BANGKOK — The main opposition party on Friday insisted there was no secret deal with the government to spare Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan from the recently concluded no-confidence debate as alleged by some observers.
A day after the Pheu Thai Party used up a time slot allotted to the Future Forward Party in the debate, thus preventing the latter from delivering its blow on Gen. Prawit, Pheu Thai deputy leader Chawalit Wichayasut said it was simply a case of mismanagement.
“The Pheu Thai Party never had an idea to betray our friend who fought with us side by side,” Chawalit said. “The party has been working with opposition parties for a long time. We were flexible in time slot allocations, but what happened yesterday was unprecedented.”
Future Forward MP Rangsiman Rome was initially scheduled to deliver his no-confidence motion against Prawit on Thursday. The Future Forward Party walked out in protest after it was clear Pheu Thai spent its quota of debate, and the House Speaker refused to grant any extra time.
In what appeared to be major rift between the two key opposition parties, de facto leader of the disbanded Future Forward Party Pita Limjaroenrat held a press conference after the walk-out, and criticized the Pheu Thai Party for its poor time keeping.
“Everyone was working their best to keep the time. I don’t understand why they have to do this much to bar us. Don’t they want us to have a place to stand and scrutinize anything?” Pita said. “That’s why we walked out because I want my fellow MPs to use this place to continue their censures.”
The walk-out continued through Friday, when Pheu Thai and their allies refused to attend the no-confidence voting session, though most Future Forward MPs returned to the chamber. Their absence resulted in PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and five members of his cabinet surviving a vote of no-confidence by a wide margin.
Another MP, Jirawat Arunyakanon from Bangkok, slammed the Pheu Thai Party for breaking the customary order of censure debate.
Deputy PM Prawit was originally marked as the second target in the four-day debate right after PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, but he was somehow moved to the last of the six ministers to face the no-confidence motion.
“I don’t want to think about the alleged dealings between the government and certain opposition parties,” Jirawat said. “As per political tradition, Deputy PM Prawit should be the second person to be put on the motion of no-confidence, but it appeared that there was a lobbying to position Prawit to the last.”
Former Future Forward sec-gen Piyabutr Saengkanokkul also took to his Facebook after the news conference and said that there was an attempt by a Pheu Thai MP to prevent Prawit from being censured.
“We agreed to censure Prayut for three days and then the rest for the last day of the debate,” Piyabutr wrote. “But this deal collapsed after a Pheu Thai MP refused to censure Prayut on the night of day three, insisting to do it on the morning of the final day.”
He continued, “When it came to the final day, that MP didn’t show up on time. And when he spoke, he took up hours from time slots allocated to others. I then realized ‘they’ don’t want us to censure the rest of the cabinet, especially Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan.”
Following the Pheu Thai’s insistence of no collusion, coalition whip leader Wirat Ratanaset also said the allegation of any secret dealings is unfounded.
MP Slams ‘Prawit Club’
After failing to deliver their addresses during the session, two Future Forward MPs staged what they called “a no-confidence debate outside the Parliament” on Thursday evening.
Among those targeted were interior affairs minister Anupong Paochinda, whose presence went unmentioned during the four days of debate inside the Parliament.
Phitsanulok MP Padipat Santipada said Anupong was involved in a corruption in a waste-to-energy plant project, and accused him of by-passing environmental and city planning laws in favor of the private sector.
Future Forward MP Rangsiman Rome also said Prawit used his charity foundation to foster connections with the country’s top billionaires.
“Apart from making donations, the private sector’s involvement with the foundation is a ticket to enter into a realm of benefits which I call Prawit Club,” Rangsiman said. “It uses state resources and mechanism to build up influence and connections for himself and his cronies.”
The charity, “Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation,” was established by the army in 2006. According to its website, it aims to conserve a vast forest that spans across the southeastern provinces of Chachoengsao, Sa Kaeo, Chonburi, Rayong, and Chanthaburi.
But Rangsiman said its real goal was to incubate loyalties and form an inner circle trusted by Prawit, who is the foundation’s chairman. Many of those who managed to join the privileged “club” later went on to hold high-ranking military and police posts, the MP alleged.
“Gen. Prawit could lead the army’s Eastern Tiger faction to stage the coup because of this network,” he said. “They can stay in power for the past five years depite numerous scandals because of this network.”