Thailand’s precarious political situation is ‘far from over’
With Thailand in a political quagmire once again, The Nation spoke to Varawut Silpa-archa, the leader of the Chart Thai Pattana Party, and Amorn Wanichwiwatana, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, about what lies ahead.
Their comments follow a tumultuous time in Thai politics.
After lying in Move Forward’s hands for more than 70 days, Pheu Thai now holds the leading position for establishing a new government.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court postponed its decision on whether to review a petition filed by the Office of the Ombudsman challenging the constitutionality of a parliamentary resolution that blocked Move Forward from nominating its candidate for prime minister a second time.
The court has scheduled a meeting on August 19 to decide whether the petition will be accepted for judicial review. The next vote for prime minister, which is conducted in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, has been postponed until the court decides whether or not to review the petition.
Additionally, self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has announced that he will not return on August 10 as pledged, citing health issues.
Varawut, who is also the caretaker Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, summed up the situation by saying: “If there is anything I have learned from Thai politics, it is to always be prepared for the unexpected.”
He said the outcome of the next vote for prime minister remains uncertain.
“There is a 1-10% [chance] that things can go sideways. You never know. Sometimes, until the vote is done and sometimes even though the vote is done”, it remains uncertain, he said, adding: Certainty will have to wait “until the royal signature is on the paper”.
Amorn said that after parting with Move Forward, Pheu Thai is likely to have no option but to join forces with its former foes – military-backed parties – to secure a majority of votes in the House of Representatives.
Varawut did not say whether or not his party is planning to join a Pheu Thai-led government, explaining: “I don't think it's the option for me to choose to join or not to join, since I only have 10 seats.”
“It depends on whether Pheu Thai sees our 10 seats, you know, as necessary” for it to form a government, he added.
Amorn, who is a former member of the Constitution Drafting Commission, predicted that Pheu Thai would join forces with the two military parties: United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharath.
“Perhaps the Cabinet roles have already been allocated,” he said.
Amorn warned the Democrat Party not to join a Pheu Thai-led government, as it may destablise the party since it has always been on the opposite side of Pheu Thai.
Varawut and Amorn agreed that demonstrations are likely.
“There will probably be a group of people who are not satisfied with the outcome because, as of now, I don't think anyone can give us 100% certainty of what will happen within the next few days, but whatever it is, there will be a group of people who will not be happy with the situation,” Varawut said.
“But I don't think it'll be anything of the scale that we saw a few years back,” he added.
Amorn predicted mass demonstrations.
Pheu Thai will use Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwon’s links to the military to order soldiers and police to deal with protests after they form the next government, he said.
He urged all political parties to exercise caution and keep in mind the bloody crackdown on protesters in 2010 that killed at least 90 “red-shirts”.
Amorn said the motive of every Pheu Thai move is to bring the former premier home.
Thaksin’s return depends on when Pheu Thai’s candidate becomes prime minister, he said.
Thaksin has again postponed his return to Thailand by two weeks. Previously he said he would return on August 10, but after the next vote for PM was postponed, he announced a delay in his return.
Varawut disagreed with Amorn’s view of Pheu Thai, saying the primary goal of the party was not to bring Thaksin home.
“The question today is more about setting up the government and how to move Thailand forward safely and securely,” Varawut said, describing Pheu Thai as a party that acts with a high degree of precision.
That precision may be difficult considering how challenging and unpredictable the current political situation is. Even the upcoming vote for the next premier remains uncertain, prolonging the precarious situation Thailand finds itself in once again.