Bangkok, Prayut poised on eve of confidence vote
by Steve Suwannarat

The Prime Minister has defended himself in parliament against criticism for the worst economic crisis since 1997, pointing to the tourism blockade caused by the pandemic as the sole cause. Rumours of a possible agreement between the opposition and members of the ruling Palang Pracharath party to remove support from the former general and several ministers of his cabinet.



Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Bangkok's parliament has been debating confidence motion in Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha for four days, with a crucial vote expected tomorrow.

During the sessions, the Thai Prime Minister has defended his actions: if the data mercilessly show that the country is in the worst economic crisis since 1997 - he argued - the blame cannot be laid on him and his government.

In his speech the premier said that "Tourism was from the economic point of view our strong point. In 2019 it generated 20 percent of gross domestic product by employing 8.3 million workers, with 40 million visitors. For the pandemic, 2020 saw tourists drop to 6.7 million; a figure that is expected to drop further below one million in 2021 as a result of the various measures to control the spread of Covid-19, both locally and internationally." To this day, Prayut Chan-ocha has denied offering to disolve parliament or his resignation.

Meanwhile, however, there are rumors of an agreement between the opposition led by the Phuea Thai party and exponents of Prayut's own party, the Palang Pracharath, to challenge a premier with a credibility in free fall but also to ensure greater benefits and visibility to several parties with only one representative in the House. Tomorrow's vote, therefore, could decide the fate not only of the former coup general, but also of several ministers of his executive.

They are not only facing the burden of responsibility for a leadership judged ineffective in the management of the pandemic, but also to have inflated the budgets for the purchase of vaccines still insufficient, to have favored personal interests and to have tolerated the persistence of malfeasance in the public sector, with the police now punder mounting criticism.

However, it is above all the management of the pandemic crisis that has raised the most perplexity and criticism. Today the Department for the control of infectious diseases of the Ministry of Public Health has confirmed 14,635 new cases and 271 deaths that have raised the total respectively to 1,249,140 registered infections and 12,374 deaths. The restrictive measures - considered excessive and poorly managed - have led to the substantial disappearance of entire economic sectors and their employees. Among these are the entertainment and tourism "industries". Bangkok and other provinces have been under a new health curfew from 9pm to 4am since July 12, and the premier has declared that the deadline set for September could be extended to October, albeit with easing introduced this week for restaurants, transport and some utilities.