Veteran politician Ruangkrai jumps ship
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Veteran politician Ruangkrai jumps ship

'More surprises' in store for Pheu Thai

Ruangkrai Leekitwattana
Ruangkrai Leekitwattana

The Pheu Thai Party could see "more surprises" in the next election after Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, its list MP, defected to the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) in the aftermath of the latest budget bill debate, according to chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate.

The PPRP on Thursday said Mr Ruangkrai would now be a member of the committee vetting the 2022 budget bill under the PPRP's quota.

Mr Wirach, who is also deputy leader of the PPRP, admitted Mr Ruangkrai joined the party over a month ago, adding his expertise in drafting budgetary plans was welcomed.

Mr Ruangkrai's defection to the PPRP was not a huge surprise, Mr Wirach said, noting future elections could see more unexpected turns of events like this.

According to Mr Wirach, PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon was informed of Mr Ruangkrai joining the PPRP, and Mr Prawit wanted all hands on deck.

Mr Ruangkrai's appointment to the budgetary committee under the PPRP came as a surprise.

He was a member of the Pheu Thai Party and the now-dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party.

He is also known as a critic of the government. Mr Ruangkrai served as a member of the committee vetting the 2021 budget bill under the Pheu Thai Party quota.

The 72-member budget scrutiny committee was formed after the House of Representatives passed the 3.1-trillion-baht budget spending plan on Wednesday night.

It is due to hold its first meeting today to select a chairman and fill other key positions.

Government coalition MPs closed ranks on Wednesday night to vote in favour of the budget bill.

In total, parliamentarians voted 269-201 with two abstentions in favour of the bill.

Four of the "yes" votes were cast by MPs from the opposition Move Forward Party.

Speaking after the debate, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha promised to speed up the disbursement of funds to help solve the country's problems.

The bill is expected to pass its second and third readings in August before it goes to the Senate and the palace for approval.

Gen Prayut declined to comment when asked if the public health minister's position would be reshuffled.

He thanked current cabinet ministers and gave them a thumbs-up.

Meanwhile, Prasert Chanthararuangthong, secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party, yesterday said he was satisfied with the party's performance during the three-day budget bill session.

Of the party's 134 MPs, 129 voted against the bill while five did not vote, he said.

Mr Praset said three of them had informed him they were ill at the time, while the two others -- Pornpimol Thammasan and Chakkapat Chaiyasan -- have yet to clarify why they were absent.

Mr Praset also played down Mr Ruangkrai's participation in budget bill scrutiny under the PPRP's quota, saying parties could appoint anyone deemed fit to serve on the panel.

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