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Time for talking is over

Publication Date : 28-08-2014


Thai Prime Minister Prayuth and his new administration must now match words with actions, making good on their pledges of "clean" government and reforms that benefit the many, not the few

General Prayuth Chan-ocha promised to perform his duties as prime minister with devotion and honesty after formally receiving the royal command on Monday. He vowed to work to the fullest of his ability for the benefit of the country and the people as a whole. He said he would serve the motherland with the goal of bringing back peace, love and unity among different groups of people.

That is, in fact, what people would expect from any head of government or member of a ruling administration, and particularly at this time, when the country is still reeling from the effects of years of division and conflict.

Since the coup of May 22 Prayuth has used his weekly televised "Returning Happiness" address to make clear his intentions to tackle the country's problems. But actions speak louder than words. The new prime minister will have to work hard in order to prove his sincerity and to retain the support of the public.

To this end Prayuth told fellow junta members at Tuesday's NCPO meeting to help him keep the promise he made during Monday's ceremony.

Prayuth himself might find it relatively easy to prove he's true to his word. But he needs to make sure that members of his Cabinet - which should be formed by the end of next month - also perform their duties with honesty and devotion. To retain public faith, he must ensure that no Cabinet members or their cohorts seek personal gain during his time in office. Should they do so, Prayuth's interim administration will be no different from the elected government whose corruption he cited as a reason for seizing power.

Prayuth might be enjoying a good deal of public support right now, but the fact is he was not elected to power, and that's a weakness. He should bear in mind that he is just an interim prime minister leading an interim government that claims to be politically neutral. His main task is to run the country amid efforts by the National Reform Council and Constitution Drafting Assembly to institute national reforms in 11 areas, as outlined in the provisional charter.

As well as tackling the country's many problems, Prayuth and his interim administration will have to deal with conflicting demands from different groups of people. For example, reform in the country's energy sector are the focus of a profound disagreement between two factions, especially regarding proposed changes to energy giant PTT Plc. Prayuth and his government should make it clear that the concerns and proposals of all factions will be addressed thoroughly and without bias.

Having taken on the dual role of premier and NCPO chief, Prayuth now enjoys greater power than any prime minister in the past three decades. One advantage of this is that decisions can be made swiftly. Also, the National Legislative Assembly is unlikely to pose much of an obstacle to the interim government's actions because the opposing voices of an elected Parliament are absent.

However, pressure will come from the high expectations among many elements in society, and this interim administration will not be able to ignore growing public demand for action toward the betterment of Thailand.

Many problems and headaches lie ahead for Prayuth and his administration. Sincerity and determination in tackling those issues should help them get through, but time is short. According to the NCPO roadmap, they have a little over a year in power before a general election is to be called and a new government elected to replace them.


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