Thailand: PM rallies behind Uttama and Sontirat

  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has signalled the end of conflict within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) while throwing his support behind PPRP heavyweights — leader Uttama Savanayana and secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong — encouraging them not to be distracted by political issues that have shaken their leadership.
  • Pressure has been building up in the ruling party to replace the men following growing dissatisfaction with their leadership, with their ouster to coincide with a cabinent reshuffle.
  • But after a 30-minute meeting with the prime minister, Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat appeared more confident.
  • It was rare to see Gen Prayut touch on non-Covid-19 topics as his public focus has been on getting Thailand out of the crisis and securing a partial lockdown lift. But he did call the pair on 5 May 20 for talks on their work and inter-party conflicts.
  • “The premier has boosted our morale,” Mr Uttama, also Finance Minister, said after the meeting.
  • Just recently, they were in sombre mood as speculation abounded that party members were growing increasingly frustrated that Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat were not giving them greater roles in implementing state policies to deal with Covid-19, which would have enabled them to score political points, a source said.
  • The sentiment came amid a report that deputy Prime Minister and PPRP chief strategist Prawit Wongsuwon would succeed Mr Uttama and deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat would take over from Mr Sontirat.
  • There were no discussions about a cabinet reshuffle during the most recent meeting, Mr Uttama said. Mr Sontirat who is also Energy Minister, echoed that sentiment, saying the time for party discord was over.
  • Gen Prayut stressed “there will be no change of positions at this moment”, Mr Sontirat said.

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