BANGKOK – Thailand’s Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has revealed to the Media that a military-backed political party is luring politicians into its fold by offering them positions as ministers’ assistants if it is able to form a government.
Abhisit made the comments Monday with speculation rife that the regime is forging alliances with small- and medium-sized parties, as a prelude to establishing a military-backed party to support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha returning as prime minister after an election expected in February of 2019.
“I heard that positions of assistants to ministers were being offered to several people and several parties, not only the Sasomsap family [who wield political influence in Nakhon Pathom province], but also members of the Democrat Party,” Mr Abhisit said.
He also said the military-backed party has its sights set on winning at least 25 House seats after the poll.
“This action is no different from several regimes we fought against in the past, and this goes against the spirit of the constitution which is intended to keep those who are currently in power from meddling with politics and from becoming stakeholders in the next election,” Mr Abhisit said.
The Democrat leader also mentioned the recent cabinet appointment of Palang Chon Party head Sonthaya Khunplome as an adviser to the prime minister, which was widely seen as part of a political deal to pave the way for Gen Prayut’s return.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd declined to comment on the matter.
Political observers note that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the government are shifting into gear as they woo politicians into their fold with the help of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
Mr Somkid recently expressed his support for Gen Prayut after reporters asked if he was ready to continue to work in the government after the poll.
The deputy premier also dropped a hint that a new party is being formed to support Gen Prayut and told reporters to seek answers from Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong.
The remarks coincided with media speculation after a political group applied to register the Pracharath Party with the Election Commission, with Mr Uttama speculated to be the new party’s leader and Mr Sontirat its secretary-general.
Former Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong reiterated Monday his remarks that efforts were being made to raise about 40 billion baht to set up a military-backed party to help the regime cling on to power.
“Reports keep emerging of a lot of money being raised to draw former MPs from other parties to support the military-backed party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that it is still not clear what topics will be discussed at a meeting scheduled tentatively for June between the NCPO, political parties and related agencies over poll preparations.
Mr Wissanu said that there was no need for political parties to know the agenda in advance. He also said that any parties that fail to attend the planned meeting would “miss the train”.
Even if no parties show up, the “Five Rivers” will proceed with the meeting anyway, Mr Wissanu said.
The Five Rivers is a term referring to the five core organisations running the country that came into being after the May 2014 coup. They were the NCPO, the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly, the Constitution Drafting Committee and the now-dissolved National Reform Council.
Parties have urged the NCPO to lift the political activity ban which they say is hindering their preparations.
Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul said he was ready to welcome Gen Prayut and cabinet ministers when they hold a mobile cabinet meeting in his stronghold in Buri Ram early next month.
Mr Anutin — who took the helm after veteran Buri Ram politician Newin Chidchob decided to turn his back on politics to focus on his provincial football club — said that there would be nothing political about the cabinet’s visit.
Preparations have been made for the mobile cabinet meeting, Mr Anutin said. Gen Prayut plans to visit the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram which will host MotoGP racing when it makes its Thai debut in October.
Mr Anutin denied rumours that Mr Newin might be approached to help with the work of the government, saying it was unlikely that members of his party would be tempted by such offers.