BANGKOK – Thailand’s Junta Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he wants to control the Defence and Interior ministries in the next government to ensure national progress, while the Pheu Thai Party has stepped up efforts to block his path to extended power.
Over lunch with Government House reporters on Friday, Gen Prayut denied that his desire to ensure his allies controlled both ministries had anything to do with any vested interest. “I never have had any such interest,” he said.
He reacted positively when asked if Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon would remain in the next cabinet, assuming the Palang Pracharath Party can form a government.
“I wish he would because we have mutual trust. But it depends on how much responsibility he can take and how his health is. I have this concern,” Gen Prayut said.
Gen Prawit, 73, had coronary bypass surgery last year.
Reporters also asked Gen Prayut if he had invited Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda to join the next cabinet. The leader of the 2014 coup said that would depend on Gen Anupong, who preceded him as chief of the army. Gen Prawit was Gen Anupong’s predecessor in the top army post.
Gen Prayut also said that decisions did not depend only on him. “Should it be step by step? If I become the (next) prime minister, then that will be worked out,” he said.
Parliament is expected to convene next Wednesday to choose speakers for the House and Senate, with a formal opening session presided over by His Majesty the King to follow two days later.
However, it is still far from clear whether Palang Pracharath (PPRP) and its allies, who support Gen Prayut as prime minister, will be able to secure a majority of MPs.
The Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties, with 102 seats between them, have still not said where they will place their support, and they are being wooed aggressively by both PPRP and the Pheu Thai alliance.
Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, meanwhile, said his party supported a proposal by Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who offered himself as the next prime minister in order to improve the chances of the anti-PPRP alliance forming a government.
Mr Thanathorn is seen as potentially more palatable to wavering Democrats, who are wary of teaming up with Pheu Thai given all the baggage it carries from the Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra years.
The Future Forward leader made the surprise offer on Thursday, hours after the Election Commission asked the Constitutional Court to revoke his election because of allegations that he held shares in a media company.
“The Pheu Thai Party is ready to work with all political parties that share the same stance, and that is to block the extension of power [by the Prayut-led junta], amend the constitution and importantly not let Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha return to the premiership,” Mr Phumtham said.
By Wassana Nanuam, Aekarach Sattaburuth
The Bangkok Post