Narongsak spurns offer

Narongsak spurns offer

'No interest' in being PPRP's back-up PM

Then-Phayao governor Narongsak Osottanakorn talks to Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda at Government House on Dec 11, 2018. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Then-Phayao governor Narongsak Osottanakorn talks to Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda at Government House on Dec 11, 2018. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Pathum Thani governor Narongsak Osottanakorn insists he will not accept nomination as a prime ministerial candidate in the next election under the banner of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

His stance came after sources said the PPRP may approach him for the role. The party has already agreed to nominate Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as their primary candidate for the premiership but is looking for backups amid long-term uncertainty over Gen Prayut's hold on the job.

Mr Narongsak admitted he was invited by Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon for talks on Thursday at the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation. He was accompanied by PPRP MP and chief government whip Wirat Rattanaset.

Still, he told Bangkok Post that he had only discussed flood relief operations with Gen Prawit, and insisted he was not interested in making a foray into politics.

One source said Gen Prawit wanted to take a closer look at Mr Narongsak with a view to nominating him as a PM candidate.

Mr Narongsak was recognised as a hero after helping plan the 2018 rescue operation for the kids from the Moo Pa football team who became trapped in a flooded cave in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai, where he formerly served as governor.

Speaking over the phone with the Bangkok Post on Sunday, Mr Narongsak said he was not interested in entering politics and he would turn down the offer if he was approached to join the PPRP. "I am only interested in working as Pathum Thani governor,'' he said.

"I am a civil servant. I am only committed to working to the best of my ability,'' Mr Narongsak said. "I will not accept the role of back-up prime minister.''

Sondhi Limthongkul, former co-leader of the defunct People's Alliance for Democracy, the yellow-shirt group, said previously that Mr Narongsak would be suitable to replace Gen Prayut as the next prime minister based on his ability and popularity.

All eyes are on the PPRP at the moment, with two more PM candidates expected to be nominated as back-ups in the next election should Gen Prayut, the top candidate, suffer a political mishap that costs him his premiership.

A rift emerged recently between the two brothers in arms, Gen Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon, after the premier dismissed Capt Thamant Prompow as deputy agriculture minister. He also sacked Narumon Pinyosinwat, a deputy labour minister after the two were seen as plotting against the PM during the recent no confidence debate.

Controversy surrounding the end of Gen Prayut's tenure as PM has also emerged. The opposition and some academics are insisting that his term will end on Aug 24 next year, as the constitution bars anyone from serving more than two four-year terms in the role -- regardless of whether the terms were served back-to-back or not. They maintain Gen Prayut's time as prime minister began in 2014, as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order, which seized power in a coup.

The resolution of this issue could serve as an indicator of when the next election will be held. The opposition parties are expected to petition the Constitutional Court to pass judgement.

Another candidate for premiership is Gen Wit Thephasadin Na Ayutthaya, a former assistant army chief and now chairman of the PPRP's strategic committee, while Piraphan Salirathavibhaga, a chief adviser to the PPPR leader, is also expected to get the nod.

Reports of the party's move to seek more candidates prompted reaction from the Sam Mitr (Three Allies) faction within the ruling party on Sunday. PM's Office Minister Anucha Nakasai, a key figure in the group, said he had no knowledge of Mr Piraphan being tipped for a spot and said there were no signs that the House of Representatives will be dissolved any time soon.

"I believe many people, particularly those in the South, still support the prime minister,'' he said. Regarding political defections to the PPPR, Mr Anucha said this was normal -- the latest being Chuenchob Kong-udom, son of Chatchawal Kong-udom, the Thai Local Power Party (TLPP) leader.

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