Thai PM's 'weak points'

Thai PM's 'weak points'

Close aides and advisers of Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha are concerned about his tendency to shoot his mouth off, but nobody in the inner circle has the courage to tell him how he should conduct himself in the public domain.

They fear Prayut's PR disasters could jeopardise the coup-installed government's mission of reform and reconciliation.

"We understand he knows better than us," said a military officer who once worked closely with Prayut. "It is the tradition in the Thai military that we refrain from telling the superior what he should or should not do."

Prayut often loses his temper in public when he is asked a provocative question by journalists. There was another instance of Prayut losing his cool, on Tuesday, when he was asked by a senior reporter not to make his press briefings too long.

Prayut is known to be short-tempered by nature. Initially his close aides tried to keep him away from reporters. However, as the prime minister, Prayut cannot remain silent over many issues of public concern, noted an official at Government House.

"We try to make it difficult for reporters to get access to the prime minister, but it is he who wants access to the media to communicate with the public," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Indeed, Prayut knows his weak points and that a loose mouth would not be good for his political future and the government's image - but it seems he cannot control his old habits.

Colonel Winthai Suvari, a spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said Prayut had himself said that he would try to speak less and be careful lest someone distorts his remarks.

"I can't speak on behalf of my superior. Perhaps he's trying and he's rather cautious. Maybe it has more to do with the questions posed," Winthai justified.

A source close to a senior member of Prayut's Cabinet said the prime minister was very talkative at meetings and tended to focus on himself too much.

Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prayut's background as an Army officer might make him appear intimidating. Some who have worked with the PM have suggested that he should answer fewer questions from the media, although Prayut has cited the importance of explaining things to the public.

"He stressed to the whole Cabinet and the team of spokesmen that they should not be bored explaining issues," said Sansern, adding that Prayut said news and information travelled fast so there was always the need to update and explain things frequently.

Reading from a script, Sansern said, would instead make Prayut appear rigid. The prime minister is also willing to apologise when it is due, he added

Sukhum Nuansakul, a political analyst and former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, said the PM and the media should attune to each other's ways of talking.

"We have to understand that the PM is from the junta, and he was also a commander-in-chief. His way of speaking is more about issuing orders, and sometimes he can get offended by questions not in tune with his thoughts," Sukhum said.

Meanwhile, the media should get familiar with the PM's style of talking, even though previous prime ministers were softer in many ways, he said.

"Personally, I believe General Prayut should not sound as if he is giving orders but rather explaining, and reporters should respect the PM more," he said.

Sukhum also suggested that Prayut should understand that reporters' work is driven by curiosity and he should answer according to his thoughts, without personal emotion.

Yuwadee Thanyasiri, a veteran reporter at the Government House who always asks provocative questions, said it would be best for the prime minister to be brief and talk to the point.

"It does not help to speak longer, because everything he says could be on the news and it is not only in Thailand but outside the country as well. In particular, he has to be cautious on international relations," she said.

She said personally she does not assume she knows more or less than the premier, and her intentions are good.

"I do not preach him [Prayut] but I only proposed that he should talk to the point, to save time for media and reporters," said Yuwadee.

She said that she understood Prayut was the commander-in-chief, who used to giving orders, but now he has another role as prime minister and he should adjust himself to get along with reporters.

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