Prawit: Political ban stays 'until I'm happy'

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwon share a light moment while talking Wednesday with Thai athletes bound for the 19th SEA Games. The two agree that the 100% ban on political activities will remain in place indefinitely. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The regime will not lift its restrictions on political activities any time soon owing to the unstable state of Thai politics and the number of pending lawsuits against politicians, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said.

Gen Prawit, who also serves as defence minister, made the remark Wednesday. It comes after National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai on Tuesday forwarded the organic bill on political parties, which the NLA passed on June 16, to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The premier will now submit the legislation to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement.

The organic bill has been attacked by politicians as an attempt to weaken political parties by introducing a controversial primary voting system. This would see parties compelled to organise their own primaries nationwide to select parliamentary candidates. Yet there is no guarantee they would be free of fraud or truly representative of the parties, critics have said.

Mr Pornpetch said on Tuesday it was up to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to decide whether to relax the ban on political activities after the bill takes effect. If the restrictions are deemed to be obstructing political activities, the NCPO may consider easing them, he said.

He also noted the NCPO may wish to see the NLA proceed smoothly when handling legislation that is organic to the new constitution, without parties engaging in activities or expressing opinions that would disrupt the law-making process.

Asked whether parties would be allowed to resume their activities when the bill becomes law, Gen Prawit, who oversees national security, said bluntly: "The bill has not been enacted."

"Wait until I feel happy [with the situation] and I will see to it the restrictions are lifted," he added.

Gen Prawit cited a number of important legal cases that are passing through the justice system which could have a destabilising impact on society and politics.

When asked if the political restrictions would be lifted after the rice-pledging case against ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra is settled later this month, Gen Prawit refused to comment.

Gen Prawit said security will be tightened to handle supporters, who are expected to turn up in droves to show moral support for Ms Yingluck on Aug 25 when the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is scheduled to hand down its ruling.

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