By The Nation
Pheu Thai and five other parties held a press conference on Wednesday to declare that they would be standing together to fight against the junta’s moves to retain power, claiming that they already had the support of at least 255 MPs to form a coalition.
The bloc, based on unofficial poll results, includes Pheu Thai (137 seats), Future Forward (88), Puea Chart (5), Prachachat (7), Seri Ruam Thai (12), Phalang Puang Chon Thai (1), with New Economics Party as the seventh member with six seats.
However, neither Mingkwan nor his party colleagues showed up at the conference, and their absence obviously raised doubts about which side New Economics Party was planning to be on.
Later that day, Mingkwan told the media that he could not attend the conference because he had a prior appointment with a "phu yai" or a senior person.
“Even though I didn’t show up, don’t be afraid. Our stance remains the same,” he said.
“Our will is clear, we adhere to the democratic system with the King as head of the state.”
But when asked if he had been contacted by Phalang Pracharat, he mysteriously said: “You’d better know the answer. I don’t have to reply.”
With such unclear responses, his remarks were interpreted very differently by mainstream and social media. Some were convinced he would join Pheu Thai, while others thought he was still hedging his bets.
Two Thai newspapers’ headlines on Thursday show that they interpreted Mingkwan Sangsuwan’s interview very differently. The headline on the left says “Mingkwan joins Pheu Thai”, but the one on the right says “Mingwan runs away from Pheu Thai”.
However, on the eve of Sunday’s elections, Mingkwan – in a Facebook post – declared that his party would not work with Phalang Pracharat because their ideologies were very different.
He also said that he was willing to work with the pro-democracy camp, but if “the side that claims to be democratic is not honest and corrupt, we will pull out immediately”.
Two days after the election, the party again posted a photograph of Mingkwan with a caption saying New Economics’ policies remain unchanged.
Mingkwan, a marketing guru, is a familiar face in the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed camp.
During Thaksin’s administration under the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, Mingkwan worked with then-finance minister Somkid Jatusripitak to promote tourism in Thailand. Somkid is deputy PM in the current junta-led government.
Mingkwan was then appointed as head of the economics team of the now-defunct Thaksin-backed People Power Party’s government. He also held several ministerial posts during that time.
He then joined Pheu Thai and was given the job to lead the opposition party to grill then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a no-confidence vote.
However, during Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, Mingkwan was not given a position in the government or a role in the party. He finally left Pheu Thai in late 2013, before returning to politics last year.