Heads roll after censure debate

Thamanat: Insists he quit

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has sacked Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow and Deputy Labour Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, two key figures in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), in what is believed to be fallout from last week's censure debate.

The sackings are expected to bring about a further revamp of ministerial seats in the cabinet and in the PPRP.

The removal orders for Capt Thamanat and Ms Narumon, which were royally endorsed, were announced in the Royal Gazette on Thursday. The move came after an alleged plot to topple Gen Prayut by amassing no-confidence votes against him in last week's censure debate.

"The prime minister has informed [His Majesty] that some cabinet ministers are to be removed from the cabinet for propriety and interest of administration," read the announcement.

It was released not long after a resignation letter signed by Capt Thamanat was circulated online on Thursday. There was no reason offered in the letter about why he resigned.

Capt Thamanat stands accused of manoeuvring the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.

Gen Prayut did not appear coy about the sackings when asked by journalists on the matter. He suggested the pair were ousted as opposed to them resigning. "It's my reason. It's my business," he said.

Speculation is rife that the sackings have something to do with the alleged campaign to challenge the prime minister's power. The campaign's aim was said to replace Gen Prayut and rebuild a government that would result in a cabinet reshuffle, where certain key politicians in the PPRP, who are now deputy ministers, would be elevated to full ministers of A-grade ministries.

Gen Prayut insisted on Thursday that work would not be disrupted by the pair's departure and said he was not considering a cabinet reshuffle. The PPRP would have to discuss the matter.

A government source said a cabinet reshuffle is on the cards and more seats could be awarded to the Bhumjaithai Party which is said to command 60 votes in the House.

The PPRP is also likely to make an internal revamp with Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat tipped to replace Capt Thamanat as the party's secretary-general, said the source.

A source in the PPRP said on Thursday the fate of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon hangs in balance following the dismissal of the pair who are his close aides.

It is possible that Gen Prawit will step back and let Gen Prayut take the helm, the source said.

A source close to Gen Prawit said Gen Prayut personally informed the PPRP leader of the dismissals on Thursday afternoon at the latter's house.

The PPRP leader was said to be taken off guard by the prime minister's move but respected his decision, according to the source.

Meanwhile, Capt Thamanat told the media that he had mulled over his future for several months and decided to resign from the cabinet so that he could focus on his work as an MP. He said he quit because he was weary of the political divisions in the country and noted the atmosphere in the cabinet was even worse.

Asked if the resignation was related to the alleged plot, he said he informed Gen Prawit of his decision on Monday but he was asked to reconsider.

Capt Thamanat also indicated that he was considering leaving the PPRP and refused to say if some PPRP members would join him. He insisted he and Gen Prawit remained on good terms. He also said he would reduce his role in the party and noted that he would never step into the PPRP's office.

"I've been wooed by many political parties. It can be the Phayao Party or Palang Phayao Party or others. I've made arrangements and you'll see soon," he said.

Narumon: Close aide to Prawit

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