Prayut pledges to reveal political ambitions

Prayut pledges to reveal political ambitions

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reaffirmed that he will announce a decision about whether he will re-enter the political fray next month.

The prime minister was speaking after reporters reminded him of the remarks he made in an interview with Bloomberg during his visit to London in June that he would make his political future clear in September.

"The time has not come yet ... I haven't forgot what I said. When the time comes, I'll let you know ... I don't know whether I'll go or stay on. I have to look at the law and the constitution. I have to consider what I should stay on for,'' he said.

Gen Prayut also said he would have to consider which party he would join. "If I decide to join a party and the people do not vote for it, how can I come back? I have my own criteria. I'll let you know in September," he said.

Speculation is rife that several MPs, particularly from the Pheu Thai Party, are being courted to join the Phalang Pracharat Party, which is seen as a potential vehicle to support Gen Prayut to return as premier after the general election tentatively slated for February 2019.

Asked about suspected efforts of the Sam Mitr Group (Three Allies) to poach politicians from other parties, Gen Prayut said that he did not know which party the group is affiliated with and that the government is keeping a close watch on its activities.

The Sam Mitr group claimed it was travelling to the provinces in the Northeast to hear local people's grievances and demands so they could be relayed to the government, though critics saw the trip as a move to gain advantage over other political groups that are restricted from engaging in political activities. The group is known to be close to Phalang Pracharat, which backs Gen Prayut's return after the poll.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday declined to comment on the Sam Mitr group's claim that it was given the green light by 2nd Army chief Lt Gen Tharakorn Thamwinthorn to engage in so-called political activities during its engagements in the Northeast.

Chusak Sirinil, head of Pheu Thai's legal team, yesterday accused the regime of applying double standards by favouring the Sam Mitr group while keeping a tight rein on other political parties.

"The regime claims there is nothing wrong with the group's activities because it is not a political party, but it is undeniable that members of the group are politicians and their trips were actually an attempt to recruit politicians to run in the polls," Mr Chusak said.

"Their activities are 100% political. In each trip, they gathered for a media briefing and there were more than five people at each one,'' Mr Chusak said, adding that such gatherings breached the regime's ban on political gatherings of five people and more.

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