Prayut 'sorry' for outburst
PM 'carried away' by press comments
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday apologised for his emotional outbursts in response to calls by political parties for him to step down if he becomes a prime ministerial candidate on the ticket of a political party.
"I apologise for saying unpleasant things. Sometimes, I get a bit carried away," Gen Prayut told reporters at Government House following his outbursts in the morning.
The prime minister bluntly repeated his rejection of calls by parties to relinquish administrative power if he decides to run as a party's prime ministerial candidate for the general election.
Parties, including the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties, have demanded that Gen Prayut step down if he accepts a party's invitation, arguing it would boost lagging confidence that all parties will be contesting the March 24 polls on an equal footing.
"There is no law requiring me to step down. Come and try to expel me. I won't quit," an emotional Gen Prayut told a news conference using term "mueng", an insulting form of personal pronoun in Thai, when he referred to those demanding that he step down.
Gen Prayut said former US president Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not step down when they were seeking another term in office.
He also pointed out that the Democrat Party ran the country but still lost to Pheu Thai in the 2011 general election, to substantiate his argument that the incumbent government does not have an edge.
Gen Prayut has finally received a formal invitation to stand as the Palang Pracharath Party's (PPRP) prime ministerial candidate from the former ministers leading the pro-regime party.
Party leader Uttama Savanayana led PPRP co-founders to meet the prime minister at Government House on Friday afternoon. They gave him a copy of the party's policy platforms and documents outlining why they wanted him to be the party's standard-bearer in the March 24 election.
Gen Prayut said he needed time to make a decision. All parties must finalise their prime ministerial candidates by Feb 8 -- and each one can name up to three people. The PPRP has already named Mr Uttama and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak as its other two prime ministerial picks.
Mr Uttama, a former industry minister, said after the meeting that the party is hoping for a positive reply from Gen Prayut.
Formed last year and bolstered by the defections of numerous seasoned politicians from other parties, the PPRP is widely viewed as the vehicle for cementing the rule of the current regime as an elected government. Its key figures have denied any such motivation.
Also attending the talks with Gen Prayut on Friday were former science and technology minister and the PPRP's deputy leader Suvit Maesincee, former PM's office minister and party spokesman Kobsak Pootrakool and former commerce minister and party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong.
They resigned from the cabinet along with Mr Uttama on Jan 29 to avoid conflicts of interest.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Friday said the prime minister and cabinet ministers will have to maintain neutrality in the lead-up to the election and be careful in exercising authority to avoid creating advantages or disadvantages for certain political parties.
Mr Wissanu pointed out that Gen Prayut cannot attend PPRP meetings if he agrees to become its prime ministerial candidate, because Gen Prayut is still a political office-holder. He also said there is no need for Gen Prayut to ask the Election Commission for permission to use social media to communicate with people because he is not running for a house seat.