Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has finally broken his silence on the proposal to launch casinos in Thailand and put the brakes on further discussions.
During the past week, several prominent figures, including National Police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung, have been pushing for the legalisation of casinos or casino-containing entertainment complexes. Opponents, meanwhile, have severely lambasted the proposals.
Prayut had offered no comment on the casino issue until yesterday.
"I can tell you that no casino will materialise today. The government has not made any decision on it," the prime minister said.
He added that he had instructed Somyot to stop speaking in support of casinos.
On Tuesday, National Reform Council (NRC) member Sira Jenjaka suggested that Somyot should face a disciplinary probe for encouraging the opening of local casinos. He also said the council had heard a powerful general was behind the push for the casino legalisation.
"Which general?" Prayut said. "I don't see any such general."
He also said he personally thought that casinos could not be set up in Thailand right now. Asked if casinos would materialise during his government, Prayut said: "No, they won't. The legalisation of casinos will take time. Studies and research must be conducted first."
He said the decision on casino legalisation could not be based simply on opinion surveys.
Observers think his clear stance now may thwart the hopes of several pro-casino figures.
Major Anan Vajarodaya, an NRC member who supports the casino idea, had previously said his group would stop pushing for casino legalisation only if Prayut or the public said no, or if the issue threatened to cause conflict.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said neither he nor Prayut had time to think about the casino issue.
"We need to focus on other urgent issues like how to help farmers," said Prawit, who is also defence minister.
He also dismissed any suggestion that legalising casinos would threaten the government's stability.
"This is not an entirely new idea. It has been circulating for many years," he said.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister, said a casino-legalisation idea had emerged during his government too.
"But my government firmly rejected it. I don't think Thai society should waste time debating this issue. It will be better if we make efforts to solve other important problems like drought and economic issues," he said.
He also said he hoped the government would not include casino legalisation in a public referendum on the charter draft.
"The casino issue can't be as important," he said.
Abhisit also suggested that Prayut should uphold the 12 core values that his National Council for Peace and Order was promoting. Prayut heads the junta, which supposedly promotes morality. Gambling is widely seen as a form of vice.