THE NEWLY-FORMED, pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party is pulling in more and more former MPs and government ministers, as well as celebrities.
Many people showed up at the party headquarters yesterday to submit their membership applications, and more are expected to apply at the party’s general assembly at Shangri-La Hotel on Sunday.
Also, many of the new Palang Pracharat members come from the previously ruling Pheu Thai Party, including Chalong Riewrang, Thawee Suraban, Wichai Chaijitwanitkul and Wiang Worachet.
Chalong explained he had chosen to join Palang Pracharat because this government was implementing projects he considered beneficial to the people, especially those in his Nonthaburi constituency. He also said he was confident that all Palang Pracharat candidates will get elected in Nonthaburi.
Meanwhile, Wichai said he believed the middle-class and the grassroots people will find the party’s policy platform pleasing. Also, he said, though his Udon Thani constituency was generally seen as the “capital of the red shirts” – main supporters of Pheu Thai – he is still convinced that Palang Pracharat will fare well in the elections.
“We aim to win four MP seats from the eight [Udon Thani] constituencies,” he said.
Thawee, who had been a Democrat Party MP before defecting to Pheu Thai many years ago, said yesterday that he believed Palang Pracharat would “win substantially” in the South, which has long been a stronghold for the Democrats.
“The old party’s popularity has dropped in all 14 southern provinces,” the politician said, obviously referring to Democrat Party.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the Sam Mit (Three Friends) group, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, said that more than 50 politicians will join the Palang Pracharat on Sunday.
Among them are many former Cabinet members and ex-MPs, including Suriya Jungrungreangkit, Somsak Thepsuthin, Pinyo Niroj, Monthien Songpracha, Pirom Polwiset and Boonying Nitikanchana, the spokesman added.
New party ‘has earned trust of locals’
He said that Sam Mit, led by Somsak, has visited electorates in many areas over the past five months and earned the trust of local residents.
“So, we are confident Palang Pracharat will win the election,” the spokesman said.
Also submitting membership applications yesterday were Ekkaraj Changlao and his son Wattana, who are both executives of Khonkaen United football club. Ekkaraj is a former member of the now-defunct post-coup National Reform Council, while Wattana is deputy chief executive of Khon Kaen’s Provincial Administrative Organisation.
Former manager of Thailand’s national football team, Watanya Wongopasi, also known as “Madame Dear”, is also expected to apply for Palang Pracharat membership today, a source familiar with the matter said.
Separately, the director of Nida Poll said yesterday that he has given up his position at the survey unit after taking up Palang Pracharat membership.
Napong Nophaket, director of Nida Poll at the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said he tendered his resignation on Tuesday to avoid a conflict of interest and maintain the credibility of the university’s survey unit.
Also yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also defence minister, was asked to comment on opinion surveys showing that Palang Pracharat was almost as popular as Pheu Thai. In response, he said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has gained a lot of public support, though he did not know if he would join Palang Pracharat.
Palang Pracharat is expected to nominate General Prayut as its prime ministerial candidate in the run-up to the next election.
Speaking at the Defence Ministry, General Prawit, who is in charge of security affairs, also reiterated that elections would be held on February 24, dismissing concerns of possible “foul play” by the junta aimed at delaying the election.