Thai opposition party names property tycoon as adviser

In this file photo taken on Nov 29, 2019, the Government House, the office of Thailand's prime minister, is seen in Bangkok. (PHOTO / AFP)

BANGKOK – Thailand's biggest opposition party on Wednesday named a well-known local property tycoon as its new adviser ahead of an upcoming election, adding fuel to speculation he was being lined up as another prime ministerial candidate.

The Pheu Thai party, which together with its previous incarnations has won every Thai election since 2001, announced Srettha Thavisin, chief executive officer of Sansiri Pcl, had been brought in as a senior adviser.

"It's time to do more political work, but let's take the future step-by-step," Srettha, 60, said when asked by reporters about him being a possible candidate for premier, following months of rumors.

The nation is not a business. Remember my words, the country's economy is not a family business, do you understand?

Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thai Prime Minister

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36, whose father and aunt led governments overthrown in military coups in 2006 and 2014, has topped opinion polls since last year and was confirmed at the weekend as one of Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidates.

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Under election rules, a party can name up to three candidates for premier. Pheu Thai previously said it would name three.

Srettha said he would be stepping up his presence on the campaign trail for the election, which is due in May.

"Paetongtarn has done well, but being seven months pregnant, there are limits," Srettha said.

They will face off against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a general who led the coup against the last Pheu Thai government in 2014.

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Underlining the bitter rivalry between Thailand's warring political camps, Prayuth on Wednesday dismissed questions about Srettha's prospects and asked reporters what was special about him being a real estate mogul.

"The nation is not a business," Prayuth said, before walking to a waiting car.

"Remember my words, the country's economy is not a family business, do you understand?"