Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is tipped to become the chief adviser of the United Thai Nation Party (UTN), also known as Ruam Thai Sang Chart, according to a party source.
The source said Gen Prayut would not apply for party membership anytime soon but once he joins the party, he would become the party's chief adviser as well as its first candidate for prime minister while the party's leader, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, will be the second prime ministerial candidate.
As the party's adviser, Gen Prayut would become a fully-fledged politician and be in charge of the party's election campaign, the source said.
The source also said that after his trip to Phetchabun on Thursday, Gen Prayut met for talks with Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin, who is the director of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a list PPRP MP and former government spokesman.
Gen Prayut asked them how many MPs they now have in their factions. Mr Thanakorn told the PM that he has about five or six MPs while Mr Suchart said he has eight MPs, the source said, adding that Gen Prayut told them to prepare for an election campaign and take good care of those MPs.
Asked by reporters about his political future again on Friday, Gen Prayut only said: "I will talk about it when the time comes."
On Thursday, Gen Prayut said for the first time he was considering joining the UTN.
Mr Pirapan had previously said the UTN would welcome Gen Prayut if he decided to leave the PPRP.
The UTN was founded in March last year by Seksakol Atthawong, a former aide to the prime minister, to back Gen Prayut's return as PM after the next election.
The chances of Gen Prayut moving to the UTN increased after he reportedly met Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, the PPRP's leader, at the office of the Foundation for the Conservation of Forests in Five Adjoining Provinces, in the compound of the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok last Sunday.
Gen Prayut is believed to have informed Gen Prawit of his plan to switch parties ahead of the upcoming general election.
Stithorn Thananithichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok's Institute, told the Bangkok Post that several MPs are expected to defect from the PPRP to join the UTN to support Gen Prayut if he decides to join the newly established party, potentially leaving the PPRP with only 20-30 MPs.
"There will be more MPs who will follow in Gen Prayut's footsteps than those who stay with Gen Prawit... Gen Prayut must reassure the party's potential financiers that he can pull numerous MPs into the UTN," Mr Stithorn said.
Digital Economy and Society Minister and PPRP deputy leader Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn has resigned as a PPRP MP, effective on Friday. The resignation letter was seen by the media.
His resignation prompted speculation that he may also defect to the UTN to work with Gen Prayut, the source said.
Meanwhile, a group of 13 Setthakij Thai Party MPs led by Capt Thamanat Prompow, the expelled former secretary-general of the PPRP, said they would return to the fold of the PPRP.
Phai Lik, a Setthakij Thai Party MP for Kamphaeng Phet, said that the group concluded they wanted to return to Gen Prawit at the PPRP.