By Kas Chanwanpen
The Nation Weekend
The new government will likely be in place by next Thursday, according to sources within the Phalang Pracharat Party who spoke amid continuing uncertainty over the distribution of Cabinet portfolios.
The timeline was chosen to ensure the government is established before Thailand hosts the Asean Summit from June 20 to 23.
More than two months after the election, and days after the election of a prime minister that saw the junta leader return to office, the parties within the pro-military bloc have yet to reach agreement over ministerial positions.
Phalang Pracharat, which will lead the coalition, has reportedly insisted on controlling economy-related ministries – Agriculture, Commerce and Transport – that it had earlier agreed to allocate to key partners, the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties.
The backtracking came after both parties announced their support for the bloc and voted for junta leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as premier.
One source, a core leader in Phalang Pracharat, confirmed the previous deals had been revoked. If the Democrats and Bhumjaithai refused to accept the new arrangement, the source said, Prayut would have final say on the issue.
Phalang Pracharat leader Uttama Savanayana said in a press conference yesterday that as the prime minister, it was traditional that Prayut would make the final decision on the Cabinet.
The party yesterday also appointed its secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong as a broker to coordinate with partner parties on the portfolio allocation.
Sources also said the disagreement stemmed from the election of the prime minister on Wednesday, in which an absent Prayut was criticised for 12 hours before finally being approved in the vote.
In charge of the session was the Democrats’ Chuan Leekpai, who was elected House Speaker with support from the pro-junta bloc.
Phalang Pracharat decided it could not lose the crucial economic positions to its partners without suffering disadvantage, the sources said. It would also make it difficult for Phalang Pracharat to play the leading role in administration, they added.
It has been reported that if Phalang Pracharat does not gain control over the key ministries, economist Somkid Jatusripitak would withdraw from the bloc.
Fresh talks among the partners would be based on the political party system by which party executives lead the negotiations and decisions are made at party meetings, the sources said.
Prayut and deputy junta leader General Prawit Wongsuwan left their offices yesterday at about the same time midday.
Neither had official appointments for the day and it was suspected they would attend further meetings about Cabinet portfolios. Prayut does not normally leave Government House unless he has appointments scheduled elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the anti-junta bloc was preparing to form a united opposition to confront the Prayut administration in Parliament.
The Pheu Thai Party could replace its leader, Viroj Pao-in, with Chiang Mai MP Sompong Amornvivat, as it prepares for parliamentary skirmishes as the leading opposition party.
Its secretary-general, Phumtham Wechayachai, admitted on Friday that Pheu Thai began considering the leadership change after political developments landed it in opposition.
Phumtham said Sompong would be an appropriate choice for the job as an experienced parliamentarian, a good organiser and a respected figure able to lead the seven-party opposition.
But the decision would have to be made at a party meeting in July or August, he said.
The anti-junta bloc will next week meet to collaboration and effectiveness in opposition, Phumtham said.