PM shrugs off defection talk

PM shrugs off defection talk

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday denied rumours that he would defect to the Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party (RTSC) after the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit concluded.

Talk of Gen Prayut leaving the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to join the RTSC party intensified over the weekend.

When asked about the rumours, the premier said he had no comments about politics, as his focus was entirely on the Asean summit in Cambodia on Nov 10-13 and the Apec summit in Bangkok on Nov 18-19.

Gen Prayut said the two events were significant to Thailand and the region and urged all parties to cooperate and help ensure that the Apec meetings and summit would proceed without any glitches.

"As for political issues, I have no comments, and they are from the media outlets. I give my full attention to the meetings and the nation. These are my focus," he said.

It was speculated that Gen Prayut, the PPRP's sole prime ministerial candidate in the 2019 polls, would join the RTSC after the Apec summit, possibly on Nov 21. The PPRP would then have only two prime ministerial candidates -- its leader Prawit Wongsuwon and former national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda -- in the next general election.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon responds to media about PM rumours. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)

PPRP deputy leader Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn yesterday said media reports about the party's prime ministerial candidates were pure speculation, adding that there was still time to consider who would be nominated.

RTSC secretary-general Akanat Prompan said yesterday that Gen Prayut was welcome at the party and his eight-year limit not considered a problem.

The Constitutional Court on Sept 30 ruled that Gen Prayut officially began his term as prime minister in April 2017, meaning he can stay in office until 2025, provided he is re-elected by parliament after the election expected in the first half of next year.

However, some political observers see this as a problem as he would have to step down in the middle of the government's term, and some parties may hesitate to name him as a prime ministerial candidate.

Gen Prawit, meanwhile, responded to reporters' questions at Government House yesterday about the RTSC rumours and said he had not discussed the matter with Gen Prayut.

Gen Prawit said he had no appointments with any party members to discuss the party's selection of a prime ministerial candidate.

Asked why he did not discuss political issues with Gen Prayut, Gen Prawit smiled and replied, "You should be in my position".

Gen Prawit said he saw Gen Prayut every day, but they did not discuss political issues concerning the prime minister.

He also confirmed that he, Gen Prayut and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda would remain close, as they had been for 40-50 years.

Asked what he would do if Gen Prayut left and took some PPRP MPs with him, Gen Prawit laughed and said, "Let them go. I don't mind. They can go where they want to. It's their personal choice."

When questioned if he would try to prevent Gen Prayut from leaving the PPRP, Gen Prawit said, "I wouldn't stop anyone."

Gen Prawit also refuted some PPRP members' comments that Gen Prayut was not a selling point for the party anymore, and said that was their personal opinion. The selection of the PPRP's candidates for prime minister would be a party decision, not any one individual's, he added.

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