PM tipped to top censure vote

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to secure the most votes of support among the cabinet ministers targeted for censure as lawmakers cast their votes of confidence on Saturday with sources claiming he has seen off threats to his authority from within the ruling party.

Gen Prayut on Friday cleared the air with Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwon and received an apology from Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow following reports alleging a move to unseat him in the no-confidence vote on Saturday, according to officials within the party.

The debate was carried out against a backdrop of factions within the PPRP pushing for cabinet seats in exchange for their votes of support for the premier.

Sources said that the move to topple Gen Prayut was engineered last week by heavyweights in the ruling PPRP, including Capt Thamanat, the party secretary-general, and a number of renegade government MPs.

The plan to cast no-confidence votes against Gen Prayut is alleged to have been prompted by Gen Prawit’s dissatisfaction over the appointments of some high-ranking officials.

However, Gen Prayut told reporters on Friday morning that the bond between himself and his two military brethren — Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong Paojinda, the interior minister, was unbreakable.

One highly placed PPRP source told the Bangkok Post on Friday that Gen Prawit called a meeting of MPs in which he stressed that they should arrange to vote in equal numbers for each of the cabinet ministers targeted for censure.

“If possible, each minister must receive an equal number of votes. Better still, the prime minister must come top with the most votes,” the source quoted Gen Prawit as saying.

After the meeting, Gen Prawit, Gen Prayut and Gen Anupong travelled to the Five Provinces Bordering Forests Preservation Foundation on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, where they met with a group of about 20 MPs led by Capt Thamanat and chief government whip Wirach Rattanasate, the source said.

The MPs, from the North and the Northeast, complained to the PM that they had been ignored by the PM and the interior minister, the source said.

Capt Thamanat explained to Gen Prayut that he had no intention to unseat the PM as reported by the media, but believed MPs felt that they receive little attention from cabinet ministers, particularly the interior minister, the source said.

Then, Capt Thamanat paid respects to and apologised to the prime minister for causing misunderstandings in the presence of all the 20 MPs, the source said.

Gen Prayut told Capt Thamanat that “it’s good that that was not true”, while Gen Anupong then pledged to improve ties with the MPs, the source said.

Speaking earlier on Friday, Gen Prayut said: ”It is up the MPs to decide how to vote. It is a matter of trust and confidence.”

Asked if the plot to oust him had now been put to bed, the prime replied: “It depends on who did it, whether they really did so, and who they were linked with.”

“I speak to Gen Prawit every day. Therefore, no problem,” Gen Prayut said.

“I want to tell the media and everyone that no one can destroy me. Isn’t it the media who described us as the three Ps [Gen Prawit or Pom, Gen Anupong or Pok, and Gen Prayut]?.

“Three of us have stuck together through thick and thin. We were in close proximity on the battlefields. They were also my commanders when I first served in the army. I still respect them,” Gen Prayut said.

“Our bond can never be broken no matter how hard anyone may try. We are like brothers,” he said, adding that people had often attempted to pit the trio against each other.

Gen Prayut did concede that he may have kept too much of a distance between himself and PPRP MPs, which could have led to misunderstandings.

He said he had been busy tackling problems facing the country but had often talked to the PPRP leader who relayed their opinions.

“From now on, I have to find more time [to meet party MPs]. Let me rearrange my schedule first,” the prime minister said.

Asked whether he was still worried about Capt Thamanat, Gen Prayut said he did not have any issues with him. “I brought him in to work. How could I have anything against him?” the prime minister said.

Mr Wirach on Friday said he was sure “The prime minister will come top” in Saturday’s vote of confidence.

The four-day no-confidence debate targeted the PM and five cabinet ministers, namely Anutin Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister and public health minister; Saksayam Chidchob, transport minister; Chalermchai Sri-on, agriculture and cooperatives minister; Suchart Chomklin, labour minister; and Chaiwut Thana­kamanusorn, digital economy and society minister.