Anutin insists he was not plotting 'election coup’ over lunch with Prawit
Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul on Thursday sought to downplay his lunch meeting with Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan, raising eyebrows by claiming it had absolutely no political significance.
Photos of Prawit lunching with fellow deputy PM Anutin and two core Bhumjaithai members – suspended transport minister Saksayam Chidchob and UthaiThani MP Chada Thaiseth – were splashed across the internet on Wednesday.
The three met at Prawit’s Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation at noon.
“The lunch get-together was planned much earlier and had no political significance,” insisted Anutin in an interview with FM 96.0 radio station.
Anutin, who doubles as health minister, said the meeting was planned when Prawit was greeted by Bhumjaithai deputy leader Chada during a trip to Nakhon Sawan in late January.
Anutin said he and Prawit “happened to be free” on Wednesday so decided to meet for lunch as they had not dined together for a long time.
“What’s wrong with me dining with the government manager,” Anutin taunted the radio programme host. “It would have been exciting if I had dined with [opposition] Pheu Thai leaders,” he quipped.
Anutin said Prawit had asked him over lunch how many House seats Bhumjaithai expected to win, and he replied 70.
However, there was no discussion about Bhumjaithai joining a coalition with Prawit’s Palang Pracharath, he insisted.
“I didn’t talk about forming a new coalition because we are still in the same coalition,” Anutin said.
Photos show Prawit and Anutin smiling together at the dining table, though reports indicate many Palang Pracharath MPs are defecting to Bhumjaithai.
Anutin said he would accept a lunch invitation from any party.
“Eating together doesn’t mean we’ll end up in the same coalition,” he added.
When asked why he dined with Prawit during the “transitional period” before the election, Anutin said there was no political transition as far as he was concerned.
“There are still several days before the House term expires on March 23,” he pointed out.
The health minister also dismissed the idea that releasing the photos of him dining with Prawit was aimed at intimidating political rivals. “Please don’t be so pessimistic,” he scoffed.
Bhumjaithai would also set a condition for joining any coalition that the marijuana control bill must be passed by the government, he said.
The Bhumjaithai-initiated marijuana and hemp control bill failed to clear its second reading in the House due mainly to opposition from coalition partner the Democrats.