BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday offered a rare apology for ongoing feuds within the government coalition to secure key seats in the next cabinet.
The infighting, which spilled into the public eye through media reports in recent days, deeply worries the general, according to a statement released by Prayuth’s aides today – just as open rebellion within the pro-junta Phalang Pracharath Party looks imminent.
“The Prime Minister felt worried, and would like to apologize to the people on behalf of Phalang Pracharath Party, which nominated [him] as prime minister,” the statement said. “Because at this time, there is lots of news of conflict within the party in the media.”
It continued, “However, the Prime Minister will perform his duty to the best of his ability, even though there may be some problems in the party’s internal administration, as it is a newly formed party with members from many backgrounds.”
In a possible reference to the 2014 coup, the general also warned politicians not to force him into “solving the problem with the old method that no one wants to see happen.”
Prayuth spoke on the same day a faction within Phalang Pracharath announced a campaign to remove a party executive for reallocating cabinet seats without their consent.
The faction, known popularly as Three Friends, said its leader Suriya Juangrungruangkit was initially promised an influential seat as Energy Minister, but latest reports suggest he will be assigned the less prominent job of Industry Minister.
Another faction elder, Anucha Nakasai, also did not make the cut for a ministerial job. Speaking at a news conference today, Three Friends member Sira Jenraka called the situation unacceptable and called upon secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong to resign to take responsibility for the missed promises.
“He should resign as secretary general now because it is his responsibility,” Sira said. “He has to take responsibility for overseeing the party as its housekeeper.”
Three Friends, led by a trio of former ministers and veteran politicos, commands about 30 MPs within the Phalang Pracharath Party. Sira hinted they may leave the party enmasse if the conflict over cabinet posts goes unresolved.
“We’ll discuss what measures we will take,” the politician said after threatening to take “extreme measures.”
Media reports also quoted Phalang Pracharath sources as saying there is discontent over a decision to award two cabinet seats to a group of former Yellowshirt activists, despite the clique winning only 11 MP seats.
“They should learn to make sacrifices, instead of lobbying for their own positions and taking other people’s positions away,” one of the sources said.
The feuds broke out about a month after Phalang Pracharath emerged as a leader of the incoming coalition government thanks to an uneasy alliance of 20 parties, which experts have warned is fraught with risks of factionalism.
An opinion survey of 1,327 people by Suan Dusit Poll published on Sunday said a majority of respondents, or 47 percent, named the ongoing scuffles to secure cabinet seats as the most worrying aspect of Thai politics at the present time.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Suriya Juangrungruangkit’s potential job as a Finance Minister. In fact, it was Industry Minister.