Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will not apply to become a member of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) with the aim of replacing Gen Prawit Wongsuwon as its leader, Gen Prayut said yesterday, swatting away rumours to the contrary.
An earlier report made such a claim, citing an unnamed source. It added that Gen Prawit would be relegated to the role of secretary-general.
Gen Prayut said he was shocked to learn of the rumour when he awoke on Tuesday and had no clue where it originated from.
“There’s nothing going on. I’m keeping my mind on my work as usual. Things are going well. That’s all I can say. I don’t know where the rumour came from,” he told reporters at Government House after the weekly cabinet meeting.
The prime minister did not reply when asked about his political future.
When asked if he would seek another term in office, Gen Prayut said he was focusing on the work at hand and ensuring the government successfully completes its four-year term.
“That is a different issue and it is up to the public,” he added.
Before the prime minister spoke with the media, several PPRP heavyweights had rallied to his side in asserting the rumour was without substance.
It surfaced shortly after the budget bill for fiscal 2023 passed its first reading with 278 votes in favour, including some from opposition MPs.
Gen Prawit looked agitated on Tuesday when asked if he was prepared to surrender his role in the ruling party to the PM
“You should ask the person who spread the news,” he said.
Digital, Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the PPRP’s deputy leader, denied there would be any leadership change in the party.
When asked if the unsubstantiated claim may have been deliberately propagated to create a rift between Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit, Mr Chaiwut pointed to the smooth passage of the budget bill as signaling how unified the party was.
“I haven’t heard anything like that. I think rumours like this don’t deserve much of our time or attention, but we should consider where it originated from,” he said.
PM’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai said he was unaware of the report whereas Deputy PPRP leader Paiboon Nititawan agreed it could be a bid to destabilise the ruling party. He said that as the head of the committee on party regulations he would launch an investigation to find out the source of this “fake news”, adding he already had an idea who the unnamed source may be.
Mr Paiboon said it could be a PPRP member who recently rejoined the party after leaving it. In the interim, that person is known to have spread false reports that were damaging to the PPRP for his own gain, he added.
Mr Paiboon’s remark triggered speculation that he may have been referring to Seksakol “Rambo Isan”. Mr Seksakol quit the PPRP to join the Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party early this year.
He declined to confirm on Tuesday whether he had rejoined the ruling party, but said he would continue backing Gen Prayut.
However, Mr Seksakol’s younger brother, Chanasak Atthawong, said Mr Seksakol had already quit the Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party and reapplied to serve as a member of the PPRP.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai secretary-general Prasert Chantararuangtong said he would be delighted if the prime minister applied to join the ruling party.