JUNTA LEADER General Prayut Chan-o-cha appeared unconcerned yesterday after Suthep Thaugsuban denied having plans to form a pro-junta party to contest the next election.
Prayut said he remained undecided whether he would accept an invitation to be prime minister if asked by pro-junta groups and added: “I haven’t been contacted by anyone yet and even if I ever were, I don’t know if I would accept their invitation.
“Anyway, only one party can nominate me [to be prime minister]. I don’t know. It hasn’t come up yet. We haven’t even lifted the [political] ban yet.”
During the Cabinet’s mobile trip to Petchaburi yesterday, which is viewed by some as an effort by the junta chief’ to canvass for support, Prayut said he would first have to consider the policies, credibility and other credentials of the parties before making any decision on his own future.
It was the first time Prayut had expressed a stance regarding pro-military parties supporting his premiership after the election. He had previously been vague about his role in post-election politics, although critics believed that he would return as a non-elected prime minister.
Prayut said he could only thank those parties who intended to support him, but whether their efforts would be fulfilled remained unknown, he added.
Regarding an anti-establishment group to be led by pro-democracy billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and law professor Piyabutr Saengkanikkul, Prayut said he welcomed their plan to form a party but said their success would depend on whether people voted for them.
“But I have warned you, you have to vote for a government with good governance,” Prayut said.
Prayut’s comments on his own future came after Suthep, who led demonstrations that led to the coup in 2014, denied that his former movement, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, would form a party to support Prayut.
The Election Commission is currently allowing the pre-registration of new political parties following the junta’s order that still maintains its ban on political assembly, but allows some activities necessary for the upcoming election.
At least two groups that have already requested to be registered have shown a leaning towards supporting Prayut. They are led by Paiboon Nititawan and Maj-General Songklod Thiprat, both of whom have worked for the current regime.
In a related development, the former vice chair of the now-defunct National Reform Steering Assembly, Alongkorn Ponlaboot, yesterday dismissed speculation that he had already decided to form a new party to contest the election.
He said he had been invited to take a leading role in at least three new parties, but had urged each of them to give him time to consider their proposals as he had repeatedly declared that he would not become involved in politics again.
He also said he had had a chance to discuss politics with the prime minister during the mobile Cabinet’s visit to the upper South and Prayut had expressed his intention to steer the country back to democracy and hold a general election as announced.
Alongkorn urged concerned parties to join forces in steering the country towards the election and follow the roadmap and national strategy for the future.