PM brushes aside reshuffle rumours
Won't be swayed by censure debate votes
The government is working to patch up internal rifts in the aftermath of last week's censure debate amid Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's repeated denials of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who also leads the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), has brushed aside claims that the coalition parties' unity is on the rocks following the no-confidence session.
The reported rift stems from the decision by six PPRP MPs of the so-called Star Faction to abstain instead of backing Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, in the crucial vote.
"I'll explain to the coalition [Bhumjaithai] Party and clear the air myself," Gen Prawit said.
He has also talked to Mr Saksayam, saying "there was nothing amiss" but conceded that any hard feelings on Bhumjaithai's part were "understandable".
He said Mr Saksayam merely wanted to know what issue had led to him being snubbed.
The transport minister survived the non-confident vote 258-201 with 12 abstentions, the slimmest majority of the 10 censure-targeted ministers.
Half of those who abstained were Star Faction members, which was seen as having defied Gen Prawit's directive for PPRP MPs to give equal votes to all 10 under-threat ministers.
Gen Prawit admitted it was difficult to convince small coalition partners how to vote in such matters.
Wathanya Wong-opasee, a PPRP list-MP and a leader of the Star Faction, has apologised to Gen Prawit for any embarrassment caused to Bhumjaithai but maintained that members of parliament were entitled to free expression in a democratic system.
A PPRP source said the party was considering taking action against the rebels and there are fears the snub could affect its ties with Bhumjaithai.
Indeed, Newin Chidchob, the Bhumjaithai Party's influential older brother of Mr Saksayam, is said to be pressuring the PPRP to take action.
However, Supachai Jaisamut, a Bhumjaithai list-MP, insisted this was not true and Mr Newin had had nothing to do with the controversy.
The PM also commented yesterday on the futures of those cabinet minister whose performances had been questioned during last week's four-day no-confidence session and dismissed speculation they might be replaced.
The premier insisted he would not remove any ministers purely based on the result of votes at the end of the debate.
The best performer was Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who picked up 275 confidence votes, with 201 against and six abstentions.
Gen Prayut himself pulled in 272 confidence votes against 206 no-confidence votes with three abstentions.
"I take the votes as being a resolution of the parliament. That's it," he said. "It doesn't matter how much more or less votes the cabinet ministers walked away with. A pass is a pass."
He said it was crucial to focus on the progress individual ministers were able to make in implementing policies. If they were making progress with assigned projects, it was only fair to let them stay on and finish them before evaluating their performances.
Gen Prayut said the key was for cabinet ministers to address issues in a way that catered to the best interest of the people and he blamed the media for fuelling the speculation about a cabinet reshuffle.
Meanwhile, Mr Nataphol, who is believed to be most at risk of losing his cabinet seat, maintained only the prime minister could effect a cabinet shake-up and he had no problem with his job being the subject of speculation.
Meanwhile, four MPs of the opposition Move Forward Party have been barred from meeting their constituents in Chiang Rai and Chon Buri or taking part in any party activities after delivering votes of confidence for some cabinet ministers.
Karom Ponpornklang, one of the four MPs, said he had been spared the ultimate penalty -- being expelled from the party -- after voting for both Mr Saksayam and Mr Anutin.
Expulsions would have enabled the MPs to defect to other parties, according to the law.