BANGKOK — In a spectacular display of fury, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha vowed to no longer count an opposition leader as his senior classmate before storming out of Parliament Thursday night.
Prayuth’s outburst came amid a particularly heated war of words with Seri Ruam Thai Party chairman Sereepisut Temiyavet, who accused the government of “cheating” its way into power in the March election during a speech to the assembly.
“If I were him, I wouldn’t be this shameless and still hold on to power,” Sereepisut taunted Prayuth.
His remark, which drew protests from pro-government MPs, prompted Prayuth to take to the floor and fire back at Sereepisut – his former senior classmate (roonpee) at the military academy.
“We have known each other for a long time. You were my roonpee. We got married on the same day,” the general said, without asking permission from the House Speaker as per usual practice. “But from today, I will not count you as my roonpee anymore, because you don’t treat me with honor at all.”
Prayuth also expressed offense at a TV interview earlier this year in which Sereepisut said he would have personally pulled out his gun and shot Prayuth if he had been present when the general launched the coup of May 2014.
“You once said you would have shot me in the head. If you did, you would be in jail already,” he continued, with anger in his voice. “You have said all these rude terms. I won the Rama Medal like you did, but I never boasted about my power. You should rethink what you’re doing.”
Prayuth then slammed his documents on the desk before striding off, trailed by other government leaders like Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan. Opposition MPs immediately gave an ironic cheer and applauded as Prayuth walked out, causing House Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai to hammer his gavel to call for order and convene a 15-minute break.
Sereepisut entered the armed forces academy in 1965 and Prayuth followed in 1967. The former joined the police academy after graduating while Prayuth went on to the army cadet school.
After the lawmakers reassembled, Bhumjaithai MP Chada Thaiseth demanded Sereepisut withdraw his accusation against the Prime Minister. House Speaker Pornpetch agreed with the request and ordered Sereepisut to withdraw his remark, to which he refused.
“It’s what the public is saying. I didn’t come up with it. I only relayed it here,” the Seri Ruam Thai leader said with a straight face.
Pornpetch then expelled Sereepisut from Parliament citing insubordination, to the boos and cheers of pro- and anti-government lawmakers. Speaking to reporters after he left Parliament, Sereepisut insisted he said nothing wrong. He added that he regrets that Prayuth no longer counts him as his senior.
“I feel very sad,” said Sereepisut, who once served as a police commissioner. “I will go home and cry tonight.”
The two-day parliament session, in which the government is announcing its long list of core policies, continues today.
A spar broke out again this morning when Phalang Pracharath firebrand MP Parina Kraikup caught Sereepisut arriving at Parliament, and lambasted his unruly behavior the previous night.
“Can Police Gen. Sereepisut show his face in Parliament today?” Parina asked the House Speaker, using a term whose meaning is close to “stick his nose.” Her protest sparked a round of jeering from the opposition.
House Speaker Pornpetch ruled that Sereepisut is indeed allowed to join today’s session because the incident last night has been resolved.