South trip backfires on Prayut

  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s first cabinet trip to the far South aimed at winning back local confidence in the government backfired when the government’s actions were perceived as “unfriendly” to residents.
  • The two-day mobile cabinet visit to Songkhla’s Muang district which ended on 28 Nov 17
  • was the first time the full cabinet has met since the Prayut 5 reshuffle was announced last week. It was also the first ever that Gen Prayut has led the cabinet to the South.
  • While residents in the South are known to have supported the government as well as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) since the 2014 coup, rubber growers in the South have been hard hit by falling rubber prices, and feel increasingly dissatisfied with the government.
  • The government’s best efforts to win the hearts of residents were overshadowed by a couple of incidents on 27 Nov 17, which cast the administration in a negative light.
  • The first incident was a clash between anti-coal protesters in Songkhla and authorities. About 500 people joined a rally against a coal power plant project in Songkhla’s Thepha district. Sixteen of them after they clashed with police, resulting in three injuries.
  • The other incident involved Gen Prayut unleashing an outburst of vitriol at a fisherman during his visit in Pattana’s Nong Chik district when Paranyu Charoen, a 34-year-old fisherman, asked the prime minister to change fishing regulations to increase the number of days that fisherman can put to sea.
  • The incidents have drawn heavy criticism, even from government supporters who expressed their disappointment.

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