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Chairith Yonpiam
Ethnic Thai
Job Bangkok Post Staff Writer
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Media Bangkok Post

2019 05 27 Publish

The final piece of the coalition formation puzzle is expected to fall into place on Monday, with the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) deputy spokesman, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, told the Bangkok Post that PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana will visit the headquarters of the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties today with members of the party’s executive board to formally ask them to come aboard and form a PPRP-led coalition government

Srinual Boonlue of the Future Forward Party held a commanding lead over candidates from other parties in Sunday’s election rerun in Constituency 8 of the northern province of Chiang Mai. The rerun was called after Surapol Kietchaiyakorn, the winning candidate from the Pheu Thai Party, was disqualified by the Election Commission for breaching the election law by giving 2,000 baht and a clock to a monk

In the March 24 poll, Mr Srinual Boonlue, an eight-time MP in Chiang Mai, came first with 52,165 votes, followed by Nares Thamrongtipayakhun of the PPRP with 39,221 votes, Srinual Boonlue of the FFP with 29,556 votes and Voranan Omthuam of the Democrat Party with 2,508 votes.

2019 06 10 Publish

The Thai Democrat Party had been promised the agriculture, commerce and social development ministries, and the Bhumjaithai Party looked set to secure the Thai Transport Ministry.

However, after Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha secured his second term as premier in last Wednesday’s vote in parliament, reports emerged the PPRP’s Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group wanted to take back the posts that the party had promised its coalition partners – spurring reports of a possible redistribution of cabinet posts

Another Democrat source earlier said the PPRP had agreed to hand a deputy prime minister post and three cabinet seats – agriculture, commerce and social development and human security – to the party. The Democrats will also get four deputy minister posts for the education, public health, interior and transport ministries.

Somsak Prissananantakul, a former deputy leader of the now-dissolved Chart Thai Party which is now reincarnated as Chartthaipattana, said it is important to wait for official word from the PPRP leader and secretary-general before jumping to any conclusions.

Tawee Suraritthikul, a political science expert at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said the new government should be formed as quickly as possible after Gen Prayut is royally endorsed as the new prime minister, as to dispel confusion and restore public confidence. He predicted that even if the PPRP honours the coalition deals with its allies, the multi-party government will be plagued with quarrels among coalition parties. ‘This may lead to reshuffles which could see the PPRP take back the agriculture ministry’, he said

2019 10 26 Publish

It’s now more than evident that army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has become a key actor in the country’s post-coup politics. His actions over the past few months have stirred speculation about his intentions: Does he have ambitions to become the next prime minister?

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, the military regime’s ‘big brother’, even played along when he told reporters that Gen Apirat could become the next PM if he so desired. He later made an about-face by claiming he had been ‘joking’, while the army chief gave a tactful response, saying he was not eligible for the premiership since the constitution prohibits people in certain positions from becoming PM. Gen Apirat still serves in the army and also in the senate

But it should be noted that his apparent rejection is based on a state of affairs that could change: ie, to become a legitimate candidate for prime minister, a person must first be nominated by a political party. Incumbent PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha was nominated by the Palang Pracharat Party, while Anutin Charnvirakul was nominated by Bhumjaithai and Abhisit Vejjajiva by the Democrats

So far, Gen Apirat’s name has not appeared on the candidate list of any party. Moreover, he is not eligible during the term of this current parliament since the constitution stipulates a senator must wait two years after stepping down before taking up a cabinet or PM’s position

But if we read his message carefully, Gen Apirat’s ‘no’ is far from definite. More importantly, it clearly applies for the time being only. The general is set to retire next Oct, meaning he can qualify as a candidate for PM in three years, or 2022. By that time, it’s likely that support for Gen Prayut, after eight consecutive years in power following the 2014 coup, will have waned significantly. Our political scene then could well be more fragile, beset by violent conflicts. There are doubts over whether Gen Prayut will be able to control the political minnows now keeping his coalition intact

And let’s not forget the clause in the military-sponsored charter that gives the senate, handpicked by the coupmakers, power to vote for the prime minister along with elected MPs for the next five years or until 2024. This means that if Gen Apirat harbours political ambitions after his retirement next year, he can wait another two years before seeking the top job with support from the senate. But such a scenario is dependent on him being enlisted as a PM candidate by a political party. The chance of him becoming an ‘outsider’ PM is slim, given it would require approval from his arch-enemies, the opposition

More importantly, history indicates we should not take Gen Apirat’s ‘no’ to politics too seriously. A number of army generals before him have disavowed political ambition only to go back on their word once the time came. Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon is a prime example. His change of mind and entry into politics triggered a popular uprising that forced him to step down in 1992. Gen Prayut, too, repeatedly declared he had no interest in prolonging his power during the days after the 2014 coup. Five years later he remains the country’s leader

It’s almost certain that Gen Apirat will take a political role after his retirement, either via the same channel as Gen Prayut or through special powers or a coup. Lest we forget, the army chief has refused to rule out another coup d’etat. His controversial lecture on national security earlier his month attested to his political aspirations and, if Gen Prayut steps out of politics, we will likely see Gen

In 2010, Gen Apirat was a key figure in the crackdown on red-shirt demonstrators. He also led armed officers in a raid to reclaim the Thaicom satellite station in Pathum Thani after it was seized by red shirts. He was appointed secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order after the 2014 coup and then rose to become top army commander last year

He despises the Future Forward Party, which he accuses of being ‘leftist’ and having connections with those promoting sedition. His brazen claims about a communist revival, made during a lecture earlier this month, sparked controversy and, more crucially, widened the bitter political divide. We witnessed our politics take a backward step

However, this is not the first time that Gen Apirat has sent the political mercury soaring. Frustrated with calls for army reform in FFP and Pheu Thai campaigns ahead of the March 24 elections, the army chief did not hesitate to use the term ‘scum of the nation’ - a political slur popular during the anti-communist era of the 1970s. Worry that the FFP, which is popular with young voters, may be able to form a government spurred him to confront the new face of Thai politics head-on. In doing so, he effectively led the army into politics

At this stage, Gen Apirat will not back out of politics. But if he does eventually take over the premiership, his ultra-rightist stance which leaves no room for reconciliation would risk plunging the country into deeper political division