BANGKOK — Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan said Tuesday he had accepted the invitation to chair the pro-government Phalang Pracharat Party as requested by his party members.
The acknowledgement ends weeks of speculations that Prawit would replace finance minister Uttama Savanayana as the party leader. Eighteen out of 34 executive members resigned at the end of May and called for a new selection of the chairman.
“Party members can’t seem to communicate so I am helping to take care. That’s all,” Prawit told reporters on Tuesday morning, though he said everyone should wait for a formal announcement by the party on Saturday first.
Asked if his leadership at the party will be a long one, he said: “I don’t know yet”.
Prawit, 74, is widely seen as the “big brother” of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha and a possible successor of the premier post. A major figure during the 2014 coup that installed Prayut to power, Prawit also commanded strong support among the military.
Public Health Minister and Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnveerakul welcomed Prawit’s decision and congratulated him on Tuesday.
Anuthin said his party has been working smoothly with the Phalang Pracharat Party and expects the same under Prawit’s leadership.
Culture Minister Ittipol Khunpluem and caretaker executive board member of Phalang Pracharat Party said on Tuesday the latest development is “a good sign.” Having Prawit, who is a senior military figure, at the helm and respected by party members would prove beneficial, Ittipol said.
Prawit has been serving as a chief strategist of the party. He reportedly visited the party headquarters on Monday to accept the invitation for him to lead the faction.
Political activist Ekachai Hongkanwan said he was disgusted at the news of Prawit getting yet another political gig, since the general was mired in multiple scandals, including the allegation that he amassed luxury watches and concealed them from a state auditor.
“He even fell asleep during the parliamentary session. He has neither knowledge nor abilities,” Ekachai said. “This COVID-19 is a particularly trying time and he should pity Thailand.”
The Phalang Pracharath Party is scheduled to hold a meeting on Saturday that could see incumbent party leader Uttama resign to pave way for a formal appointment of Prawit as the new chairman.