Anupong sticks to guns, but praises buddy Prawit
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda says it is up to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to decide on a cabinet reshuffle and even if there is one, it will never break the bond between the three "Por" generals.
Gen Anupong -- who, with Gen Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, make up the trio -- has declared he is unfazed by the prospect of losing the interior portfolio.
However, a source in the cabinet said Gen Prayut has ruled out a cabinet reshuffle for the time being.
Moves to have Gen Anupong replaced as interior minister have come from within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.
Six PPRP MPs -- Krungsriwilai Sutinphuak, Thapakorn Kulcharoen, Prim Pooncharoen, Yongyuth Suwanbutr and Akarawat Asavahame, all Samut Prakan MPs under the Pak Nam Group, along with list-MP Torsak Asvahame -- refused to toe the party line and cast a no-confidence vote against Gen Anupong in the censure debate last week.
The MPs said it was their way of showing their displeasure at Gen Anupong for ignoring the needs of people in Samut Prakan.
Gen Anupong indicated he understood the MPs' frustration had stemmed chiefly from what they felt was the ministry's unresponsiveness to requests for a development budget by the province.
He said that normally, the Samut Prakan provincial administrative organisation (PAO) does not seek a large budget subsidy from the ministry as it had sufficient funds at its disposal.
This year, the PAO asked for 40 million baht to be granted as a subsidy. The request was previously considered by the Budget Bureau and is now being vetted in parliament as part of the national budget expenditure bill.
However, Gen Anupong maintained the budget to be distributed was limited.
The minister added the issue must be elucidated to create understanding although he added he felt no obligation to meet the six MPs to straighten the matter out with them.
Gen Anupong also responded to calls from the MPs for him to quit the interior ministry and make way for Gen Prawit. The ministry holds powers over local administrative organisations, which are believed to be useful for giving candidates the edge in general elections.
The MPs have said they are confident Gen Prawit could do a better job as interior minister than Gen Anupong with the next election expected to take place sometime towards the middle of next year after the government's tenure expires in March.
Gen Anupong made it clear he would hold no grudges if he was to be removed as interior minister.
"If there should be a cabinet shake-up, it is up to the prime minister to decide. There's no reason to fear.
"No matter what changes may be in store, the fellowship between the three 'Por' generals will never break," Gen Anupong said.
The three generals, who have all assumed major ministerial posts since the first cabinet was formed in August 2014 after the military coup in May that year, have been a mainstay of the administration ever since.
Gen Anupong said he was not despondent that MPs from his own party had turned in votes of censure against himself and Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin.
Gen Anupong received the most no-confidence votes with 212 while Mr Suchart received 208.
Gen Prawit on Tuesday dismissed rumours of disharmony within the clique that have circulated ever since.
Meanwhile, Mr Torsak said the MPs had every right to vote how best they saw fit. The six had tried to push for development projects in Samut Prakan but received no support from the Interior Ministry, he claimed.
"We are always conscious of what we do. We may be villains in the eyes of some but heroes to others," he said.