The Bhumjaithai Party has made a last-minute about-turn and pulled out of the censure debate to be led by the Democrat Party later this month.
Opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanavisit, also a Democrat, said Thursday the censure debate was backed by the signatures of 155 Democrat MPs and two MPs of the Rak Thailand Party.
But Bhumjaithai, which has the second most seats in the opposition, would not join the debate, he said.
The withdrawal came as a surprise to a faction within the Bhumjaithai Party, which had planned to move ahead with the debate and impeachment bids against key cabinet members.
Democrat MP for Phatthalung Naris Khamnurak, who is also opposition whip secretary, said two weeks ago Bhumjaithai intended taking part in both the debate and impeachment bid. However, that soon changed.
According to the Democrats, Bhumjaithai on Wednesday sent the names of its MPs to back only the censure debate motion but said it would not second the impeachment motion.
Bhumjaithai later postponed its decision on whether to support the censure motion until Thursday.
Mr Naris said Bhumjaithai only informed him Thursday it had now decided to withdraw from both the no-confidence motion and impeachment attempt.
The Democrat Party then formally filed its impeachment motion with Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanich.
The motion seeks the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuladilok in his former capacity as a deputy transport minister.
Mr Jurin, the opposition chief whip who filed the impeachment motion, accused the three of corruption and of committing legal offences.
The Democrat Party is expected to submit a separate censure motion with the House speaker today. It did not say what cabinet members will face the censure motion.
Supamart Issarapakdi, acting Bhumjaithai spokeswoman, said the reason her party backed away was because the Democrats refused to disclose the content of the censure motion and the targeted ministers. "We can't sign a motion we haven't read. We won't sign a blank cheque," she said.
Boonjong Wongtrairat, Bhumjaithai deputy leader, said he did not support the party's decision to withdraw from the debate. He said party list-MP and former House speaker Chai Chidchob was planning to speak during the debate against Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk. Ms Supamart, however, said the party found no evidence of corruption against Mr Preecha, despite Mr Chai's planned speech.
Mr Chai said yesterday he was surprised his party withdrew its support for the impeachment and censure motions because he, along with 23 MPs in the party's Friends of Newin controlling faction, had signed their names to back the motions at the party meeting on Tuesday.
The debate is set for Nov 25-27, but could take longer depending on how many ministers are targetted.
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Writer: Manop Thip-Osod & Aekarach Sattaburuth