc, gave the government seven out of 10 for its management of the economy. "But for the country's political stability, we give the score of 10," he said.

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the government passed the performance test for showing real attention to managing the country. He said the government was open-minded in listening to opinions and suggestions raised by the private sector.

However, he suggested that the government should urgently tackle the issue of falling farm-produce prices by helping farmers cut their production costs.

Prime Minister Prayut said his government was adhering to its plans to restore democratic rule and denied speculation that the junta was going to prolong its stay in power.

"We have never deviated from the [reform] road map's timeframes. I don't want to stay in power. I've never received any benefits, only some compliments and much criticism," Prayut said in his speech.

The 90-minute speech was given at Government House and broadcast live.

'How much longer will they keep hurting Thailand?'

Prayut also blamed the previous government for some problems inherited by his administration although he did not clearly identify his predecessors.

The prime minister called on all sides to help the government achieve the goal of reforming Thailand and moving the country forward. He said his government was trying to maintain peace despite resistance at home and abroad.

"I'm here to fix problems. I don't want to hurt anyone," he said. "Ask someone outside the country, how much longer will they keep hurting Thailand?" he said, apparently referring to politicians linked to former powers-that-be.

Academics said that despite the government's many efforts, more still need to be done.

Independent political scientist Sirote Klampaiboon said the road map was on target in terms of the time schedule and objectives that were set by the junta. However, he added that nothing much had been done in bringing about a democratic and peaceful society.

"They manage to achieve their road map targets because they use martial law, tight control and use of force, without mutual consent from conflicting groups. Is the junta's roadmap going to create democracy and sustainable peace? I believe otherwise," he said.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said that Thailand was alienating Western democracies and getting closer to authoritarian major powers.

"It is understandable that Thailand remains open to close ties with all major powers, be it democratic or authoritarian. But as long as Thailand remains in the coup period, the alienation with Western democracies is likely to persist," he said.

A university researcher in Thai foreign policies, who asked not to be named, said current Thai foreign policy seemed to demonstrate a tendency to engage with certain partners while leaving others out of the loop. He said the government should give equal importance to all international partners.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security expert and adviser to Deputy PM and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, said Thailand had always tried to maintain a balanced relationship with all major powers. However, the complexity of international relations sometimes didn't allow the country to maintain the equilibrium with all partners.

"This time domestic politics has an influence on the analysis of the current situation. People who oppose the government may favour the relationship with the United States while the others understand the raison d'etre of Thailand's foreign policy in this period," he said.

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