Thai PM will stay on if draft charter rejected

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday he would stay in power to oversee a new drafting process if the draft constitution was rejected by the public.

He said a new process would automatically begin if the current draft was rejected, either through a referendum or by other means, including by the international community.

The prime minister, who is also head of the military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said he would not commit himself to how long he would cling to power, adding that things were already laid out in the road map stipulated by the interim charter.

Asked if he would yield to calls to stay on longer if the Kingdom was still not "peaceful", Prayut replied that he would not be the one to decide whether the country is peaceful or not.

He said people creating rifts in society must be told to stop so the country can return to democracy.

Prayut said it was up to the voters to ensure that reforms laid out by his military regime would be carried out by a new elected administration.

Asked whether an election would be held right away if the charter was accepted, he said things must be done step by step and carefully, adding that he could not predict whether the draft charter would be approved.

He stressed that he was confident that all of the effort since he seized control from an elected government would not go to waste as long as he is still around.

"I can't be confident if I am no longer around [in power], however, because you will be choosing [a new administration]," Prayut said.

He said some mechanisms or groups of people were needed to ensure that the reforms would continue even without him and the NCPO.

"But don't drag me in. I don't won't to get involved with it."

Deep-rooted problems

A proposal to hold a referendum on whether Prayut should continue in his post for another two years was made out of concern over deep-rooted problems facing the country, National Reform Committee member Paiboon Nititawan said yesterday.

He said it was not just the military-appointed NRC but many of the charter writers who were concerned that the country was in dire need of systematic reform that takes time to bring about.

Rushing to hold a general election next year could plunge the country into political chaos again if reform is not achieved, he warned.

If most people agreed that Prayut should be in power for another two years, his government would have legitimacy, otherwise the West would take him to task, Paiboon said.

If the people disapproved of prolonging the military regime, the election would be held as scheduled.

He said if there were a referendum on the charter draft and it were voted down, critics would allege that it was rejected so that the Prayut regime could stay in power to write a new draft. "The Prayut government would face public pressure to take responsibility that the charter draft was rejected. The country would face political instability," the NRC member said.

However, if a referendum showed public support for Prayut to continue in power for another two years, the government would not only be able come up with a new draft but could also continue "solving the country's problems" for two years.

The proposal came up after Prayut called last month for his supporters to help him find a legal venue to cling to power in order to bring about reform and solve what he claimed were the country's "deep-rooted problems".

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