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Would-be Thai PM rejects graft claims, promises poverty action

Thai property magnate Srettha Thavisin, poised to be Thailand’s new prime minister, vows to address poverty and inequality. Amid corruption allegations, a confirmation vote follows a three-month political deadlock.

Srettha’s party, Pheu Thai, leads a coalition formed after a reformist party’s leader was denied the PM position by pro-military forces.



BANGKOK, THAILAND — The wealthy property mogul set to become Thailand’s new prime minister said Friday he wanted to tackle poverty and inequality, as he fended off corruption allegations ahead of a confirmation vote next week.

Parliament will meet on Tuesday to vote on whether to approve Srettha Thavisin as prime minister and end three months of rumbling political deadlock since a May general election.

The 60-year-old’s Pheu Thai party heads a multi-party coalition formed after the reformist Move Forward Party — which won the most seats — saw its leader denied the PM spot by conservative, pro-military forces.

“I would like to reiterate that my enemy is poverty and inequality. My goal is to make every Thai person’s life better,” Srettha said in a video message on Facebook.

Srettha, the former head of Thai property giant Sansiri, rejected allegations of improper dealings made in recent weeks by Chuwit Kamolvisit, a colourful former massage parlour tycoon turned anti-graft whistleblower.

“We are transparent in our work. I come here today to show my innocence to the general public that my activities were done according to the law,” he said.

“I would like to refute all claims that Chuwit has made against me.”

Chuwit this week asked police to investigate two land purchases by Sansiri, which is listed on the Thai stock exchange.

Lower house speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha confirmed the vote for PM would be on Tuesday, starting no later than 3:00 pm local time (0800 GMT).

To become premier, Srettha needs a majority across both the lower house of 500 elected MPs, and the 250-member senate which was handpicked by the kingdom’s last junta.

Opposition from the senate to MFP’s plans to reform royal insult laws and tackle business monopolies sank leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s ambitions.

And so despite winning most seats, MFP will go into opposition while two parties from the outgoing army-backed government will have a share in power.

On Thursday it was confirmed the new coalition would include the United Thai Nation party of outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha — a former army chief who deposed an elected Pheu Thai government to seize power in 2014.

And the coalition also includes Bhumjaithai — another party from the outgoing government — leading some to question how different the new administration will be from the old one.


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