Sontirat says he won't accept energy post

Sontirat says he won't accept energy post

Suriya Jungrungreangkij (left), a PPRP party-list MP and leader of the Sam Mitr faction, and Sontirat Sontijirawong, PPRP secretary-general and list MP, see their seats swapped in the latest cabinet lineup and Mr Suriya is not happy with it. (Bangkok Post file photos)
Suriya Jungrungreangkij (left), a PPRP party-list MP and leader of the Sam Mitr faction, and Sontirat Sontijirawong, PPRP secretary-general and list MP, see their seats swapped in the latest cabinet lineup and Mr Suriya is not happy with it. (Bangkok Post file photos)

Palang Pracharath Party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong says he will not accept the energy ministerial post after a faction in the coalition party showed strong resistance.

The Sam Mitr (Three Allies) faction of the PPRP has proposed that Mr Sontirat be removed as party secretary-general for causing a rift in the coalition party.

The group, with 31 of the party’s 116 MPs, also urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the cabinet lineup agreed on June 11 in which three of its members were given cabinet seats.

In the June 11 lineup, core Sam Mitr leader and party-list MP Suriya Jungrungreangkij was tipped to be the energy minister. Another core leader of the group, party-list MP Somsak Thepsutin, was promised the justice portfolio and group member Chai Nat MP Anucha Nakasai was to be a deputy finance minister.

But more changes were made later, reportedly to accommodate seats for the Chart Pattana Party, for Don Pramudwinai to continue as the foreign minister and to allow a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to control all key economic ministries. The changes resulted in Mr Suriya being moved to be industry minister while Mr Anucha's name was no longer on the list.

The group held a briefing on Monday to announce its decisions.

Bangkok MP Sira Janejaka, a Sam Mitr member, said he would submit a motion to remove Mr Sontirat as party secretary-general at the party’s meeting on Tuesday.

"We view him as a high risk to the stability of the party and the government. He’s made several mistakes and lacks leadership. Each time I asked to see him, I was turned down and problems were never solved," he said.

He added that even now, when PPRP was in crisis, Mr Sontirat continued to refuse to talk to his group.

"We think Mr Sontirat should resign as party secretary-general or quit from the party. He must also show responsibility by not accepting a ministerial post in the cabinet," said Mr Sira.

Mr Sontirat had earlier been tipped to be the industry minister and was swapped with Mr Suriya in the revised lineup.

The faction wants Mr Suriya as energy minister in the cabinet lineup rather than industry minister as in the revised plan. It also wants to see Mr Anucha reinstated as a deputy finance ministerial candidate as agreed earlier.

"We had nothing against [the June 11 list] since we were aware how difficult it was to allocate cabinet seats this time. When there were no seats left at the agriculture and transport ministries for PPRP, we accepted the reality and agreed with the conclusion on June 11," he said, referring to the agreement between PPRP and the Democrat Party, which let the latter have the agriculture and commerce ministries.

However, more changes were made after that and Mr Suriya was moved from the energy ministry, he added.

"We believe Mr Suriya is more suitable for the energy portfolio than the industry ministry. As an industrial magnate, he will be subjected to much criticism if he becomes the industry minister.

Mr Suriya, an uncle of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, owns an audio, electric and electronic parts business.

"Mr Anucha was also removed from the latest lineup and he later said he would make the sacrifice and would not demand anything. However, he would like to see Mr Suriya where he was earlier."

Mr Sontirat said on Monday afternoon he had nothing to do with changes in the cabinet lineup.

"I can’t choose the ministry I want to work in and I’m ready to do my job in anywhere I’m assigned to,” he said.

He cited as an example when he heard he would be the industry minister, he started preparing a team of professionals and drafted policies.

“I insist I do not want and will not accept the ministerial position at the Energy Ministry. I do hope everything will clear up soon so we can proceed to work for the country,” the former commerce minister said. 

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