The threat of a lawsuit against former Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is an act of self-defence against a baseless claim the politician made, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
Mr Wissanu said the premier considers the politician's comments regarding the mobilisation of 40 billion baht to create a pro-military party as false and misleading to the public.
Mr Watchara said earlier the regime was creating a party to back Gen Prayut's return to the premiership after the next general election at a cost of 40 billion baht.
The prime minister responded by saying he would ask legal officials to consider if the politician had broken the law.
Mr Wissanu said the politician's motive must first be determined, adding that making a false claim against someone in public office is a legal offence.
Asked if the remark was aimed at discrediting the regime, the deputy prime minister said he did not believe this was the case. However, it could cause misunderstandings and make the public lose trust in the regime, he added.
According to Mr Wissanu, the Democrat member's remark does not appear to constitute a political act.
"But it could turn out to be a political move after the facts have been examined. A slap in the face is not political as long as it is not intended to politically discredit that person," he said.
Mr Watchara insisted Wednesday the claim did not involve the prime minister. He challenged Gen Prayut to proceed with legal action.
"He is not the party leader. I didn't say he was behind the mobilisation of the funds. The financial figure was the target, but I don't know how much has been raised," he said.
Meanwhile, Democrat deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said the regime has a few more tricks up its sleeve to further delay the poll, tentatively scheduled for next February.
He said three organic laws are pending review by the Constitutional Court, the most important of which governs political parties. That has since been forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman for a ruling, he added.
Mr Nipit said if the court rules against the legislation, which has been passed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the draft law would have to be amended. There are two ways it could be revised to comply with the charter, he added.
The law could be returned to the NLA as part of the amendment process, which could take up a year to wrap up. The other option would be to invoke Section 44 to fast-track matters.
"The Section 44 option may take less time but it would affect the roadmap to the election," he said.
Mr Nipit called on legal specialists and law institutions to study legal issues that concern standards of law-making and enforcement.
Bhumjaithai leader Anuthin Charvirakul said yesterday the party had in mind a list of candidates to contest the elections in Nakhon Ratchasima, a province with one of the biggest pools of MP seats up for grabs.
He said that even though the party had lost some of those constituencies, it could still emerge strong due to the new election rules.