“I’ve never felt more relieved. I think I made the right decision,” she said in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
Khunying Sudarat - who had been Pheu Thai’s chief strategist, a post equal in stature to that of party leader - said she will consult her colleagues first, but has decided to set up a political party of her own after receiving support for the idea.
A source in Pheu Thai said she had relinquished her membership because she did not get along with the new group of Pheu Thai executives over how to run the party.
It was reported other stalwarts in Pheu Thai - Pokin Polakul, Watana Muangsook and Pongsakorn Annanopporn, who are non-MP members of the party - also quit alongside her.
The rift began in October when a new Pheu Thai executive board began leaving her closest aides out of working committees, thus reducing her influence in the party.
A political affairs panel was also named under Chaikasem Nitisiri, the former justice minister and a party key member, which supplanted the strategy committee previously chaired by Khunying Sudarat.
Neither was she or her team offered seats in the party’s politburo, which maintains connections with its old power clique, alongside former party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Dr Prommin Lertsuriyadech, Dr Surapong Suebwonglee, Pongsak Rattapongpaisal, Pol Capt Chalerm Ubumrung and Phuangpet Khunla-iad.
The source said that current party executives were also not happy that Khunying Sudarat had been helping candidates run for Provincial Administrative Organisation seats that they did not support, ahead of the Dec 20 local elections.
“That was the last straw,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has dismissed speculation he plans to approach Khunying Sudarat to join the coalition Bhumjaithai Party which he leads.
“How can I do that? But I can say that the strong ties between Khunying Sudarat and I go back a long way. We respect each other,” he said.
Mr Anutin said Khunying Sudarat used to be his boss when she was public health minister and he was a deputy, from 2004 to 2005 under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.