Prawit brushes off reports he will resign as PPRP leader

Prawit brushes off reports he will resign as PPRP leader

Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwon
Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwon

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has insisted he will not resign as leader of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is moving to consolidate his power within the ruling party.

Gen Prawit on Saturday brushed aside a report that he would step down.

A PPRP source said that after Capt Thamanat Prompow, PPRP secretary-general, was sacked as deputy agriculture minister and Narumon Pinyosinwat removed as deputy labour minister last week, speculation is rife that a cabinet reshuffle may follow.

The source said Gen Prayut, as well as Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, will play a greater role in the party's affairs so as to prevent the repeat of an alleged campaign engineered to oust him from the premiership during the recent censure debate. He was apparently taken unaware by the campaign and wants to close the distance between him and party MPs to help ensure greater discipline in party ranks.

Capt Thamanat stands accused of being behind the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party. It capitalised on public disaffection with the PM given the government's poor handling of the Covid crisis.

The source also said the prime minister is expected to solidify his power within the party by calling on Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat, Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij and Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin from the Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group to ensure party MPs do not break ranks.

The source also said that after the ministers were sacked, some MPs in the South are moving to seek a quota of cabinet posts because no party MPs in the southern region have been given a ministerial post so far. However, the problem is a lack of unity among southern MPs, as they are divided into several factions, the source said.

As Gen Prayut is now moving to stamp his authority on the party, it remains to be seen whether Capt Thamanat will be able to retain the role of PPRP secretary-general, the source said, adding that a change to that post is a delicate issue.

As for reports that Mr Santi is tipped to replace Capt Thamanat as party secretary-general, the source said the change could be possible with the consent of Gen Prawit.

Mr Santi missed out on the chance in the previous party shake-up in which Capt Thamanat assumed the powerful position of secretary-general. The source also said Gen Prayut could become PPRP leader, though this would be a last resort.

The source also explained why the coup-appointed senators decided on Friday to back the charter amendment bill seeking to restore the previous two-ballot voting system which will favour major parties such as the Pheu Thai Party. Pheu Thai is not seen as a threat, the source said.

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