Prayut asks for Anutin's support
Rumours of split continue to circulate
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday asked Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, to affirm his continuing support for him and the coalition as rumours of a rift continue to circulate.
After a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, Gen Prayut met Mr Anutin behind closed doors to discuss preparations for the opposition parties' motionless debate on Feb 17-18, a source said.
Also present were Transport Minister and Bhumjaithai secretary-general Saksayam Chidchob and Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn of the Palang Pracharath Party.
During the discussion, Gen Prayut asked Mr Anutin for support. "Noo, I would appreciate if you could help,'' the source quoted the PM as saying. Noo is Mr Anutin's nickname.
Afterwards, Gen Prayut gave his daily press briefing flanked by the two Bhumjaithai ministers.
Asked by reporters if the air between them had now been cleared, Gen Prayut said : "What do I have to clear the air about?".
Reporters then referenced the alleged disagreement over a controversial proposal to extend the Green Line railway concession, to which Gen Prayut replied that the cabinet will decide on the matter in line with the law.
In comments made following all seven Bhumjaithai cabinet members' absence from Tuesday's meeting to discuss the plan, Mr Anutin had said that his contingent would abstain from any vote on the proposal by the Interior Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to extend the concession.
The party had made its position clear in writing and had preferred not to risk inflaming the situation any further at the meeting, said Mr Anutin.
The absence of enough MPs to prevent a quorum, prompting the collapse of a number of House sessions, has begun to pose a serious threat to the passage of key bills and hint at divisions which could affect the government's stability.
In some cases, it has appeared that MPs were in the chamber but had refused to declare their presence.
Mr Chaiwut also revealed on Friday that Gen Prayut discussed with Mr Anutin ways they could prevent similar absentee-led impasses from disrupting government business during future House sessions.
The prime minister asked Mr Anutin to ensure he could count on solidarity from Bhumjaithai Party MPs during votes in parliament up until the end of the coalition's tenure in March next year, Mr Chaiwut said.
"The government will complete its term. We will help each other. There is no problem," Mr Chaiwut said.
Mr Anutin also downplayed speculation of an early House dissolution and stressed that all coalition parties are focusing on working together for the benefit of the nation and not their own interests.
Meanwhile, Mr Saksayam said on Friday that the party is investigating whether the proposal to extend the Green Line concession is in line with the law, and that its cabinet members will attend this Tuesday's meeting, although they would still abstain from from any vote on the matter.
"I insist that we will not walk away from the coalition government. They are different issues," Mr Saksayam said.
Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said that business operators are concerned that a lack of unity among the coalition parties will hinder efforts to steer the country forward and help people affected by the economic problems caused by the pandemic, Mr Supant said.
"We hope that unity in the government coalition will soon be restored," he said.