August 25, 2023
BANGKOK – Led by Det-it Khaothong, acting deputy Democrat leader, they held a press conference a day after acting Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit demanded that they explain why they did not comply with the party’s resolution to abstain from Tuesday’s vote for prime minister.
The press conference also followed an announcement from senior Democrat MP, Sathit Pitutecha, that more than 20 Democrat members signed a petition to call for an investigation of the 16 MPs and that the probe could lead to their expulsion from the party.
Det-it appeared defiant, telling reporters that the party had not issued a resolution on the vote for PM because its members failed to reach a conclusion on the issue on Monday.
Det-it provided a rare and detailed behind-the-scenes account of a meeting that appeared to show a party split by a generational divide.
During Monday’s meeting of Democrat MPs, Det-it said some senior MPs proposed that the party should vote against Srettha because Pheu Thai and its predecessors are long-time rivals of the Democrats.
Younger MPs, however, argued that they should not be bound by past antagonism and conflicts, Det-it said.
Following disagreement from younger MPs, some senior MPs exited the meeting and the young MPs proposed that the party should vote to support the new government to end the political vacuum, while another group of MPs proposed that the party should abstain, Det-it explained.
He said Jurin eventually cut off the debate, saying Democrat MPs must abstain and that this was the party’s resolution.
However, Det-it said, his group did not regard it as the party’s resolution because Jurin and Chuan Leekpai, a former Democrat leader, had different views. While Jurin wanted the MPs to abstain, Chuan wanted them to vote against Srettha, he explained.
Det-it said his group of 16 MPs concluded that Srettha was an acceptable PM candidate after listening to the debate in Parliament before the vote for PM.
Moreover, members of his group saw that Pheu Thai had managed to muster a majority in the House and they decided to bury the hatchet.
“The Democrats of the new age should not inherit the legacy of past conflicts. To allow the country to move on, we supported Srettha as the prime minister,” Det-it explained.
He denied that the votes for Srettha were part of a plan to bring the Democrats into the Pheu Thai-led coalition in the future after it reshuffles its Cabinet and changes partners, adding: “The Democrats are fully an opposition party and we, MPs, have dignity as Democrats. We simply gave Srettha a chance to work without any desire to join the government.”
Det-it admitted that he had once visited Pheu Thai patriarch, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in Hong Kong – as Sathit alleged – but he said he saw nothing wrong with doing this because he is close to leaders of all major political parties.
It will require votes from 75% of Democrat MPs and party executives to expel a party member, Det-it noted, adding: “I’m not sure who will expel whom, as the majority of party MPs and executives are standing here.” He was referring to the 15 MPs who joined him at the press conference.
The Democrats elected only 25 MPs in the May 14 election and Det-it’s group, which is loyal to acting secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on, comprises 16 of them, most of whom are also party executives.
In an apparent taunt, Det-it said: “Don’t worry, I have no plan to expel anyone from the party. I’m ready to hold talks.”
He said the refusal by those outside his group to hold talks had twice delayed the party’s attempts to elect a new leader and executive board. The other side should stop its delay tactics, he added, referring to members exiting meetings so that a quorum cannot be reached to make a decision.