Chatchai shrugs off NCPO proxy party talk
Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya has played down rumours that a group applying to register a political party under the name "Palang Pracharat" is affiliated with the regime and would back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as premier after the election.
The group is reportedly led by Col Suchart Jantarachotikul, a Class 12 member of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, the same class as Gen Prayut and Gen Chatchai.
Col Suchart is one of the 15 founding members applying to establish the new party.
Rumours have circulated the group could be affiliated to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as it used the name "Pracharat", the same name as a government policy initiated by Gen Prayut.
The administration is promoting its "Pracharat" policy to foster close cooperation between the public, the government and the business sector to pursue sustainable development and boost local economies.
Asked whether the group is an NCPO proxy, which would support Gen Prayut returning as the premier, Gen Chatchai said it was news to him, adding that this was unlikely.
The deputy premier went on to say that Col Suchart is a former member of the Khwam Wang Mai Party (New Aspiration Party) and it was unlikely he would form a new party for such a purpose.
"It is only people talking," said Gen Chatchai.
Asked about reports saying the group would invite Gen Prayut to serve as the party's adviser, Gen Chatchai said he was not aware of them, adding that Col Suchart may have said it.
Commenting on the party's name, he said people can call a party what they like, but what they stand for has to be spelt out.
Asked whether he would be interested in joining the party, Gen Chatchai replied with a categorical "no".
Referring to speculation the regime is launching a series of megaprojects a bid to return to power after the election, the deputy premier said the projects are to provide the country with a solid foundation as part of the 20-year national strategic plan.
He said the prime minister is determined to press ahead with the projects regardless of what is on the political agenda.
Election Commissioner, Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, said there is no law preventing any group registering a party with the same name as a government initiative.
Asked whether Gen Prayut could serve as the party's adviser, Mr Somchai said the premier would have to join the party first since the role would be part of the party's administrative structure. Gen Prayut can only be a member of one party, he noted.
There is no regulation that bans the prime minister or ministers from being members of a political party, he added.
Asked whether the party would have a competitive edge if the prime minister were to join it, Mr Somchai said it would definitely have an impact.
A party which has a popular figure would have an advantage over others, but the prime minister would have to refrain from using his position to directly benefit his party, he added.