Prayut on track to take over party leadership, says source

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Prayut Chan-o-cha is to become the official leader of the Phalang Pracharat party after the new Cabinet is installed. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP

Former junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is to become the official leader of the military-aligned party, Phalang Pracharat, after the new Cabinet is installed, a source in the party said.

A party assembly to change the executive board is expected next month, the source said.

Uttama Savanayana would purportedly step down to give way to Prayut while Sontirat Sontijirawong would continue as the secretary-general.

The move to push Prayut as the party leader is to reportedly transform the general into a full politician and weaken the association with the junta.

Prayut planned to stay in politics for the long term, the source said. Without the party membership, it had also been difficult for the general to help the party campaign and build up popularity.

Prayut’s leadership of Phalang Pracharat was also to resolve the issue with the Sam Mitr or Three Allies group, which is influential in the party. The group had been a stumbling block in recent Cabinet portfolio allocation.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said on Wednesday that Prayut could take the position if he wanted.

However, Wissanu also warned that if anything went wrong, Prayut would inevitably be affected as a party executive.

Keep government in check

In a related development, seven opposition parties are preparing to welcome and scrutinise Prayut’s government.

Led by Pheu Thai and Future Forward parties, they convened on Wednesday for more than three hours and said later they would work inside and outside parliament to keep the government in check.

They said they would propose motions to debate the PM’s and MPs’ qualification and the recruitment of the Senate as well as government policies.

Other items included amendments of the constitution, they added.

While scrutinising parliament was their major focus, the group also placed importance on campaigning for a better understanding of legislation by the public.

“The seven parties would bring hope to the people as a strong opposition that will scrutinise the government,” said Future Forward Party’s secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

“Now, General Prayut Chan-o-cha will actually run the country with a real opposition. So, he can learn how to be a government under democratic rule.”

An opposition whip will be appointed to coordinate the work in addition to a working committee comprising of members from the seven parties.

Pheu Thai’s secretary-general said the small parties will have one member each in the whip. Parties with over five MPs will get two seats while the large parties will get 10, he said.

The party’s leader, Viroj Pao-in, is reportedly set to step down to make way for a new leader.

The election of Pheu Thai’s new head will take place at the end of the month, said the party’s secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai.

It is expected that Chiang Mai MP Sompong Amornvivat will take the post but Phumtham said the decision will be taken at the next party meeting.

The meeting would also see a change of the party executive board. Phumtham would not say whether he would return as the party’s secretary-general.

Viroj had to step down because he was not an MP while the Constitution demands the leader of the opposition must be the party leader and an MP. THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK