Col Suchart Chantarachotikul, chief of the southern strategic team of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), confirmed on Thursday he would defect to a new party to be formed by former permanent secretary for interior Chatchai Phromlert.
Mr Chatchai, known to have good ties with Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, retired from the civil service yesterday amid speculation that he would set up a party to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha if he seeks to return for a second term.
Col Suchart said he had considered leaving the PPRP for some time and the party to be formed by Mr Chatchai was his first choice because it would back Gen Prayut as prime minister.
He said there were several factors behind his decision to defect while admitting that the group felt it was underappreciated by the party despite winning 13 House seats in the southern region in the 2019 general election.
"Did the party ever consider giving us a cabinet seat? It doesn't have to be me and it could be anyone who is suitable for the post. But that isn't the reason I'm leaving. There are many factors," he said.
He said the PPRP's election success in the southern region was the result of his team's hard work and Gen Prayut's popularity. Gen Prayut received strong support in the southern region, he said.
The PPRP won 13 seats in the national poll and another seat in the by-election in Nakhon Si Thammarat early this year to find a replacement for Thepthai Senpong, a Democrat whose MP status was revoked by the Constitutional Court.
Col Suchart said he would leave it to the 14 MPs to decide if they would remain with the PPRP or join the new party. He said he had raised the possibility of him leaving the party with Gen Prayut in March this year. He said it should be clear this month how the PPRP's working team in the south will decide on their political future.