The aftermath of last week’s political drama may have only just begun playing out as the removal of the junior minister confirms reports that a serious heave to overthrow Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha was thwarted last week. Aside from the next move for Captain Thamanat within parliament or outside, there are also reports that the opposition parties are pressing claims of bribery within the parliament building on Friday last.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has removed Deputy Minister of Agriculture Thamanat Prompow and Deputy Minister of Labour Narumon Pinyosinwat from his cabinet in an announcement carried on Wednesday in the Royal Gazette. It follows two or three days of political uncertainty last week when it was reported that the government was on the brink, in a plot being forged between elements within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party and the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.
The Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha moved on Wednesday against the source of a heave against him from within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party when he removed Deputy Minister of Agriculture Thamanat Prompow from his post just 5 days after an emotional parliamentary party meeting in which the newly elected Secretary-general of the party offered an apology to the government leader.
Crisis averted in parliament as MPs coup plot against the Prime Minister melts in goodwill at crucial meeting
It follows persistent and credible reports up to Friday last week that a plot was underway to vote out the Prime Minister and his government using the censure motion to effectively force his resignation and for a new coalition government to be formed by elements within the Palang Pracharat Party, the main opposition Pheu Thai Party and smaller parties commanding approximately 20 MPs.
Clinical and decisive move by the PM
The decisive strike on Wednesday against the deputy minister at the Ministry of Agriculture also included the removal of the Deputy Minister of Labour, Narumon Pinyosinwat who was promoted to the position last year in a cabinet reshuffle which in itself came about as the result of tensions and changes within the Palang Pracharat Party.
The news of the dismissal came on Wednesday after an announcement signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha appeared in the Royal Gazette, the official record of the Thai government.
The move comes under Section 171 of the constitution and requires the Thai King to remove the two named ministers from their positions as it was appropriate and for the benefit of the kingdom.
However, it is not clear what the reaction will be to the move within parliament and the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.
Captain Thamanat announced his resignation – can no longer ‘share the same path’ as General Prayut
In response to the shock announcement, Mr Thamanat told reporters on Thursday that he had just signed his letter of resignation from the government.
This was a preemptive move before his removal by the King.
He said that he could not ‘share the same path’ as the prime minister and the government he led.
He said he had yet to make his mind up about his position within the Palang Pracharat Party.
For now, Mr Thamanat said he was focused on his attention role as a sitting MP for Phayao province.
Move follows Friday’s political drama in Thailand’s parliament when reports of Captain Thamanat’s removal were cited as ‘fake news’ by ministry
The move follows a flurry of rumours last Friday that the minister had been fired by the prime minister, reports which were denied at the time, even leading to an urgent alert from the Digital Economy and Society Ministry describing the rumours as fake news and suggesting that no such order had been signed.
On Thursday, some sources suggested that while an apology was offered at Friday’s meeting by the deputy minister, it had not been accepted by the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.
The source said that the prime minister could not tolerate disloyalty or any cabal with the potential to undermine and subvert the efforts of his government.
The prime minister has also signalled his intention to become more involved in oversight of the Palang Pracharat Party, the party that supports the government.
Controversial junior minister rose to prominence after the 2019 General Election as an MP from Phayao
This is despite the fact that General Prayut is not a member of the political party.
Indeed, on Friday, it was reported that the prime minister attended hastily arranged meetings in parliament with MPs in the party, some of whom he had never met before.
It is widely known that Captain Thamanat Prompow is a highly influential figure and political operator working across the political divide and with an extensive political network throughout Thailand since his election in 2019 as an MP for the northern province of Phayao.
Controversial past of Captain Thamanat surfaced that July to stymie his chances at a senior cabinet job
Captain Thamanat was rumoured to be in line to be appointed Minister of Labour in that government until the Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, published a sensational story revealing him as Mr Manat Bophlom who was jailed in Australia for drug trafficking following his arrest in Sydney’s Bondi Beach district in April 1993.
Thamanat gets the all-clear from the Constitutional Court in relation to Australian drug allegations
The controversial former minister was a former Thai Rak Thai member and later won a seat for Pheu Thai in the disbanded election of 2014.
Skilled political broker who attracted the Prime Minister’s attention when his first democratic government needed to be pulled together
He emerged as a significant political player in 2019 when he stood and won a seat for the Palang Pracharat Party in Phayao and later caught the eye of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha for his skills at forging political agreements which played a key role in creating the current coalition government formed in July 2019 following the Prime Minister’s appointment by the King in June of that year after the March General Election.
It has long been reported, since such heaves began last year and particularly since his appointment as Palang Pracharat Party Secretary-general in Khon Kaen in June, that Mr Thammant was seeking a senior ministerial appointment.
Coveted the job of Ministry of the Interior
He was reported to have had his sights fixed on the post of Minister of the Interior currently held by senior government figure and one of the ‘band of three brothers’ in the government, General Anupong Paochinda.
Apart from the prime minister, the other member of this band and close associate of Mr Thamanat, is Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the leader of the Palang Pracharat Party.
General Prawit told reporters that he had only been informed of the removal of his party secretary-general from the cabinet on Thursday after it appeared in the Royal Gazette.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan expresses his surprise at the news of his close associates
On Thursday, General Prawit told reporters that the move came as a surprise to him as he had not discussed it with the prime minister beforehand.
The Deputy Prime Minister is also known to be close to the now removed Deputy Minister of Labour, Narumon Pinyosinwat, who before her elevation last August to the cabinet, was a government spokeswoman.
The aftermath of last Friday’s scrambled efforts by the Palang Pracharat Party to avoid disaster for the government in last Saturday’s no confidence votes is still emerging.
Legal action mooted over sensational bribery allegation in parliament made by a Pheu Thai MP
On Thursday, it was announced that opposition parties are preparing to undertake legal action against the prime minister and other ministers who defeated the censure motions in the house.
It came after Pheu Thai MP, Wisarn Techathirawat, made dramatic and serious charges on the floor of the house that the prime minister had handed out bribes of ฿5 million to MPs within the parliament building.
This led to a subsequent committee of investigation being announced by House of Representatives Speaker Chuan Leekpai who treated the allegations as a grave matter.
He said the claims had the potential to besmirch the house and could affect public confidence in the institution.
Sources within the government have suggested that legal action against the Pheu Thai MP may be pursued while opposition parties say they have evidence which they intend to lodge along with a complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.