Peeved over party-pooping
Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, the newly appointed adviser to Palang Pracharath (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwon, has already ruffled a few feathers in the ruling party, and he has not even started yet.
Rumours that he is there to balance out power within the party and is being eyed as a potential candidate for premier are not going down well with some party members.
PPRP MP for Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, reacted strongly to the talk, described Mr Pirapan, despite his political experience with the Democrats, as a “novice monk” who must “rise through the ranks”.
Mr Pirapan, a five-time MP with the Democrat Party and a former justice minister during
the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, jumped ship in late 2019 and went to work for the government serving as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s adviser.
His present gig as the PPRP leader’s adviser comes amid lingering speculation over ties between Gen Prawit and Gen Prayut, as well as the controversy surrounding Gen Prayut’s eight-year tenure.
Some political observers view Mr Pirapan’s new role in the ruling party as an attempt by some party heavyweights to balance out power in light of the growing clout PPRP secretary-general Capt Thamanat Prompow wields.
Capt Thamanat, while stripped of his cabinet post for an alleged attempt to overthrow Gen Prayut during the last censure debate, is believed to retain a firm hold on the party.
Mr Pirapan is also said to be one of the two backup choices in case Gen Prayut’s term ends in August next year. Gen Prayut was the PPRP’s sole candidate for prime minister in the 2019 poll, despite not being a party member.
Under the constitution, no one can serve more than eight years as prime minister, regardless of whether the terms are served back-to-back. Gen Prayut’s critics insist the premier who assumed office following the 2014 coup, will have served out his eight-year term by August next year.
According to a source in the PPRP, Mr
Pirapan is said to be very offended by Mr Sira’s remark, even though Gen Prawit has intervened and vowed to quell discontent among party members.
“He may feel like he’s been abandoned by someone who was supposed to protect him. And as if that wasn’t enough the very same person had just set those people on him,” the source said, described how Mr Pirapan might be feeling.
Mr Pirapan parted ways with the Democrats in early December 2019, a decision that also ended his time as a party-list MP. He did not give a reason for his abrupt exit, which came months after losing to Jurin Laksanawisit in the party leadership contest in May.
According to the PPRP source, Mr Pirapan was believed to have turned his back on the Democrats because he was approached to take the helm at the PPRP, replacing Uttama Savanayana who was then party leader.
At the time, changes in the PPRP leadership had been widely speculated after Gen Prawit made an appearance at a party seminar in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Wang Nam Khieo district in July 2019.
The move was seen as a signal of his next political move, but Mr Pirapan came into the picture because the PPRP wanted a civilian as the party chief to avoid being seen as a pro-military party.
However, after the purge of Mr Uttama and three others in the so-called Four Boys group, the PPRP leadership was handed to Gen Prawit, who was then the party chief strategist in an uncontested race.
At that time, key party figures were reportedly told Gen Prawit’s stay as party head would be temporary and that he would be warming the seat for Mr Pirapan.
More than a year has passed since the big party revamp, but Gen Prawit remains as leader, having apparently grabbed a firm hold of the PPRP, according to the source.
However, Digital Economy and Society Minister, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, has downplayed any animosity towards Mr Pirapan, saying any displeasure will be dealt with and party members will come to understand Mr Pirapan’s role in the PPRP.
According to Mr Chaiwut, who is also a PPRP executive, senior party figures feel Mr Pirapan is cut out for his role in the PPRP as he did a remarkable job as the prime minister’s political aide.