Abhisit shuns Prayut supporters

Abhisit shuns Prayut supporters

Suthep's foundation fails to register a party

Democrat leader and ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva: All party members must support him to become the next prime minister. (File photo)
Democrat leader and ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva: All party members must support him to become the next prime minister. (File photo)

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has shut the party's door on former MPs thinking of remaining with the party but who wish to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as an outsider premier after the next general election.

"Anyone contemplating supporting Gen Prayut [to return as outsider prime minister] need not come to the party. There are plenty of other [party] choices for them," Mr Abhisit said.

His remark was interpreted as a snub to the party's former politicians who took part in the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) mass protest against the Yingluck Shinawatra administration between late 2013 and early 2014 before the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)-engineered coup.

The PDRC, led by former Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, has since disbanded and has now morphed into the Muan Maha Prachachon Foundation chaired by Mr Suthep.

Mr Suthep has consistently backed Gen Prayut to return as prime minister post-election, saying he trusted NCPO chief's integrity and his ability to keep the country in order.

The foundation was reportedly looking to register its own political party. But after registration applications closed on March 31, there was no record of a political group seeking registration under the foundation's name, according to the Election Commission.

Earlier, Thani Thaugsuban, the former Democrat MP for Surat Thani who is Mr Suthep's younger brother, said he would leave the Democrat Party to apply for registration of the foundation's party.

No former MPs of the party, other than Mr Thani, have said they planned to defect.

Several PDRC leaders who are former Democrat MPs have declared they wanted to return to the party as existing parties have begun a process to review their membership database. The review is a compulsory step to maintaining the party status and conducting a primary vote where only legally-registered members can choose who their respective parties' MP candidates will be.

On Sunday, Mr Abhisit insisted the Democrat Party's principle has been to uphold democracy. If former MPs and members were steadfast in their support of the Democrats, they must back the leader of the party to be prime minister in the next poll.

However, he declined to say whether the Democrats would agree to be part of a coalition government with Gen Prayut as prime minister. "I can't speak for the party," Mr Abhisit said.

Gen Prayut may return either as outsider prime minister if he has enough votes from both MPs and senators, or as prime minister nominated by a political party represented in the House of Representatives.

Mr Abhisit, meanwhile, urged the Senate, who will represent professional and social groups, to respect the people who selected them. The next batch of senators, whose selection will precede the general election, will be divided into those either picked or endorsed by the NCPO.

They will join the MPs in voting for an outsider prime minister if the MPs could not agree on the choice of premier from among the candidates nominated by political parties.

Mr Abhisit also responded to the possibility of the NCPO extending its grip on power if there was political unrest before the election. He said it was important to honour one's promise, a reference to the roadmap to election. If a promise is reneged, that could be a pretext to political conflict.

Also Sunday, Akanat Prompan, the former core leader of the PDRC, reaffirmed he was still with the Democrats although he cannot reconfirm his party membership because he was ordained as a monk earlier. Anyone who enters the monkhood loses their membership.

Mr Akanat said he would need to reapply as a member after the NCPO lifts the political activities ban probably in June. "I'm sticking with the Democrats ... free of the condition that I will support Gen Prayut to be an [outsider] prime minister," he said.

Buddhipongse Punnakanta, another former PDRC core leader, also said he would stay with the Democrat Party. Meanwhile, political parties have begun in earnest to check their membership database, which starts today.

The parties have until the end of the month to review their files on existing members.

The Pheu Thai Party said it had opened its headquarters in Bangkok for members to reconfirm their status with the party, according to party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai.

A party source said Pheu Thai was organising a Songkran celebration on Wednesday when many of its core members are expected to turn up to validate their membership.

Meanwhile, the Bhumjaithai Party said it would not join a government with a party which causes political conflict.

Asked if the party would support Gen Prayut as an outsider premier, Anuthin Charvirakul, the party leader, said the answer depends on the political situation in the future.

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