PPRP fight 'over B1tn Covid kitty'

PPRP fight 'over B1tn Covid kitty'

A power struggle within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) is raging, with major factions plotting a leadership change and a push for a cabinet reshuffle so they can control the Finance Ministry which is to oversee a 1-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief plan, a PPRP source told the Bangkok Post.

A 400-billion-baht allocation under the ministry's 1-trillion-baht borrowing scheme is the latest issue contributing to the internal rift, the source said, adding that infighting has gripped the PPRP since the Covid-19 outbreak reached Thailand early this year.

Some factions have been trying to push for a change in the party's leadership, with party leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, and secretary-general and Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong the main targets for removal, the source said.

The factions include the Sam Mitr (Three Allies group) led by Suriya Jungrungreangkij; the Chon Buri group led by Suchart Chomklin, the Korat group led by Virat Ratanasate; the group of Bangkok MPs led by Nataphol Teepsuwan, and a group of northern MPs led by Capt Thamanat Prompow, the source said. These factions want Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, the PPRP's chief strategist, to replace Mr Uttama as party leader.

As a result, 18 party executive committee members, who belong to these factions, resigned on Monday, triggering an election for a new leader and executive committee within 45 days.

The next move will be for these factions to push for a cabinet reshuffle so their people can take control of "A-list" cabinet posts, particularly the finance portfolio currently held by Mr Uttama, the source said.

The Finance Ministry is overseeing the plan to borrow about 1 trillion baht to help people affected by the pandemic, repair the financial system and restore economic security. An executive decree authorising the borrowing was passed by MPs on Sunday.

Of the 1 trillion baht, 600 billion is for financial aid and health-related plans for those whose jobs and businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The remaining 400 billion is for economic and social rehabilitation via projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

From the 400-billion-baht portion, the 273 government MPs will receive 80 million baht each while the 207 opposition MPs will receive 40 million baht each. There will still be almost 300 billion baht left over and this is why the finance minister post is being eyed by the PPRP factions, the source said.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday told reporters that party members must thrash out their differences.

On Sunday, MPs also approved another decree worth 500 billion baht to help affected SMEs, and another worth 400 billion to boost liquidity.

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