BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who leads the Democrat Party, has decided to join other political parties in boycotting a meeting with the military-run government on Friday (Dec 7).
Earlier, Pheu Thai, Thai Raksa Chart and Future Forward parties announced that they would not attend any meeting called by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
The meeting was expected to serve as a forum for political parties to voice their requests related to the next election, tentatively scheduled for Feb 24.
But Mr Abhisit said on Wednesday that he "saw no benefit" in attending the meeting, as the NCPO invitation said the event was being held for political parties to hear from the authorities about the next election.
"The invitation said the meeting was for relevant authorities to explain details about the election, not for participants to discuss how the election will be held. So, I'm not sure if there will be any exchange of views," he said.
"The crux of this election is to allow public participation under a democratic system that sets the country's future. Also, for this election to be acceptable it needs to be free and fair."
In boycotting the meeting, the political parties say that the junta has nothing to do with the general election which concerns only the Election Commission (EC) and political parties.
In September, the junta eased some restrictions on political activity but there continues to be a ban on parties raising money, electing leaders or campaigning. Political gatherings of more than five people also continued to be prohibited.
Mr Abhisit also said the Democrats would not join forces with the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party to back Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha's return as prime minister. He added that many of Palang Pracharat's policy platforms were "incompatible" with those of his party.
Ms Sudarat Keyuraphan, who is expected to be Pheu Thai's chief prime ministerial candidate, said the party would not attend the meeting if the NCPO and government representatives were present.
"Holding an election is the EC's duty. We don't think the government and the NCPO should get involved," she said.
Mr Prayut, in his capacity as head of the NCPO, has shrugged off growing opposition to the meeting. He is expected to preside over the meeting. He has implied that the boycotting parties did not want to contest the election.
Through his order issued in December last year, the junta has been empowered to "work with" the EC and political parties in setting the election date.