Internal friction a worry for Prayut

Internal friction a worry for Prayut

Rebel MPs have PM concerned over unity

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha admits he has been worried about internal conflicts among cabinet ministers since last week's censure debate.

The no-confidence motion against Gen Prayut and nine cabinet ministers concluded with all votes going in the government's favour on Saturday.

The reported rift, however, stems from the decision by a group of six MPs in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to abstain instead of backing Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, in the crucial vote.

Gen Prayut said on Tuesday: "I am worried only about the conflict within the cabinet. Other issues will be handled by political parties but I insist all coalition parties and I are working together well."

Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon on Tuesday commented only briefly to say that a party committee was considering action against the six MPs.

A PPRP source previously said that there were fears the snub could affect ties with coalition partner Bhumjaithai as Newin Chidchob, the party's de facto leader and elder brother of Mr Saksayam, is said to be pressuring the PPRP to take action.

The transport minister survived the non-confidence vote 258-201 with 12 abstentions, the slimmest majority of the 10 ministers in the opposition's crosshairs.

Half of those who abstained were members of the so-called Star Faction, which is seen as having defied Gen Prawit's directive for PPRP MPs to give equal votes to all 10 ministers under threat.

The Democrat Party, meanwhile, will also ask its three MPs who abstained from voting for its leader, Commerce Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, to explain themselves, said party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng. The MPs were Panit Wikitset, Apichai Techa-ubon, and Anwar Salae who backed other ministers but abstained from voting for their own leader.

Deputy Prime Minister and Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul on Tuesday said that it was undecided yet what action the PPRP would take against the rebel MPs.

Mr Anutin said Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit had nothing to do with the abstentions and it was up to the PPRP to handle its own internal affairs.

Deputy House Speaker Suchart Tancharoen on Tuesday pointed out that the constitution guaranteed an MP's right to vote independently without any pressure from others.

He also said that political parties can investigate and take action against any MPs who failed to toe the party line.

However, he warned that parties must be careful not to be pressured by other coalition partners into punishing their own MPs as this could violate the constitution, which bans outsiders from wielding influence on parties' internal affairs.

Mr Suchart also said party resolutions were not legally binding and only served to maintain party unity.

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