A new red-shirt group for Thaksin
Yongyuth Tiyapairat spearheads a new offshoot of the UDD in Chiang Rai - Sitting on the fence seems to be Bhumjaithai's strategy for now as one faction wants to join the government - The ruling party could be excused for thinking the charter judges are hardly 'soul buddies'
It may be time for the northern red shirts to undergo a major change in their strategies and the person to spearhead any move is Yongyuth Tiyapairat, a close aide of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Yongyuth: Fighting dictatorship
Of course the main reason for the change concerns no one else but Thaksin.
However, what sets the faction headed by Mr Yongyuth apart from other red-shirt groups is its pledge to safeguard the monarchy.
The Yongyuth faction used to be called the June 24 Democracy Group, but it was renamed after the leader of another red-shirt group was incarcerated.
Magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who headed the other red-shirt group also named June 24 Democracy Group, was jailed by the Criminal Court for 10 years for lese majeste crimes.
Mr Yongyuth denied having any conflict with the Somyot group.
The former natural resources and environment minister is leading the formation of yet another red-shirt clique called Kloom Luk Khon Muang Rak Chart Chiang Rai (northern Chiang Rai people who love the nation).
A lot of the group's members are subscribers to the fertiliser trading network that was initiated by former army commander Gen Chaisit Shinawatra, Thaksin's cousin, in a bid to combat poverty.
Aside from its mission to bring Thaksin home, the Yongyuth-led group also intends to fight all forms of dictatorship. The group said it would take part in every political movement deemed appropriate, except for ones that would offend the high institution.
The Kloom Luk Khon Muang Rak Chart Chiang Rai group said it would definitely remain with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) with Tida Tawornseth as chairwoman.
The group treats other red-shirt chapters such as the January 29 Group, Pathinya Na Sarn Group, Khon Wansao Mai-ou Phadetkarn Group and Khon Rak Udon Club as ''distant'' partners.
The Yongyuth group has found some of the red-shirt factions too extreme and has not coordinated well with them, said a statement released by the Kloom Luk Khon Muang Rak Chart Chiang Rai group on its recent formation. The re-labelled new red-shirt group also aims to stand up against any movement that threatens the stability of the Pheu Thai Party-led government, the statement said.
And to formally introduce itself to the public, the Kloom Luk Khon Muang Rak Chart Chiang Rai group plans to organise a major event at Chiang Rai's main stadium on June 2. More than 1,000 supporters are expected to take part.
Mr Yongyuth will preside over the event while Ms Tida will be invited to deliver a speech to the red shirts.
Only half-hearted in their opposition
The Bhumjaithai Party may be sitting on the opposition benches but loyalties could lie across the many rows in front of its members in the parliamentary chamber.
Critics call it the ''half-hearted'' opposition party as the Bhumjaithai faction, controlled by Somsak Thepsuthin, is reportedly showing an inclination to jump the political divide and link up with the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
The latest spat within the party over its position in the 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill not only revealed a division within Bhumjaithai but also gave credence to the observation that the party was leaning toward the government.
Boonjong: Loan details ‘flimsy’
Boonjong Wongtrairat, the deputy party leader, delivered jarring comments against the loan bill in parliament, giving it a tag line of ''borrowing for brother, leaving debts to the people''.
He was apparently taking a swipe at Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the government for initiating the bill to allow for procurement of the biggest loan in the country's history to sustain the popularity of the ruling Pheu Thai whose de facto leader is ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck's elder brother.
Mr Boonjong insisted he was perfectly entitled to allege the borrowing plan was dubious because details of the huge infrastructure investment package which the loan will finance were flimsy.
He said he believed the investment projects were thought up by Thaksin and Pheu Thai was acting on his idea.
Barely 24 hours later, Mr Boonjong was bluntly snubbed by Supachai Jongsamut, the Bhumjaithai spokesman. Mr Supachai downplayed Mr Boonjong's remarks as strictly his personal view and not reflecting the party's stance on the loan issue.
The controversial bill sailed through its first reading vote in parliament with abstentions from the Bhumjaithai MPs. The Bhumjaithai members abstained rather than voting against the bill, a line which an opposition party was expected to take.
A source inside Bhumjaithai said if the vote was any indication, party leader Anuthin Charnvirakul is playing a political diplomacy card.
However, Bhumjaithai founder Newin Chidchob has cautioned Mr Anuthin against embarking on a decision to switch sides too soon.
He felt if Bhumjaithai were to join the Pheu Thai-led coalition, the best time to do so would be after the next general election, assuming Pheu Thai wins a second term.
The source described Mr Anuthin's relations with Thaksin as ''cosy''.
Mr Anuthin has flown in his private jet to meet Thaksin in Hong Kong and Dubai on many occasions. On the way back to Bangkok, Mr Anuthin gave some Pheu Thai MPs a lift on board his jet at Thaksin's request.
Court's ruling irks Pheu Thai
The Constitution Court's decision to accept for consideration Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn's petition against a proposed amendment to Section 68 is seen by Pheu Thai MPs as nothing more that salt rubbed into the wound.
The draft bill to change Section 68 seeks to ''curb'' the people's right to review moves that could undermine the constitutional monarchy or grab power through unconstitutional means.
Abhisit: MP status before court
Instead of filing a petition directly with the court, the people will be required to submit it through the attorney-general.
Even though the court has decided not to issue an injunction that would have immediately blocked the parliament from voting on the charter amendment drafts, some Pheu Thai MPs reacted by accusing the charter court of exceeding its authority.
They claim lawmakers have the constitutional rights to make and amend laws and the charter court is apparently keeping them from doing their job. A legal complaint is being threatened against the judges.
The latest court move brings back bad memories for Pheu Thai over its push for charter amendments.
Last year, Parliament president Somsak Kiartsuranont was forced to delay voting on the third reading of the proposed amendment to Section 291 after the court agreed to consider a complaint as to whether the amendment bill went against the current constitution.
The bill, which would allow the establishment of a charter drafting committee to rewrite the whole constitution, still awaits parliament's final reading.
Given the Constitution Court's record on rulings, Pheu Thai's rather dramatic response in the latest case is understandable. Most of its rulings have hardly been in favour of the governing party.
Pheu Thai's own and latest petition to the charter court involves the parliamentary status of Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The petition seeking to strip Mr Abhisit of his MP status is based on Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat's order removing Mr Abhisit from the army.
The court is scheduled to decide on April 17 if it will accept the case for consideration.
According to a highly placed source, its decision is unlikely to be in Pheu Thai's favour once again. So far, the complainant, Sunai Jullapongsathon, has yet to produce evidence to show how the removal order should cost Mr Abhisit his parliamentary status.
The pending judicial review of Sen Somchai's complaint is thus feared to lead to a ruling that strikes down legal changes important to the ruling Pheu Thai Party and its de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
However, if Pheu Thai's current push for charter changes is successful, it is possible that the party may attempt to regulate the Constitution Court or seek to dissolve it altogether.
With the charter court remaining in place, it will be hard for them to make legal changes according to its wishes, a political source said.