Political tensions simmering as Thaksin-Prawit clash escalates

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2024

Ex-PM challenges former junta powerhouse as moves are being made to remove Srettha from prime minister’s post

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s political manoeuvres are intensifying daily, and his recent bombshell accusation that General Prawit Wongsuwan is the root cause of political turmoil might escalate things beyond expectation.

Though Thaksin did not name him explicitly, observers of Thai politics know he was referring to the leader of the coalition partner, Palang Pracharath Party.

Prawit’s role was pivotal in the junta set up after the 2014 military-led coup and the previous government. He was the key power centre everyone sought to align with.

And though Prawit’s influence appears to be waning in the current political climate, he is far from being powerless.

It is believed he was the mastermind behind the petition 40 senators filed with the Constitutional Court against Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. Observers see this as a move to change the prime minister.

Thaksin’s direct attack against Prawit may also be related to his legal trouble, especially the recent indictment on lese-majeste charges related to an interview he had given in South Korea in 2015. In the interview, Thaksin had claimed that privy councillors backed the 2014 coup that ousted his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

While speaking to Thai media over the weekend, Thaksin claimed that the lese majeste charges against him had been fabricated when the “3 Ps” were in power.

The “3 Ps” moniker was given to brothers in arms, ex-PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha, former deputy PM General Prawit “Pom” and former interior minister General Anupong “Pok” Paochinda”.

Thaksin claimed that the case against him was entirely baseless and the product of a toxic political environment.

Thaksin’s lawyers have submitted a petition with the Office of the Attorney General challenging the indictment, arguing that investigators had been intimidated by powerful figures from the previous junta. They said this compromised the investigation’s independence and led to biased proceedings.

However, Thaksin’s aggressive stance may cause turbulence for Srettha’s government as all eyes are on coalition partner Palang Pracharath Party to see if it will lose its grip on power due to the Thaksin-Prawit clash.

Plus, government leaders may feel pressured by these developments, but cannot express their concerns openly.

Srettha, striving to maintain the stability of his government amid economic challenges and lack of positive momentum, faces additional political strife. Thaksin’s refusal to concede in the lese majeste case and the ongoing Move Forward Party’s court battle against dissolution may result in an overheated political climate and rising tensions. These frictions are likely to impact Srettha’s government directly or indirectly.

At a time when the government is struggling to gain popularity, with key policies stagnating, this situation is concerning for the ruling Pheu Thai Party. This suggests that Srettha may need to completely overhaul his strategies to meet political challenges effectively.