By THE NATION
Key government figures also denied any involvement with the group of veteran politicians who are calling themselves “Sam Mit” (Three Friends). The group includes former transport minister Suriya Juengrungruangkit and former industry minister Somsak Thepsuthin. A third “friend” in the group is said to be Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who is in charge of the government’s economic team.
Suriya and Somsak, previously key figures in the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, recently toured the Northeast to persuade former MPs to join a new party being formed to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return as head of a new post-election government.
Sam Mit is believed to be connected to a new political party called Palang Pracharat, which plans to back General Prayut as its prime ministerial candidate. The party’s name is inspired by the government’s populist development project. The ruling junta National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday insisted it treated all political groups and parties equally.
NCPO spokesman Maj-General Piyapong Klinphan said it was making sure the politicians complied with relevant NCPO orders. “We have to take action against any violator,” he said.
The spokesman said the NCPO also was monitoring moves by the Sam Mit group, just like it was doing with other political parties and groups. “We will take action if the law is violated,” he added.
He was asked to comment on Sam Mit’s argument that they have not yet formed a political party so the group does not have to comply with the NCPO orders intended for existing parties.
The NCPO spokesman said, “Whatever that is not against the law can be done.”
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday dismissed the allegations of bias towards Sam Mit. “I am not biased at all,” he said, adding that he did not know Suriya personally.
“Sam Mit also has to comply with the NCPO orders just like any other political group,” he said.
He said other groups of politicians also were making their moves in preparation for the next election. That could be done as long as the NCPO orders were not violated, he added. “They gathered for golf games and nobody seemed to complain,” said Prawit, who is also the defence minister.
Deputy PM Somkid yesterday denied any involvement with Sam Mit, saying that he knew nothing much about the group’s moves.
“They are my friends. I know people in most political parties,” said Somkid, who is believed to be a key figure behind Palang Pracharat.