Thailand’s ruling junta to focus on the economy and social peace
by Weena Kowitwanij
Retired general and current Prime Minister Prayuth outlined government’s priorities: economic growth, security and the fight against corruption. He called on all Thais to work for peace and the good of the country. Tourism grows by 23 per cent. The government plans to promote social policies and boost international relations against a background of authoritarianism.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha recently held a press conference at Government House to outline the goals of his government, as well as illustrate "the achievements of the past six months" and the future challenges that await the nation.

The retired army general, who heads the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the military junta that runs the country, said that the government wants to encourage economic growth after a period of crisis caused by social and political tensions, uphold with vigour the government line, ensure social peace, continue the path of political reforms, and ensure a future of stability and prosperity for the nation.

Prime Minister Prayuth rejected accusations that he led a harsh government, claiming instead that an iron fist was needed to “to allow the country to move forward."

The Thai prime minister stressed “11 points" that guide government action. They include protecting the monarchy, national security, social equality, education, health, economy, Thailand’s role in ASEAN, development of science and technology, natural resource protection, justice and the fight against corruption.

Since May 2014 the economy of Thailand has "improved," the prime minister said, with "+2.3% in the last quarter of 2014". This comes with strong growth in the tourism sector (+23% in the first quarter of 2015), following a sharp decline due to the political unrest.

"More than 60 million Thai citizens want peace," Prayuth said. “Everyone is called to love his neighbour and help solve the nation's problems."

"Everyone should enjoy rights and freedoms and contribute to the good of the nation and its people,” he explained. However, “Freedom does not mean not respecting the law, disturbing the peace or harming others. It is our duty to bring peace to the country."

Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakul, an expert in economics, said that "in the first quarter of 2015 growth is expected to be 3 per cent or higher." Private sector investments "are growing". In a few months, more than 133,000 jobs are expected from investments worth US$ 11 billion. "I truly believe that investments will grow over the next six or nine months,” he said.

Yongyu Yuthavong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs, Health, Science and Technology, spoke about government policies for the disabled, including support "in job training and search” as well as reforms to improve child education and the status of senior citizens, at a time when "Thailand is becoming an increasingly older nation."

Finally, Deputy Foreign Minister Don Poramatwinaj spoke on foreign policy issues, stressing the importance of building strong relationships with other nations, including neighbouring countries and world powers like China, the United States, the Union European Union, Japan and Russia.

In May 2014, the military ended months of political stalemate and street protests that had left at least 27 people dead by ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had been elected with a wide majority.

Now the country is under military rule, with the former  Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army as prime minister, tasked with reforming the state against a background of authoritarian rule.

The draft of the country’s new constitution  was released recently. According to Thai analysts and policy experts, it is aimed at reducing the power of the main parties and keeping politicians under control.