By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) – A prominent Muslim leader running for prime minister post in Thailand has promised provincial autonomy in the south where an insurgency has been brewing for decades.
Wan Muhammad Nor Matha, leader of the newly-found Prachachat Party, on Wednesday officially announced his candidacy for the March 24 general election, daily Bangkok Post reported.
“[It is my] final political war,” he said at a meeting in the southern Thai province of Songkhla which was attended by 400 Muslim clerics from 399 mosques.
“Even though I am over 70 years old, I am ready to serve as prime minister,” Wan Nor said, drawing comparisons with Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad who is 93 years old.
Calling his party “truly multicultural”, Wan Nor said that Prachachat was a “political party for people of all races and religions”.
Thailand is slated to hold elections for the first time since a 2014 coup.
The Southeast Asian is fighting insurgency in its south for decades where Muslim-majority groups either want independence or greater autonomy.
“Our party supports more public participation and consultation so people can determine their own futures. We will also give autonomy to local administrations,” he told the meeting.
Wan Nor has earlier served as deputy prime minister.
Also on Wednesday, Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong dismissed rumors of a coup.
The election commission has barred Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army general, from political canvassing.