Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) Prawit Wongsuwon on Friday ordered his MPs to give an equal number of votes to each cabinet minister on Saturday, according to a party source.
Parliament will vote on a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and nine cabinet ministers after the four-day censure debate.
In a rare move, Gen Prawit on Friday issued instructions at an urgent meeting of party MPs and leaders of key factions within the party amid speculation that some cabinet ministers might get more support than others, the source said.
Two cabinet ministers -- Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin -- were reportedly set to get the least backing.
People attend a parallel censure debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and nine cabinet ministers outside parliament yesterday. The debate was organised by a Facebook page named 'Mob Fest'. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A faction of PPRP MPs under Gen Prawit had threatened to vote against Mr Nataphol because they were unhappy that his wife, Taya Teepsuwan, planned to stand as a PPRP candidate in the Bangkok governor election later this year against another PPRP candidate.
However, Gen Prawit told party MPs at Friday's meeting to back all cabinet ministers.
The source also said Mr Suchart knew he might get the fewest votes so he went to Gen Prawit asking for help. The party leader duly intervened and told party MPs to vote equally for the sake of party unity and its public image.
Previously, Wirach Ratanasate, chief government whip and a PPRP list MP, expressed confidence that the ten cabinet ministers would survive the vote of confidence with the support of 270 government MPs.
There are currently 487 MPs and each minister will need the support of at least half of them.
Prime Minister's Office Minister and PPRP secretary-general Anucha Nakasai said after the meeting that Gen Prawit had called the meeting to ask party MPs if they had any questions about the 10 cabinet ministers targeted by the opposition.
"Party MPs had no questions because each cabinet minister explained themselves clearly. In particular, Gen Prayut did a good job of clarifying all issues," Mr Anucha said.
He also confirmed that each cabinet minister would receive an equal number of votes today.
Regarding speculation of a cabinet shake-up, Mr Anucha said the meeting did not discuss the matter.
Deputy Prime Minister and Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul said on Friday that a decision to reshuffle the cabinet would rest with the prime minister.
He added that unless the opposition offered solid evidence to back their claims against the cabinet ministers, Bhumjaithai, as a coalition party, would vote for the ministers.
However, a group of Democrat Party MPs calling themselves "rebellious" Democrats announced they would vote independently. Panich Vikitsreth, a list-MP of the Democrat Party which is also a coalition partner, posted on Facebook that he opposed all forms of corruption and would vote to protect the people's interests.
Anwar Salae, a Pattani MP and deputy secretary-general of the Democrat Party, issued an open letter saying that political etiquette should not be used to sway votes.
Meanwhile, the Facebook page of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, part of the anti-government Ratsadon (People's) Movement, said on Friday they would hold a rally outside parliament near Kiak Kai intersection at 3pm today.