PM says he 'won't quit'
Four cabinet ministers resign from posts
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted Tuesday he will not resign and will remain in power until a new government is sworn in.
His comments followed the resignation of four cabinet ministers who are executives of the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
Following their resignation, Gen Prayut said he would not resign as prime minister or as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He was responding to other politicians' calls for his resignation as premier ahead of the general election.
"I won't quit. If I quit, who can take my place?" he said when reporters asked whether he would step down if he became a prime ministerial candidate on any party's ticket.
There is not a law requiring him to step down as prime minister and as for the NCPO, he would remain its chief because the council would remain in power until a new government was established, Gen Prayut said.
Speaking about the four ministers who resigned, Gen Prayut said their deputies and other ministers could take over their responsibilities.
The four ministers -- Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, and PM's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool -- tendered their resignation letters to Gen Prayut at Government House Tuesday morning. Their resignations are effective Wednesday.
Gen Prayut also hinted that he would become a prime ministerial candidate if he is invited by a party to be on its ticket. However, he ruled out the option of returning to power as an "outsider" premier following the March 24 general election.
Speaking about his political future, Gen Prayut said he has to wait for a party to invite him to become its prime ministerial candidate first, and that he would consider joining any party whose policies are in line with those of the government.
"I already have it in mind. But I want to look at the policies to be sure. If I want to remain in politics, I'll accept a party's invitation to be nominated as a candidate for prime minister. I won't accept a position as an outsider prime minister," Gen Prayut said.
He said his political future would be made clear between Feb 4 and 8 -- the period for parties to submit their lists of prime ministerial candidates to the Election Commission (EC).
Mr Sontirat, the PPRP's secretary-general, said his and the other resignations set a precedent because politicians who criticised them for staying on as cabinet ministers had never done the same.
Four cabinet ministers stepped down Tuesday to begin full-time political activities with the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP). From left as they depart Government House, PM's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool, Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
The four said they resigned because their tasks as ministers were finished. They could now fully commit themselves to their political activities.
Mr Uttama is the PPRP leader, Mr Suvit is deputy leader and Mr Kobsak the party spokesman.
When asked whether Gen Prayut would be on the PPRP's prime ministerial nomination list, Mr Uttama said his party has not approached anyone, but details will become clear when the party submits its prime ministerial candidate list to the EC between Feb 4-8.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak denied that he would be among the PPRP's three potential candidates for prime minister.
He said he never attended the party's meetings, adding that he plans to retire and travel.
Under the 2017 constitution, Gen Prayut potentially has two channels at his disposal to retain his grip on power as Thailand looks to return to democracy.
The first option could see his name appear on a list of up to three prime ministerial candidates put forward by a political party.
The second could see him nominated as a non-elected "outsider" prime minister, which could transpire if parliament fails to choose a prime minister via the first option.
- Earlier report: Prayut won't resign or reshuffle the cabinet