Rift rumours fly as Prawit skips cabinet
'I'm not a burden', says PM Prayut
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon took sick leave on Wednesday and missed the first cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha following the latter's return to Government House.
The weekly meeting was pushed back from Tuesday to Wednesday to allow for Gen Prayut's trips to the northeastern provinces after the Constitutional Court ruled that he could carry on serving as prime minister, potentially until 2025 should he contest and win next year's general election.
Gen Prawit's absence on Wednesday followed rumours that he was offended by remarks made by the premier on Monday during a teleconference call about the flood situation with provincial governors at the Interior Ministry.
Gen Prayut was quoted as telling the meeting that he did not want to see any welcoming committee and that his visits to flood-hit provinces would not add to the burden of those involved in flood relief operations.
"I'm healthy and can take care of myself. Please take care of people in need of assistance. I'm not a burden," Gen Prayut was quoted as saying.
Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, a spokesman of Gen Prawit, said the deputy prime minister, who made visits to several central provinces on Monday, fell ill with fever. However, his symptoms were not serious and he has been prescribed medication.
Tipanan Sirichana, a deputy government spokeswoman, said Gen Prawit developed a fever on Tuesday and was recommended by doctors to take a rest. He tested negative for Covid-19 in an initial screening.
She said the deputy prime minister, who is expected to fully recover soon, also extended his moral support to flood victims and asked them to take care of themselves.
Following the cabinet meeting, Gen Prayut said he would pay a visit to Gen Prawit at his house, but refused to respond when asked if Gen Prawit was sulking in response to his comments.
Anucha Buraphachaisri, a government spokesman, said Gen Prayut thanked Gen Prawit for performing prime ministerial duties during his suspension and praised state officials for doing their job.
Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin, director of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), on Wednesday denied rumours of a crack in the relationship between Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit.
During Gen Prayut's suspension as prime minister pending the court ruling on his term limit, Gen Prawit assumed the caretaker role and received a warm welcome during his trips upcountry.