Beware of 'democracy trap': Prayut

Thais cannot co-exist if they reject the new charter, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha warned yesterday after reporters asked what would happen if the majority found the new junta-sponsored constitution unacceptable.

The response came as Prayut tried to reassure the public that nothing in the draft charter is written in stone, including the article allowing for a non-MP to become prime minister and a fully selected Senate.

"If it's not accepted, then people cannot co-exist. It's up to them if they don't want to stay in their country," he said, adding that Thailand should not fall into what he calls a "democracy trap".

Prayut's remark came amid complaints that the new charter was not democratic.

"Don't forget that there's no such thing as a 100-per-cent democracy. We must look comprehensively when we talk about democracy. I see some institutions teaching people to be democratic, but what is democracy without notions like rights, liberty and duty? All these are necessary," the prime minister stressed.

Prayut said the draft charter would be reviewed again, adding that he was closely following the work of the Constitution Drafting Committee and hoped that some drafters would speak less in public so they did not stir up political divisions.

'It may be necessary'

As for the option of allowing a non-MP to become prime minister, he said this might be necessary to break a future political impasse. However, he denied this clause was part of a scheme to let some figures close to the current administration take over.

An unelected PM "cannot just be appointed. Under normal circumstances the person will come through the selection process in the House of Representatives … But if the country cannot be governed and there's a need to seek an outsider as prime minister to help the country move forward temporarily, then it is a solution," he said.

"I will look at the [draft charter] together with the Cabinet," he said, as sentiment against the draft, which is seen by critics as undemocratic, is growing. "Do not worry as to how the charter will turn out. Instead, worry about who will become candidates for the next government."

He said he would go on vacation once his job is over and power is returned to an elected government.