Suspended Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has apologised to residents in Ayutthaya who were upset after failing to see him in person during his inspection trip.
Gen Prayut visited the historic city to inspect flood-prevention measures on Friday while his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, who now serves as acting prime minister, plans to tour other provinces to also inspect their water management during this rainy season.
During the trip, Gen Prayut, who still holds the defence portfolio, visited Wat Kasattrathirat Worawiharn in Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya district.
After wrapping up his visit and leaving the temple in his limousine, villagers said they were upset that he did not roll down the window to greet them.
Some said they arrived at the temple in the early morning and waited hours to see him and give him flowers, only to be snubbed.
After the incident, Gen Prayut relayed his apologies through local officials, saying he could not open the window because the car is bullet-proof. But he said he was delighted to see people and that he also waved to them from inside the car.
Some local villagers hoisted placards bearing messages of support for Gen Prayut outside the temple, though security officers blocked them and prevented them from meeting him.
Gen Prayut also visited soldiers from nine battalions who raised embankments and stacked sandbags at the temple, where he was briefed on the condition of the water levels along the Chao Phraya River, which was carrying a flood surge from the annual heavy rains in the North.
He also met soldiers who reinforced embankments along the river to protect historical sites, including ancient temples.
Gen Prayut was making his first upcountry trip as defence minister since being suspended from working as prime minister by the Constitutional Court until it rules on the issue of his tenure.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday that a team of legal advisers to Gen Prayut on Thursday submitted a statement in response to the court’s order.
The court gave Gen Prayut 15 days from Aug 24, when he was suspended, to officially respond.
He has not turned up for work at Government House since.
On Aug 26, Gen Prayut showed up for work at the Defence Ministry, arriving in his personal car.
His chauffeur yesterday returned the prime minister’s limo, as well as three other vehicles which form a prime minister’s motorcade, to Government House pending the court’s ruling.
This was seen as a bid to avoid criticism that may arise over Gen Prayut’s use of the prime minister’s car, according to government sources.