Palang Pracharath Party executives. Among them, party leader and Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana (fifth from left), deputy party leaders Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee (sixth from left) and Nathapol Teepsuwan (third from left), secretary-general and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong (fourth from left), spokesman and Prime Minister’s Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakul (fourth from right).
The Palang Pracharath Party has insisted it will play by the rules and will not use state resources or personnel to gain an unfair advantage over other parties as the party yesterday unveiled its 25 new executives, including four current cabinet ministers.
At the party’s first general assembly in Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana was voted party leader.
The Palang Pracharath Party is believed to have been set up to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should he decide to reclaim the premiership after the general election which is tentatively scheduled to take place on Feb 24.
The meeting also elected Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee and Nathapol Teepsuwan, a former Democrat MP, as deputy leaders.
Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong was voted secretary-general while Prime Minister’s Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool was named spokesman and party executive.
Mr Uttama, Mr Sontirat and Mr Suvit are members of the government’s economic team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the prime minister’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs, was also chosen as party executive. He and Mr Nathapol were former co-leaders of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
At the meeting, the party also recruited members and drew up a manifesto.
Newly recruited members include those with links with the Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group such as Anucha Nakhasai, a former MP of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party; Sorawuth Nuengchamnong, a former Democrat Party MP; and Pongkawin Jungrungreangkij, the nephew of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij, a key figure of the Sam Mitr group.
The Sam Mitr group, seen as the regime’s recruiting arm, is believed to have teamed up with Palang Pracharath.
The group is trying to persuade several former MPs to defect from their parties and join Palang Pracharath, which is seen as a vehicle to support Gen Prayut’s return to power if he wishes to.
Others who joined the party include deputy Bangkok governor and former PDRC co-leader Sakoltee Phattiyakul, and former Pattaya mayor Itthipol Kunplome who currently serves as assistant to the tourism and sports minister.
Mr Uttama told the media after the meeting he had no plan to resign his post, and insisted that the four ministers will not exploit their role in the cabinet to gain an unfair advantage over other politicians in the run-up to the general election.
“We will not use state resources or government officials to gain an unfair advantage over others. We are ready to be scrutinised by the people,” he said.
Mr Uttama said Palang Pracharath is seeking to foster national reconciliation without any pre-agreed alliances with other parties or individuals.
The next step will be to submit the paperwork to the Election Commission to formally endorse the status of the new party
Mr Suvit said the party would initially propose Mr Uttama as prime minister. “Whether it will be changed to Gen Prayut in the future depends on party executives and clarity from Gen Prayut himself.”
The Palang Pracharath Party applied for party registration with the EC in early March of this year.
The party’s name is the same as the government’s Pracharath people-state partnership development programme.
Suporn Atthawong, formerly a key figure in the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said that members of the Nakhon Ratchasima-based Phalang Korat group, to which Mr Suporn belongs, will also join Palang Pracharath next month when the party is expected to hold a meeting of party members.
The Phalang Korat group is newly formed and made up of the province’s former Pheu Thai-affiliated MPs.
Better known by his nickname “Rambo Isan”, Mr Suporn is among those migrating from the red-shirt movement to Palang Pracharath.
Mr Suporn believes the party will win a majority of House seats and become the core of a coalition government.
By that time, he believes the party will have nominated Gen Prayut as prime minister.
Mr Itthipol, a former member of the Phalang Chon Party, said he joined Palang Pracharath because he liked its ideology and was convinced it could help Chon Buri province grow through the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor policy.
“Phalang Chon will work alongside Palang Pracharath. We have worked with the government for a while to push policies,” he said.