11 July 2024

Maverick political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana has decided to leave Thailand’s ruling Palang Pracharat party, effective Monday, claiming that doing so will give him more freedom to check the performance of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, other ministers, MPs and government officials.

He said he has been with the ruling party for about eight months and has been working as a member of the House committee to scrutinise the budget bill for the 2023 fiscal year, under the Palang Pracharat party’s quota.

As well as the job on the House committee, he said he has been focusing on independently checking the performance of government officials, political parties and others.

The activist disclosed, however, that early this month he was asked by someone, whom he did not name, to delay his plan to raise the contentious issue of the prime minister’s term in the office. There is disagreement as to whether the current prime minister will have been in office for eight years this August, as claimed by the opposition, or just four years, as the prime minister claims.

After the coup, which overthrew the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, General Prayut was head of the military and, therefore effectively the prime minister for four years and, again, was appointed prime minister in the government formed after the general elections in 2019. He has never been elected in a plebiscite.

Ruangkrai said he felt that the request was an attempt to manipulate him, but that he could wait because there are still seven months before August and, who knows, the prime minister may be forced to leave in the meantime.

He also claimed that he could do much better than the opposition in checking the performance of the government.

A freelancer, who is known for his flexible loyalty, Ruangkrai used to be with the opposition Pheu Thai party.