Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has for the first time refused to pledge that he will complete his term or outright deny the possibility of an early House dissolution before the official end of his tenure in March next year.
When asked previously, the prime minister had indicated that there would be no early election and he would remain in office until March 2023 or beyond.
Gen Prayut was responding to comments reportedly made by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon during his meeting with representatives of small coalition parties on Monday at the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation office on Phahon Yothin Road.
Gen Prawit is said to have told them the government needed the small parties' support until the Apec summit in November, after which there would likely be a House dissolution with a general election early in the new year.
The deputy prime minister on Tuesday admitted he talked about the possibility of a House dissolution, but said it just a personal opinion. The government would be at ease by then and he just thought the timeline made it a suitable period for a poll, regardless who would be at an advantage or disadvantage.
"House dissolution is for the prime minister alone to decide," he said.
The prime minister also said it was speculation on Gen Prawit's part. "We have talked. He told me it is the prime minister who makes decisions," he said.
Asked whether he intended to stay on to complete his term or would dissolve the House of Representatives after the Apec summit, Gen Prayut said he saw no reason to talk about that right now.
"It is up to me to make a decision. Why should I tell anyone in advance? The situation will be the deciding factor," Gen Prayut said. Everyone should put the country first, he added.
"The country survives and overcomes problems because the Thai people unites to fight whenever there are threats. But we have now been so divided and plagued with problems. Let's think what we can do," Gen Prayut said.
Gen Prawit confirmed that the leaders of all coalition parties, big and small, had been invited to a dinner with Gen Prayut tomorrow at the Rajpruek Club in Bangkok.
However, he said the Setthakij Thai Party, the new home of 21 former MPs of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) led by Thamanat Prompow, had not been invited because they had not elected a party leader. "The party will be invited when they have a leader," he added.
Asked whether there would be a chance for Gen Prayut to meet Capt Thamanat, Gen Prawit sidestepped the question. "You are trying to pit them against one another," he responded.
Asked whether he had been tasked with keeping the small parties happy himself, now that Capt Thamanat had defected, Gen Prawit said he had done so from the beginning, and shook his head when asked if he was worried Capt Thamanat would try take some small parties away from the coalition.
"Let's not talk about Thamanat," he said.
Gen Prawit also declined to say if there would be a cabinet reshuffle, or whether the PPRP would field a candidate for the Bangkok governor election.
Pichet Sathirachawal, a lawmaker from the PPRP, said that MPs from micro parties who attended the meeting with Gen Prawit on Monday had also asked the deputy prime minister about a possible cabinet reshuffle.
However, Gen Prawit had disagreed that one was needed, reasoning that problems often followed any cabinet shake-up. Therefore, Gen Prawit urged the micro parties to continue supporting the government until after the Apec meeting, Mr Pichet said, adding that the micro parties had promised to attend the main coalition dinner tomorrow as scheduled.