Thai leader pledges to weed out corruption before election

Thai leader pledges to weed out corruption before election
Above: Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (centre)

TOKYO - Thailand should resolve the political rivalry that triggered the military coup last May and eradicate corruption before the next general election, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told The Nikkei on Monday.

"After the 2006 coup, a new government simply replaced (then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's) administration and held elections," he said in an exclusive interview in Tokyo. "None of the existing problems were solved."

The military attempted election reforms and other changes after taking control in 2006. But it failed to eliminate the influence of the Thaksin faction, who had a strong following among rural farmers and low-income households. The pro-Thaksin camp won both the 2007 and 2011 polls by a landslide.

Prayuth said that pork-barrel spending by populist governments skewed past election outcomes. He cited former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's rice subsidies, which reportedly resulted in a 600 billion baht (US$18 billion) loss for the government, as a prime example of an attempt at buying votes.

The new constitution, which is being drafted by a military-appointed committee, will likely prohibit populist election promises and impose heavy penalties on corruption.

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