The Pheu Thai executive board yesterday named Viroj Pao-in acting party leader following the resignation last month of previous leader Yongyuth Wichaidit over the Alpine land controversy.
Praying for success
Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree places a flower garland at a Buddha statue before starting his first day as the new permanent secretary at the Transport Ministry. THITIWANNAMONTHA
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Pol Lt Gen Viroj was elected due to his seniority and legal expertise. He dismissed speculation that the appointment was predestined.
Mr Prompong said Pol Lt Gen Viroj would serve as the acting leader until Oct 30, when a special assembly would be held to select a new leader and a new executive board.
A source said an acting leader is needed to make sure routine work will not be disrupted.
The source said Pol Lt Gen Viroj is good at coordinating and is the chairman of a committee screening draft legislation to be submitted to parliament for scrutiny. "There is a lot to do. For the time being, he is the most suitable," the source said.
However, the source said it is unlikely Pol Lt Gen Viroj would take the helm permanently after party members meet to select a leader late this month.
Pheu Thai core members are considering if a new leader should hold a cabinet post, the source said.
Pol Lt Gen Viroj declined to say if he would run for the party leadership. He denied he had been approached by self-exiled de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra to assume the party leader post.
"I am a deputy leader and the most senior among the executive members. There's nothing more," he said.
He said the new Pheu Thai leader needn't be an MP because the government whips are there to coordinate.
Asked about speculation that retired national police chief Priewpan Damapong and party director Phumtham Wechayachai would contest the post, he said anything was possible.
He said there was also a possibility that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would assume the party leadership.
Thaksin's lawyer Noppadon Pattama said the new leader does not even necessarily have to be a politician.
"He or she has to understand the workings of politics and have charisma. An outsider can be the new leader as long as they can work with the government," he said.
Red-shirt leader Chinnawat Haboonpad said the new leader must be able to work with red shirts and red-shirt MPs.
"The new leader should be someone who has stood up for the party in good and bad times," he said.
Mr Chinnawat urged Pheu Thai members not to "hurt" the red shirts when they select a new leader.
Pol Lt Gen Viroj was a deputy interior minister in the Suchinda Kraprayoon government and as a deputy prime minister in the Chuan Leekpai government.
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- Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth