PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday visited the Northeastern province of Roi Et amid speculation his trip was an effort to gain favour in a region that had overwhelmingly rejected the charter draft in the August 7 referendum.
Though Prayut said he planned to visit all provinces regardless of how they had voted in the referendum, he publicly expressed his empathy for the province and the region known as Isaan, and tried to convince them that he had done his best as premier.
“I give importance to Roi Et and the Isaan region the most, no matter whether [Isaan voters] accepted or rejected [the charter draft] referendum,” said Prayut.
“I wholeheartedly trust that the people of Roi Et actually gave me support despite the results. I am never angry about that, and my visit today is as your servant, not a boss, as I’m a military officer serving the people and the country.
“I have not come to make you love me but to bring love to you. We have to work with together for a little while and I want you to have hopes and see the future.”
Prayut urged them to embrace the referendum as a starting point for democracy. He asked them not to be concerned about who would become the next prime minister, and said they should consider the performance of candidates rather than listen to what other people said.
“I wonder whether he or she would perform as much as I do,” he said.
Roi Et saw the region’s second highest percentage of “No” votes against the charter, and the highest against the additional question, 64 and 67.8 per cent respectively. Political observers believe the province’s referendum results were Prayut‘s motivation to visit the province.
During his one-day trip, Prayut presided over a meeting held at Roi Et Rajaphat University to follow up on the implementation of the policies involving local government agencies.
“Don’t be worried that I will cling to power. I have exercised my power to steer the nation forward, never for a second did I deploy it to garner popularity. Though [Roi Et people] don’t like me, I have already allocated more than a billion [baht] of the budget to projects proposed by the province.
“Please tell those who have not come here today that I have never hated them. But, it is because they don’t understand [the premier] and receive distorted information,” he said.
Before the meeting, he told university lecturers and students that true democracy is about co-existence of different opinions without using “guns” and violence. He also asked students to understand that he could not release those student activists, the junta dissenters who were charged and detained following the violation of laws and regulations.
Prayut also urged them to look forward and not get involved in conflicts. “Please be picky and choose what to listen to. Do not listen too much to matters of conflict and nonsense stuff.”
Prayut asked the people to believe and listen to him while the country is dealing with conflicts and said he is the one to steadily push the country forward.
The government delegation on the trip included Deputy PM General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya.
At the meeting, Prayut also gave the green light to an economic plan for the area and urged local agencies to start implementing projects related to government policies within the 2017 fiscal year.
According to provincial governor Anusorn Kaewkangwan, the plan focuses on producing value-added jasmine rice grown in Thung Kula Rong Hai, promoting the province’s tourism, and developing Roi Et to be the transportation and investment centre in the central Isaan region.
Democrat Party politician Phumsan Seniwong na Ayutthaya said he appreciated Prayut‘s visit and said the area is still struggling with poverty and has the country’s widest gap between the well-off and the poor.
But Pheu Thai Party key figure Surapong Towichakchaikul decried the trip. He said Prayut should stay in the area overnight to see the real problems in the area. Prayut flew back to Bangkok in the evening.