Saturday, May 24, 2014

Junta wants sweeping reforms before election

Payment of debt to rice farmers should be made in 20 days: Prayuth

Military junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday pushed forward a reform agenda and made the payment of debts to farmers under the rice-pledging scheme a top priority after Thursday's coup, which he called a sacrifice for the nation to build unity and end conflicts.

The monarchy has nothing to do with the seizure of power, Prayuth was quoted as saying to officers at a meeting of the junta's National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) yesterday.

The NPOMC began to formulate an action plan to bring the country back to normalcy. Prayuth told yesterday's meeting of agency heads that funds have been allocated to repay debts owed to rice farmers under the ousted government's rice-pledging scheme. He expressed confidence that within 15-20 days the debts should be repaid.

Priority has been given to hunting down people the junta considers its opponents.

More than 100 people, including former PM Yingluck Shinawatra, were summoned before the junta yesterday. Many people such as former education minister Chaturon Chaisang however refused to comply, saying they disagreed with the coup and had done nothing wrong.

The military believes underground movements would soon surface to oppose the coup. The previous junta of the 2006 coup faced severe resistance from armed groups.

An anti-coup group yesterday confronted the military near Bangkok Art Centre in Pathumwan.

The second task in the plan outlined yesterday was to enhance Thailand's image internationally by inviting diplomatic corps based in Thailand to explain the reasons for the coup.

Diplomats and representatives from 58 countries attended the meeting, but ambassadors of major embassies in the capital, such as US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and German Ambassador Rolf Schulze, did not attend.

Kenney told the media that she was busy with another engagement. Schulze said that he did not want to be involved in the activities of the Thai military. Many other embassies also did not send their top diplomat to attend the briefing at Army Club, instead sending a low-ranking official.

Countries around the world yesterday issued statements to express their opposition to the coup and demanded that the military restore a civilian government immediately.

The junta anticipates that Thailand will face sanctions from the United States and the European Union, according a source close to the junta.

The military might not be familiar with economic matters but the junta will appoint prominent economists and key officials of relevant ministries to push urgent plans to restore the economy, which has slowed down since anti-government protests began seven months ago, a source said.

Under the plan, the junta will soon install a new government with a full mandate to have the budget to run the country, including assisting farmers who have suffered under the rice-pledging scheme, the source said. The final stage of the plan is to carry out the reform agenda, the sources said.

Although anti-government protesters had for months called for reforms before a fresh election, the source said, the reform agenda has never been spelled out clearly and the junta may need to set up a council to implement reform.

The junta yesterday allocated responsibilities among commanders of the NPOMC, which is headed by Prayuth. Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimaprakorn, the deputy chairman of the NPOMC, will take care of security matters and relevant ministries.

Navy chief Narong Pipatanasai, another deputy of the junta, is overseeing social psychology works and ministries such as education, public health and science.

Air Force chief Prajin Juntong is taking care of economic matters and all relevant ministries.

Assistant Army chief Lt-General Paiboon Kumchaya is taking care of justice and legal works.

Other matters, such as the Office of the Prime Minister are being overseen by police chief Adul Saengsingkaew.

_____ The Nation
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