Pheu Thai defends PM rice speech

The Pheu Thai Party on Wednesday slammed election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn over his warning that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra could face legal trouble over a televised speech defending the cash-strapped rice-pledging scheme and blaming protesters for playing political games with it.

In a speech broadcast nationwide by the Television Pool of Thailand on Tuesday morning, Ms Yingluck accused her political foes of obstructing the implementation of the rice-pledging scheme, which she insisted was beneficial to farmers and the economy.  

“I am saddened and must apologise to the farmers as anti-government groups are holding rice growers hostage and blocking the government from effectively implementing the scheme,” she said.  

The speech drew wide criticism from opponents of the caretaker government and political observers and raised questions about whether her comments could be seen as a violation of the election law.  

Mr Somchai wrote on his Facebook page this morning, warning that Ms Yingluck should be wary of breaching the election law for using state-owned media to run her electoral campaign, given that an election is still underway and she is the No 1 party-list MP candidate of the Pheu Thai Party.  

He also said all state-controlled media outlets and government officials must be impartial toward all candidates. 

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit argued that Ms Yingluck’s speech had nothing to do with politics and questioned Mr Somchai’s impartiality as en election commissioner over his warning.

He said farmers were demanding answers on when the government could start paying them money they are owed for crops pledged under the rice programme. 

Ms Yingluck, in her capacity as caretaker prime minster, was duty bound to clarify the long overdue payments with the farmers and she could be accused of neglecting her duty if she did not, therefore her nationally broadcast speech on the rice scheme was necessary.

He accused Mr Somchai of trying to misguide people into the belief that the caretaker premier may have breached the election law and of siding with the Democrat Party. 

He also accused him of double standards for failing to denounce the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) supporters for obstructing the Feb 2 polls. 

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