(27 March) Pheu Thai Party leaders have denied rumours that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been ordered by her influential brother to step down from her caretaker position.
According to a number of media reports, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the de facto helmsman of the ruling party, will remove Ms. Yingluck and replace her with a more "acceptable" figure from one of the coalition parties in order to defuse the ongoing political crisis.
Anti-government protesters led by People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) have been calling for Ms. Yinglick's resignation for months through prolonged campaigns of street demonstration and occupation of major landmarks in Bangkok.
Ms. Yingluck has repeatedly refused to step down, citing the Constitutional requirement that a caretaker cannot resign until the new Parliament is formed.
However, when reporters asked Ms. Yingluck, as she arrived at the Office of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence – where her temporary office is housed and whether she will step down from politics in some way, the Prime Minister refused to provide any reply and excused herself from the journalist crowd.
Her refusal to address the rumours fueled the speculation that a deal has been reached among Mr. Thaksin's inner circle to appease the anti-government protesters by sacrificing Ms. Yingluck's caretaker position.
But other top leaders of Pheu Thai Party adamantly dismissed the allegation. Mr. Noppadol Pattama, legal adviser and a close aide to Mr. Thaksin, said he talked to the former leader earlier this morning on phone, and he was assured that Mr. Thaksin had no intention to remove his sister from the position.
"It is completely untrue," Mr. Noppadol told reporters, "What's more important is that the Prime Minister has done nothing wrong at all. She came to power via an election. She was elected with the majority of the votes … She has already declared her intention to fight on the path of democracy and the Constitution to the last second".
Nevertheless, Mr. Noppadol refused to say whether Ms. Yingluck will be registered as the leading candidate for Pheu Thai Party in the next general election, stating that it is too early to determine the matter now, but insisted that Pheu Thai executive committee has every right to decide who gets to run in its Party List.
Mr. Noppadol also claimed that the rumours might have beeen fabricated to discredit Pheu Thai Party.
According to Mr. Noppadol, Mr. Thaksin has personally expressed his concern over these "false information". "For example, this morning there was rumour that Mr. Thaksin had a fatal accident, which is not true, as he is alive and well in Dubai," Mr. Noppadol said, "This is part of the attempt to sow seeds of confusion and chaos. I urge all Thais to carefully consider the news each day".
Mr. Samart Kaewmeechai, Pheu Thai's executive of the northern region, echoed Mr. Noppadol's remarks, insisting that no leading official in Pheu Thai Party ever contemplates forcing Ms. Yingluck to step down.
"The rumours have been deliberately fabricated, and I don't know what they want by doing this," Mr. Samart said.