Party leader told reporters that Pheu Thai was taking the initiative to pull Thailand out of a dangerous political crisis. He said the party would back many of the legislative aims and plans of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by it with the Move Forward Party and six others on the 22nd May 2023 including gay marriage, dismantling monopolies, new laws on liquor manufacturing, reform of the civil service, army and the police. The party emphasised that Move Forward had refused to budge on its highly controversial plans to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code on lèse-majesté even at Wednesday’s decisive meeting but that, in any event, many senators and other parties were opposed to any association with the more progressive party which won the May 14th General Election but which appears, for now, to be destined for the opposition benches in parliament.
Pheu Thai, on Wednesday afternoon, finally confirmed weeks of speculation and briefings by anonymous sources when it said it had broken from the eight-party pact for government and was setting up a new coalition without the Move Forward Party. It comes after speculation in the last 24 hours suggested that a deal including the allocation of cabinet seats and other arrangements had already been concluded between the party and the Bhumjaithai Party, Palang Pracharat Party and the Democrat Party which are expected to support the nomination of Mr Srettha Thavisin for Prime Minister if a vote proceeds in parliament on Friday depending on the Constitutional Court’s actions on Thursday. Dr Cholnan Srikaew, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party also promised the creation of a new Constitution to be put to the public by a referendum and a new General Election under its terms as soon as possible would be at the heart of the new government’s programme to lead Thailand out of the current political crisis it finds itself in.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Pheu Thai Party confirmed reports that had been circulating for weeks in Bangkok when it announced that it had withdrawn from the eight-party Memorandum of Understanding signed on the 22nd of May 2023 with the Move Forward Party and six other political groups including the Thai Sang Thai Party, to form a ‘Government of Hope’ administration.
It came after a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning, attended by the negotiation committees of both the Pheu Thai Party and the Move Forward Party.
Fateful meeting held at Pheu Thai headquarters on Wednesday morning between negotiating teams of Move Forward and Pheu Thai, it lasted two hours
Held at Pheu Thai headquarters, the meeting saw Move Forward represented by Ms Sirikanya Tansakul, a party list MP for the party who emerged after the May 14th General Election as a key spokesperson, its deputy leader Mr Phicharn Chaowapatanawong as well as Mr Chaitawat Tulathon, the Secretary-General of the Move Forward Party.
Dr Cholnan Srikaew, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party hosted the meeting accompanied by the Deputy Leader of Pheu Thai, Phumtham Wechayachai and Mr Prasert Jantararuangtong, the party’s Secretary-general.
The meeting commenced at 9.30 am and lasted approximately two hours.
After it concluded, it is understood that Pheu Thai executives made contact with other members of the pact to inform them of the latest developments.
The upshot is that four parties to the pact including the Seri Ruam Thai Party, Prachachat, Pheu Thai Ruam Palang, and Plung Sungkom Mai are following Pheu Thai to its new coalition with the Thai Sang Thai Party and the Fair Party remaining with Move Forward.
Afternoon press conference given by the Pheu Thai leadership led by Dr Cholnan Srikaew, the Move Forward Party now excluded from its coalition
In the afternoon, Pheu Thai Party leader Dr Cholnan Srikaew gave a press conference in which he detailed the sequence of events that led to Wednesday’s decision by the party.
It appears that at the meeting on Wednesday morning, Dr Cholnan made it clear that other political parties and members of the Senate to whom Pheu Thai have spoken demanded that the Move Forward Party must be excluded from any potential new government to get the votes to elect Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister
Dr Cholnan gave a summary of events over the last month including the vote on July 13th 2023 when the Pheu Thai Party supported the nomination of Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat for Prime Minister.
He emphasised that the Move Forward had received the support of Pheu Thai and its 141 MPs consistently up to this point.
He revealed that on Wednesday the Pheu Thai Party had urged the Move Forward leadership, even at this late stage, to move away from its policy on Article 112. He noted that this was not possible.
On this basis, Pheu Thai was moving, he said, to form its own coalition which would exclude the Move Forward Party and would nominate Mr Srettha Thavisin for the post of Prime Minister if a vote scheduled in Parliament goes ahead on Friday.
Constitutional Court call on Thursday to determine if Friday’s vote in parliament to elect a Prime Minister can proceed or not, voting currently suspended
This is dependent on a decision by the Constitutional Court which is expected, on Thursday, to decide on whether it will accept a petition from the Office of the Ombudsman relating to the attempted renomination of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat of the Move Forward Party on July 19th last.
This vote was blocked in Parliament based on a procedural vote which sparked outrage from third parties including 115 legal experts whose petition was among 16 lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman leading to the referral to the Constitutional Court.
This led Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha to suspend further votes until the case was disposed of before the court.
Dr Cholnan, on Wednesday, made it clear that the Pheu Thai Party and its new coalition for government would oppose any proposal to amend or change Article 112 of the Criminal Code while its proposed government would not include the Move Forward Party.
Pheu Thai’s plan to create a new constitution to be put before a public referendum and if passed, to call a new General Election under its provisions
The Pheu Thai leader outlined the plan of the party that was placed second in the May 14th General Election.
He said if it is successful in forming the next government, it would move, from the first cabinet meeting, to amend the Thai Constitution to resolve the current difficulties implicit in the 2017 Charter which have given rise to the current crisis.
He committed the party to coming forward with a consultative arrangement with the public to prepare a new draft constitution.
He said that this would then be put to a referendum.
Dr Cholnan then announced the party would return to the people and call a new General Election to be held under the new constitution.
It planned to pursue policies agreed with the Move Forward Party to do with equal marriage, reform of the liquor licensing laws, reforms within the civil service, as well as a reorganisation of the army, police and judicial system.
He reiterated Pheu Thai’s commitment to changing the compulsory conscription system used by the military to a voluntary system and a campaign of decentralisation relating to local government.
Pheu Thai supports Move Forward Party policies
He said Pheu Thai would be committed also to abolishing monopolies in the private sector and to promoting fair trade and competition.
Dr Cholnan said he would like to use the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship from Pheu Thai to its friends in all the political parties and among senators.
He underlined the party’s commitment to the country’s key institutions.
He said that Pheu Thai was now acting to bring Thailand out of the current crisis which had arisen and was committed to resolving conflict where possible while upholding democratic ideals.
After Pheu Thai’s decisive withdrawal from the eight-party pact on Wednesday, attention now turns to whether Mr Srettha Thavisin, as the party’s prime ministerial nominee, can attain the 375 votes required on Friday next, August 4th.
But first of all, this is dependent on the decision on Thursday of the Constitutional Court.
Protests outside Pheu Thai headquarters as Dr Cholnan explained the party’s move to dispatch its former political partner in a democratic alliance
In comments to reporters at the press conference on Wednesday afternoon, particularly to crowds protesting outside the party’s headquarters as he spoke, Dr Cholnan also made it clear that there were elements both within the Senate and other political parties who were opposed to any association with a government involving the Move Forward Party.
‘It turns out that they do not accept any change to Article 112 intact and for a new government, they will not have Move Forward in a coalition,’ Dr Cholnan said.
He made it clear that if Pheu Thai is successful in forming a government that it will sit opposite the Move Forward Party in Parliament which would then form the core of the opposition benches estimated at 195 to 200 seats.
He concluded his press conference by insisting that Pheu Thai made the decision to sunder its partnership with the Move Forward Party in a democratic alliance in the interests of the country.
The move flies in the face of warnings that the party will permanently lose a large segment of its support by sacrificing the Move Forward Party in its efforts to form a government, seen by many as a political betrayal.
Thaksin and Pheu Thai’s position is currently fraught with real danger as both contemplate abandoning their support bases for short-term expediency
Pheu Thai has also insisted that the current move is not linked to the return of its political figurehead Mr Thaksin Shinawatra from exile on August 10th next but senior sources in the Senate on Tuesday were suggesting that Mr Thaksin’s arrival on August 10th was linked to a Pheu Thai nominated Prime Minister being elected on August 4th.
Sources were briefing on the proposed new coalition for government on Tuesday night including the Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharat and Democrat Parties
On Tuesday night, ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, sources from the Pheu Thai Party and other smaller parties to the proposed new coalition, to be unveiled shortly, were briefing the media.
It is understood that the Palang Pracharat Party led by General Prawit Wongsuwan will form part of a new coalition to be unveiled on Thursday including the core of the Democrat Party which is also understood to be ready to sign up in support of Mr Srettha Thavisin as prime minister.
These sources suggested that General Prawit will not be a cabinet minister in the new government but his brother, Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwon, a former police chief, is expected to be seated at the cabinet table.
He will be joined by Palang Pracharat Party Secretary General Thamanat Prompow and Deputy Leader Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn.
Sources also suggest that Songkhla MP, Dech-it Khaothong of the Democrat Party will become a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture in the new government while Chaichana Dejdecho, a Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat will be Deputy Interior Minister.
‘This formula is hoped to bring the Senate to vote for the Pheu Thai candidate,’ a briefing source explained on Tuesday night.
Pheu Thai MP says the party had to act for the sake of the country and the economy as the strategy of waiting until May 2024 was not really feasible
The Pheu Thai list MP, Mr Noppadon Pattama, on Tuesday, said that the country could not afford to waste 10 months until the voting power of the Senate expires under Section 272 of the Constitution, a strategy put forward by Move Forward Party MPs including Mr Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn over the last week and one gaining traction on the side of progressives
However, Mr Noppadon’s position that this was simply not feasible has been echoed by the country’s business leadership at the same time, with senior administrators and politicians also suggesting it would lead to a dangerous political vacuum.
All eyes now turn to the makeup of the new Pheu Thai coalition due to be revealed shortly which we are told will not include the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party associated with Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha or the Move Forward Party.
Parliament will sit on Friday
Already, Parliament President Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha has scheduled a prime ministerial vote as the first order of business on Friday if the parliamentary vote can go ahead.
This is contingent on the Constitutional Court’s decisions on the petition before it on Thursday.
Then, Parliament will be asked to consider the proposed legislation to amend Section 272 on the voting power of the Senate before May 2023, a bill that was presented to parliament in recent weeks by the Move Forward Party but which many consider a superfluous exercise given that the power is already due to be extinguished in May 2024 by its own terms.