Somkid eyed for PM race
Sang Anakhot Thai still 'waiting for reply'
Former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak is being approached to serve as a candidate for prime minister under the banner of the newly-formed Sang Anakhot Thai Party (Building Thailand's Future), according to one of the party's founders.
Uttama Savanayana said the party is preparing for the next general election with a plan to field candidates in all constituencies.
"The party is also waiting for Mr Somkid to decide whether and when to join after he voiced his support," Mr Uttama said on Thursday.
Mr Somkid is not a party member yet, and he needs time to make a decision, Mr Uttama said.
"I want him to help with the party's work and I think I will nominate him for a PM candidate.
"But this is my personal opinion. I must also ask other party members about the matter," he said.
He added the party's executive structure is expected to be finalised in the next few months and it will proceed to hold a general assembly and prepare for the next general election. The current government's term expires in March next year.
Mr Uttama also held an online meeting on Thursday with executives and members of the Thai Federation of SMEs.
Speaking after the meeting, he said the party attaches importance to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) as well as vendors. Feedback from the meeting will be used to draw up the party's policy to help such firms, he said.
Mr Uttama said the party has come up with three measures to support them: one involves setting up a 100-billion-baht fund to give SMEs access to funding; another is intended to reduce their financial burdens and address their debt problems; while the third aims to boost their capabilities and create an environment conducive to their sustainable growth.
Helping SMEs will benefit the economy as a whole, he added.
On Jan 19, Mr Uttama, a former leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and former finance minister, together with Sontirat Sontijirawong, a former PPRP secretary-general and ex-energy minister, unveiled the Sang Anakhot Thai Party, which they say will focus on economic issues and ending prolonged political divisions.
Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat were expected to form a party after they resigned from the PPRP and their cabinet posts in 2020 due to internal conflict within the ruling party.
Mr Somkid, who was deputy prime minister at the time, also stepped down from the government.
The PPRP was formed to support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's bid to become prime minister in the last general election in 2019.
Mr Somkid, Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat were told by some factions in the PPRP to resign as their colleagues wanted their ministerial seats to be shared, sources said.
Those factions installed Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as the new party leader in place of Mr Uttama.
Mr Somkid cited health problems for his resignation to Gen Prayut.
Sutin Klungsang, deputy leader of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said the Sang Anakhot Thai Party's support for Mr Somkid to be prime minister is a good idea as people would have a wider choice of candidates.
Mr Somkid is widely recognised by the public but it remains to be seen how people will respond if he decides to accept the offer, said Mr Sutin, also a Maha Sarakham MP for Pheu Thai.
"Any new prime minister will have a tough time running the country as the economy is in dire straits.
"They must have what it takes to tackle economic problems, including the rising cost of living," Mr Sutin said.
In other news, Gen Vit Thephasdin Na Ayutthaya said on Facebook on Thursday that he has resigned from the PPRP and will assume the post of leader of the Setthakij Thai Party (Thai Economic Party).
He formerly served as chairman of the PPRP's strategic committee.
He said the new party intends to foster national reconciliation and work with all sides to solve problems and bring peace and prosperity to the country.
The 18 MPs purged from the PPRP have formally applied to join Setthakij Thai, sources say.
A source in parliament said Setthakij Thai wrote to parliament's secretariat office on Jan 26 offering the names of the 18 MPs.
The number dropped from 21 initially after they were purged from the PPRP on Jan 19.
The PPRP removed the 21 MPs, including their leader Capt Thamanat Prompow, who served as its secretary-general, after he demanded a radical restructuring of the party and vowed to stir up trouble if his demands were not met, said PPRP deputy leader Paiboon Nititawan.