Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan was asked during a media briefing at Government House whether he agreed with leaders of some new political parties being formed to support Prayut as an “outsider prime minister”.
Prawit responded: “I should agree if people do so.” He quickly added: “Only people can give the answer. My opinion is not that important. I alone can’t say General Prayut should be the next PM.”
Gen Prawit Wongsuwan
Among Prayut’s staunch supporters is Paiboon Nititawan, a former member of the junta-appointed National Reform Council who now heads the Popular Reform Network. Paiboon is planning a new political party aimed at backing Prayut to lead the next government as a non-elected PM. Junta figures are prohibited by law from contesting the next election.
Prawit was Prayut’s senior colleague while they served in the Army, where they both rose to the rank of full general. Despite a number of damaging controversies, Prawit has managed to retain his positions in the Prayut-led Cabinet.
Recently, Prayut described himself as politician – an occupation he had previously denounced and blamed for the country’s problems and political conflicts.
Prawit yesterday said the country needed new politicians to serve the people and run the government. When asked if Prayut qualifies as a new politician, Prawit said that would depend on the people.
Earlier, a group of Pheu Thai politicians have declared their “lifelong loyalty” to the party, amid speculation that new, pro-junta political parties are wooing election candidates from established parties.
Prayuth Siripanit, head of Pheu Thai’s northeastern section, gave the pledge on behalf of former party MPs from the region when they met caretaker Pheu Thai leader Viroj Pao-in on Wednesday. The ex-MPs met Viroj and other party executives to offer them New Year’s wishes.
During the gathering, Prayuth promised that his group would “stand firmly side by side” with the party leader and other executives.
“Our lives are given to no-one else. Whether the outlook is bright or gloomy, we will still be here. We will be loyal to Pheu Thai throughout our lives. We will die here,” Prayuth said, reading from prepared notes.
In response, Viroj asked the party politicians to prepare for the next general election and not to be affected by the reported attempts to have them defect from the party.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has thrown his support behind Pheu Thai, claiming that “people want the party to rule the country”.
He was speaking to a group of Pheu Thai politicians led by Prayuth, who met him on Wednesday at his home to offer New Year wishes.
Chavalit joined Pheu Thai in 2009 and left the party two years later. But he has still retained his influence among many party politicians, particularly those from the Northeast.