PPRP 'feast' nets record cash haul
Banquet woos rich, powerful backers
The Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) appears to be winning favour among business leaders and the elite after the party claimed its fund-raising banquet scheduled to be held Wednesday evening achieved its target of raising 600 million baht before the first service.
If the PPRP reaped 600 million baht-plus, as claimed, that would break the record set by the Democrat Party back in 2011 when it led a coalition government after the election.
At the time, the Democrats raised 500 million baht from a 2.5 million baht per table, 200-table Chinese-style banquet.
The PPRP event, named "United Thailand", kicks off at 6pm at Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani today, with some 200 tables for a Chinese-style feast. Each table costs three million baht.
PPRP deputy leader Nataphol Teepsuwan said Tuesday the 600-million-baht target has been exceeded with some of the party's supporters paying more than three million baht a table.
Mr Nataphol declined to identify the benefactors but it is widely believed that many of them comprise influential business figures, high-profile politicians and VIP guests who are banking on the party forming the next government after the general election, which is tentatively scheduled to be held on Feb 24 next year.
The PPRP is widely believed to be a political vehicle of the military regime to help Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to return to power as prime minister again after the election.
Four ministers of the Prayut cabinet are also key executives of the party.
The ministers are Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and Prime Minister's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool.
Mr Uttama serves as the party leader and Mr Suvit is his deputy. Mr Sontirat is the party's secretary-general and Mr Kobsak was appointed as the party spokesman.
Mr Nataphol said the party's executive committee will decide how the money will be spent.
As the election draws nearer, the four ministers attached to the PPRP have come under fierce criticism along with pressure to step down.
Government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta said that the prime minister had issued a warning to the four ministers "to be careful" at a recent cabinet meeting.
Gen Prayut asked the ministers to take into consideration the legal implications and treat the political roles as a "personal interest".
"They should not involve the government," Mr Buddhipongse said, quoting the prime minister.
Several other parties also hope to raise large amounts of funds through similar banquets.
The Action Coalition for Thailand (Ruam Palang Prachachart Thai), supported by political firebrand Suthep Thuagsuban, held a 240-table banquet at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.
Participants were asked to pay one million baht per table.
The party's director, Anusaree Thapsuwan, said the tables were sold out and the event is expected to raise 240 million baht for the ACT.
A spokesman for the Democrat Party, Thana Chirawinit, said they are preparing to host their own event.
The Pheu Thai Party is also said to be planning to host a banquet.
Meanwhile, Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Jarungwit Phumma said the agency's meeting on Monday agreed that election ballots will have party names and logos as well as candidate numbers.
According to Mr Jarungwit, different ballots would be printed out for the 350 constituencies.
He said it has already been confirmed by the contractors that the printing and delivery of the ballot papers, particularly to those who are living abroad, can be done in time.
Mr Jarungwit said the EC and political parties are scheduled to meet today to discuss electioneering expenses, placards and the use of social media to canvass for votes.