Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwon on Monday told small coalition partners that a House dissolution is expected late this year with snap elections likely early next year, a source said.
Gen Prawit shared the timeline during talks with representatives from small coalition parties at the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation on Phahon Yothin Road on Monday evening.
As he called on the small parties to stay united and be careful about media interviews, he told them that a House dissolution was likely to take place late this year.
"Gen Prawit told the small parties to help the government until the Apec summit [in November]. After the meeting, there will be a House dissolution with the election likely to take place in the new year," said the source.
Among those attending yesterday's meeting were New Democracy Party leader Suratin Picharn, Thai Rak Tham Party leader Peerawit Ruangluedolapak, Puea Chart Thai Party leader Khathathep Techadechruangkul, Forest Conservation Party leader Damrong Pidech, New Economic Party list-MP Supadit Arkatruek, Polamuang Thai Party list MP Silampha Lertnuwat and PPRP MP Pichet Sathirachawal.
Gen Prawit also asked them to attend a dinner with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha this Thursday at the Rajpruek Club in Bangkok.
Before that, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana denied the dinner between Gen Prayut and the small parties had been put on hold.
In fact, he said, the get-together will now include big coalition parties, as opposed to the original plan to invite only small parties.
On Monday, Mr Pichet said he was told by "an MP from a small party" about the postponement of Thursday's dinner.
Mr Pichit formerly led Prachathamthai, a small political party, before he defected to the PPRP. He remains a core figure representing small parties in the government coalition.
Gen Prayut invited small parties in the coalition bloc to the dinner after he hosted a separate dinner meeting last week with bigger coalition partners.
Mr Pichet said there was a concern the Thursday dinner might end up dividing the small parties after Rawee Matchamadol, leader of the New Palang Dharma Party, claimed the invitation was not extended to New Democracy Party leader Suratin Picharn.
Mr Suratin is known to be an ally of former PPRP secretary-general Thamanat Prompow, who was expelled from the party along with 20 other MPs for demanding changes to the party's executive line-up.
The purged MPs later defected to the Setthakij Thai Party.
Mr Peerawit said a senior government figure had called to let him know about the dinner's postponement.