After another week of protests and two days of a special parliamentary session, the kingdom is still mired in political conflict. There are two key centres of focus. One is the now approved idea of a reconciliation committee and the other is the growing chorus calling for the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, to step down to break the impasse.

Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister, former army chief and leader of the ruling political party, Palang Pracharat, on Thursday ruled out any prospect of a coup following the intervention of a former yellow shirt national protest leader who appeared to embrace the prospect in a TV broadcast. It comes as there are still growing calls for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, to diffuse the current political crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (right) slapped down any idea of a coup d’état on Thursday after a TV news show broadcast a clip of former Yellow Shirt leader, Sondhi Limthongkul (inset left), in which the man who led nationwide protests against Thai governments from 2006 to 2009, suggested that a coup might pave the way for a national unity government. It comes as parliament works towards a reconciliation committee but also with a growing chorus of calls for the current Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha (inset centre), to step down.

Deputy Prime Minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, flatly rejected any prospect of a military coup following comments made by a former yellow shirt protest organiser, on Thursday, who called for a unity government after power was returned to His Majesty, the King.

Sondhi Limthongkul is the former, charismatic leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The former media tycoon, and one-time ardent supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra who nearly two decades ago, in 2006, appeared to have a change of heart and led protests against the dynamic Thai prime minister precipitating the coup that year. 

Mr Sondhi later led national movements against elected governments aligned to Mr Shinawatra in 2008 and 2009.

Jailed for twenty years in 2016 for forgery relating to a bank loan but later released on a pardon

He was subsequently jailed for 20 years in 2016 on forgery charges linked to a bank loan before being pardoned in September 2019.

Comments by Mr Sondhi appeared on a clip aired by satellite TV channel on a programme called ‘News One’, this Tuesday.

In it, he said: ‘For me, a coup is not evil. If the constitution is to be amended, all involved must be allowed a say to make sure the charter is fair. A national unity government must be set up and it must be independent. Anyone who might be thinking of staging a coup must not make a mistake like the NCPO, which seized power and expanded it.’

Yellow shirt leader sees national unity government

Mr Sondhi was referring to the National Council For Peace and Order, led by the current Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, which ruled Thailand from 2014 until last year when a democratically elected government again under his leadership took power.

The former yellow shirt leader envisaged the Thai King appointing a national unity government to oversee a reset of the country’s political system.

No coup says DPM Prawit

On Thursday, DPM Prawit gave the idea short shrift and pronounced: ‘There won’t be any coup’.

Following two days of a parliamentary session on Monday and Tuesday, the Thai parliament, with the approval of the government, is proceeding with the establishment of a reconciliation committee.

It also comes as the Thai Prime Minister, General Prayut, has conceded publicly that he is willing to see the controversial Section 272 of the 2017 Constitution concerning the Senate’s role in the election of a prime minister, rescinded as part of any new constitutional arrangement.

Move Forward Party boss says PM Prayut Chan ocha must step down to diffuse the current conflict

On Thursday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chuan Leekpai, said that the new committee must involve players from outside parliament. He dismissed reports that the main opposition party and the country’s largest, Pheu Thai, have ruled out participation in the body.

At the same time, Chaithawat Tulathon, the Secretary-General of the progressive Move Forward Party has reiterated that the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha must stand down before the committee proceeds and stressed that this move was key, right now, to defusing the current political conflict.

Former Prime Minister from 1991 and 1992 also hints that General Prayut must bow to the younger generation’s demand for him to go

Meanwhile, at a forum in Bangkok hosted by a range of groups including the National Press Council and the Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflicts, former Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun, who served twice in 1991 and 1992 during similar political turmoil, called for a new charter or constitution which, he says, should be shorter.

Mr Anand agreed that Section 272 relating to the powers of the Senate should be removed. 

He also appeared to suggest that Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha should resign to appease and open dialogue with the younger generation.

‘The young generation insists that the prime minister is the source of all problems. I’m not sure if other generations agree, but they too think that his resignation would help solve the problem,’ he said. 

DPM Wissanu calls for a focus on the reconciliation committee as the way forward out of crisis

Mr Anand asserted that General Prayut, in the eyes of this upcoming generation, represented everything that they see as having gone wrong for the last seven years.

Asked about the former PM’s statement, the current Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for legal affairs, Wissanu Krea-ngam, said he had no knowledge of the remarks but would only say that he personally believes that the reconciliation proposal being advanced by parliament represents the best prospect to a solution to the crisis at this time.

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