Kla Party leader and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij is jumping ship to join the Chart Pattana Party, leaving his own party rudderless as they prepare for the coming general election.
Mr Korn and Chart Pattana chairman Suwat Liptapanlop announced his defection at Mr Suwat's house in Dusit district of Bangkok on Friday. He will be the party's economic czar.
Mr Suwat praised Mr Korn for his economic prowess and international profile. He said Mr Korn would fill a void. Chart Pattana needed a strong economic team as it headed into the general election.
The veteran politician from Nakhon Ratchasima said he had confidence in Mr Korn's ability to solve the country's economic problems, but stopped short of saying whether Chart Pattana would nominate him for prime minister.
Mr Korn would help restore Chart Pattana's popularity, its position as a solid option for voters, he said.
A general election must be held by the end of March next year, when the government completes its four-year term.
Mr Suwat said Mr Korn's decision did not foreshadow a merger of the two parties. He attended the press conference as an individual, not as Kla Party leader.
Chart Pattana leader Tewan Liptapanlop would call a meeting of the executive board next week to inform them of the recruitment of Mr Korn, he said. It still needed approval from the party's general assembly, planned by the end of this month.
Mr Tewan is a younger brother of Mr Suwat, who is seen as the de-facto party leader.
Mr Korn said some Kla members would follow him to Chart Pattana.
The former finance minister said laws relating to political parties would determine the relationship between the two parties.
Mr Korn did not say why he decided to join Chart Pattana. Other parties have also been trying to attract him and other Kla members.
At least two key men in the two parties have a past connection.
Mr Suwat was close to Chatichai Choonhavan, who founded Chart Pattana after Black May 1992.
Kla chief strategist Korbsak Sabhavasu was on Chatichai's economic team when he was prime minister. Chatichai died in 1998. Mr Korbsak was deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy when Mr Korn was finance minister in the Democrat Party-led government. He followed Mr Korn to join Kla.
In an interview with the Inside Thailand news programme on Friday, Mr Korbsak would not say if he was a deal maker for Mr Suwat and Mr Korn to work together.
Mr Suwat promised voters in Nakhon Ratchasima on Thursday to return the glory of former prime minister Chatichai to the province.
Chart Pattana once was a dominant party in Nakhon Ratchasima, the home province of Mr Suwat, but it is threatened by Bhumjaithai, which is targeting all 16 Nakhon Ratchasima seats at the general election.
The Kla Party's main base is in Bangkok.