Thamanat unopposed as new Palang Pracharath secretary-general

Thamanat unopposed as new Palang Pracharath secretary-general

Rise of Phayao political fixer solidifies leader Prawit Wongsuwon's firm grip on party

Thamanat Prompow thanks supporters after he emerged from the Palang Pracharath general assembly in Khon Kaen on Friday as the party’s new secretary-general. (Photo by Chakkrapan Natanri)
Thamanat Prompow thanks supporters after he emerged from the Palang Pracharath general assembly in Khon Kaen on Friday as the party’s new secretary-general. (Photo by Chakkrapan Natanri)

KHON KAEN: Thamanat Prompow, a skilled political fixer close to leader Prawit Wongsuwon, has become the new Palang Pracharath Party secretary-general, replacing Anucha Nakasai of the Sam Mitr faction.

The Phayao MP’s rise to the new position underlines the increasingly dominant role of the Prawit camp in the party and the diminishing power of the Sam Mitr group. The change was widely anticipated after Thamanat had been assigned to take charge of by-elections contested by party candidates.

The general assembly in Khon Kaen began on Friday with the party clearing the deck and Gen Prawit announcing his resignation. That paved the way for the selection of a new executive body and the re-election of Gen Prawit.

Thamanat was unopposed in the voting for secretary-general as his was the only one name proposed. He received 556 votes, with 14 voided ballots and 23 abstentions.

The lead party in the coalition government kept Narumon Pinyosinwat as treasurer and Boonsing Warinrak as registrar, and voted for a new set of executive board members.

Mr Anucha, a PM’s Office minister, is a key figure in the Sam Mitr faction, which reportedly upset Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the last cabinet reshuffle as it pressed for the energy minister’s portfolio. The group also was said to have upset Gen Prawit more recently after getting into a row with Ms Narumon, who is one of the leader’s trusted aides.

Thamanat said the strong leadership of Gen Prawit would bring an end to internal conflicts. “We have Gen Prawit Wongsuwon as the centre of power. We have to consult him on everything that will move us forward,” he said after the meeting.

The new secretary-general said Palang Pracharath would win the next general election with more seats to take control of a new government.

Mr Anucha said before the meeting that he did not know why he was being moved out of the secretary-general’s post, but he would respect the party’s decision.

Somsak Thepsutin, another key Sam Mitr member, said before the meeting that any change in the party would be accepted for the sake of unity and to prevent “self-destruction” as it needed to get through two more years before a new election is held.

Prime Minister Prayut promised on Monday to serve out his full four-year term, in remarks intended to end speculation about a snap election.

Thamanat, who also serves as deputy agriculture minister in the Prayut cabinet, has emerged as a key political operative whose skills are valued by Gen Prawit. He is said to control a faction of a dozen or more northern MPs, and he has also made some forays into the South, to the dismay of the Democrat Party, Palang Pracharath’s diminished coalition partner.

When the coalition headed by Palang Pracharath first took office, it had a razor-thin majority in the House and relied on the support of a dozen microparties. It became Thamanat’s job to keep them onside, though he caught some flak for likening that to being a monkey tender who has to throw out the occasional banana to keep them happy.

And while Thamanat has not been able to escape his past, which included a four-year stay in an Australian prison for heroin smuggling in the early 1990s, his political allies see him as invincible.

Opposition politicians sought a ruling by the Constitutional Court on Thamanat’s eligibility to serve as an MP, given that the constitution bars people convicted of felonies from doing so. However, the court ruled in May that the sentence handed down by a New South Wales court in Australia was not legally binding in Thailand.

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