Sam Mitr set to announce PPP tie-up
Members' names will be unveiled next week
The Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group is set to bring its 70 members to join the Palang Pracharath Party, which is seen as a political vehicle to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's return to power after the general election expected in late February.
Sam Mitr spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said Thursday that former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij, a key figure of the group, has confirmed he will lead 70 members to join Palang Pracharath.
Mr Suriya told a television programme that Sam Mitr will certainly join Palang Pracharath.
"I decided to return to politics because Somkid [Jatusripitak, deputy prime minister] asked me to help. He told me that he will set up a party that is friendly to every party and comes up with policies that will benefit the people," said Mr Suriya.
"I spoke to Mr Somkid back when we did not have a name for the party, and asked how can I bring the Sam Mitr group to join?"
Mr Thanakorn said the 70 members comprise 30 former MPs, and 40 local politicians, businessmen and new-generation people with "illustrious backgrounds".
Next week, Somsak Thepsuthin, another core leader of the group, will unveil who the members are, the group spokesman said.
The spokesman said Sam Mitr has decided to join Palang Pracharath because the party has offered itself as an alternative for the public. Most importantly, Palang Pracharath has agreed that it will adopt the group's proposals and integrate them as part of the party's policy.
The proposals include improving welfare benefits for village heads, kamnan, health volunteers, disaster prevention volunteers and the elderly, as well as a project called "Cows to Tackle Poverty", Mr Thanakorn said.
The project is reminiscent of the "One Million Cows" scheme initiated by Mr Somsak when he served as a cabinet minster in the Thaksin Shinawatra government. The project was aimed at giving away 1 million cattle to farmers.
Mr Thanakorn said the Sam Mitr group has travelled to the provinces to hear people's problems over the past four months and used the information to come up with a raft of measures to address the problems. The group believes these measures will be welcomed by the people.
The Sam Mitr group, seen as the regime's recruiting arm, has been accused of working to secure a political support base for the newly-established Palang Pracharath by poaching former MPs from other parties, many of whom previously belonged to the Pheu Thai Party.
Sam Mitr members are largely split into three camps. The first faction is made up of former MPs from the North, the Northeast and the Central Plains. The second faction is full of members with ties to the regime, while the final faction features those who are closely acquainted with the group's stalwarts, according to a source.
Also Thursday, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, who has been chosen as Palang Pracharath's leader, submitted documentation to the Election Commission (EC) to formally endorse the status of the new party.
At the party's first general assembly on Saturday, Mr Uttama was voted as party leader, Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee was named deputy leader, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong was appointed secretary-general, and PM's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool was given the role of spokesman.
Mr Uttama, Mr Sontirat, Mr Suvit and Mr Kobsak are all members of the government's economic team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid.
Mr Uttama brushed aside calls for the four ministers to step down after they assumed executive posts at Palang Pracharath, saying that they will do so when the right time comes.
The ministers are facing calls for them to step down as criticism mounts over potential conflicts of interest.
Mr Uttama also said he believed the general election tentatively scheduled to take place on Feb 24 would not pushed back any further.
Addressing Sam Mitr's plan to join Palang Pracharath, he said that the party's status must be formally endorsed by the EC before the party can enter talks with any groups.
However, Palang Pracharath is always open to anyone interested in joining, the minister said.