Thamanat's new role irks Democrats
The Democrat Party has expressed displeasure at a key figure of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) being appointed to oversee a Covid-19 coordination effort in three southern provinces traditionally regarded as Democrat strongholds.
Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit admitted on Sunday his coalition party was unhappy with an appointment that many believe to be an attempt by the PPRP to make inroads into his party's base.
The PPRP appointed deputy leader Thamanat Prompow, who is also deputy agriculture minister, to supervise a national centre for Covid-19 coordination.
He has been handed a brief to pay particular attention to the southern provinces of Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phuket.
Mr Jurin said he had instructed party senior members -- Social Development and Human Security and Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee -- to consult with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha over the terms of the appointment.
Gen Prayut acknowledged the issue and ordered Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to look into the matter, according to Mr Jurin.
The Democrat leader said the issue should be resolved this week to prevent it "getting out of hand".
A source close to the matter said the allocation of Capt Thamanat to supervise the Covid coordination effort in the three southern provinces appeared to be a deliberate move to undermine Democrats on their own turf under the guise of virus containment.
Mr Jurin noted that Capt Thamanat was initially assigned to supervise the campaign in Phayao, Chiang Rai and Nong Bua Lamphu -- his own political bastions.
Any role involving supervising the three southern provinces would be better supervised by Mr Niphon who has traditionally overseen political affairs in the area.
Mr Jurin said the move may be designed to pave a path for the PPRP to eat into the Democrat stronghold in the future.
Meanwhile, Patcharin Sumsiripong, the PPRP spokeswoman and MP for Bangkok, confirmed Capt Thamanat's appointment and said his authority would enable people to gain wider access to medical attention.
She said the government was providing full support in terms of equipment and manpower to limit the rapid transmission of the virus with field hospitals now being established in heavily infected areas.