Small parties do lunch, deny grudge
Thamanat says 'not interested' in dinner
Key figures from small coalition parties yesterday held a lunch get-together in what was seen as a "show of power" after they were not invited to a recent dinner hosted by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The event took place a few days after the March 8 dinner Gen Prayut hosted for key figures from four major coalition parties -- the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), the Bhumjaithai Party, the Democrat Party and the Chartthaipattana Party -- at the Rajpruek Club in Bangkok.
Thamanat Prompow, who broke away from the PPRP to join the Setthakij Thai Party, also attended the lunch. He denied reports that he had set up the meeting and said he attended as a guest.
Asked if the get-together had political implications, Capt Thamanat said he and these small parties had formed close relations while he served as a deputy agriculture minister.
He said the lunch was not designed to create an impression. "Don't forget that I'm the one who approached them to join the PPRP-led government," said the former PPRP secretary-general.
He dismissed it as too early to say if his group, comprising 18 MPs, would support the government in a no-confidence motion tentatively scheduled to be filed after the House reconvenes in May.
Political observers reckon that whether or not Gen Prayut survives the planned censure debate would very much depend on support from Capt Thamanat's group and small partners.
PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon had said repeatedly that the defectors would continue to support the coalition government.
He was quoted as telling those attending the March 8 gathering they would, too.
When asked about Gen Prawit's assurances, Capt Thamanat expressed little interest in what was discussed at the March 8 dinner.
Gen Prayut was at odds with Capt Thamanat after the latter allegedly tried to mobilise no-confidence votes against the premier in a censure debate last September.
New Democracy Party leader Suratin Picharn said yesterday he set up the meeting as a courtesy to Capt Thamanat.
However, he insisted the small parties held no grudge after not being invited to the March 8 dinner and said their lunch was not a show of power. He also affirmed support for the government.
Others joining the lunch included Mr Suratin, Forest Conservation Party leader Damrong Pidech and the Puea Chart Thai Party's Khathathep Techadechruangkul.
PPRP MP Pichet Sathirachawal also attended and said he joined the lunch on behalf of the PPRP and Group of 16 -- a recently formed cross-party group of MPs.
No representatives from other small coalition parties attended.