Pheu Thai MPs be warned. Yaowapa Wongsawat is back, and she is watching you.
The newly endorsed Chiang Mai MP already has shown she possesses impressive clout. On Thursday, she was swarmed by Pheu Thai lawmakers only minutes after appearing at the parliament building after the Election Commission approved her comfortable by-election win in the northern city on April 21.
Ms Yaowapa won the Constituency 3 by-election with a landslide, securing 67,101 votes to Democrat contender Kingkan Na Chiang Mai's 21,372.
Her return to national politics after five years on the sidelines came about when her aide and constituency predecessor Kasem Nimmonrat suddenly developed health problems and a lack of enthusiasm for the main arena.
On Thursday, MPs convening for House committees and those just hanging about rushed to welcome her and let her know that they should not be forgotten if she should ''go all the way'' in the House.
In this regard, nobody outshone Khrumanit Sunkphum from Surin province.
''Your brother was prime minister. Your sister is the premier. Your husband was in that position before. You will be the next one for sure,'' he told her fawningly.
Mr Khrumanit was referring to the Shinawatra legacy in Thai politics, starting with Mrs Yaowapa's older brother Thaksin, followed by her husband and Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat and now sister Ms Yingluck.
''You should not talk that way. She could be attacked,'' Chompu Chanthathong, a Pheu Thai MP for Nong Khai, chided her effusive colleague.
Is it a stretch of the imagination to think Mrs Yaowapa will rise to the post of prime minister? Mr Khrumanit's remarks should not be taken as an exaggeration. Anything can happen, and recent history is a good reminder.
Whoever would have thought a mere three years ago that Thailand would have Ms Yingluck as prime minister? At some point in time, we would surely get a woman premier, but Ms Yingluck's name had never even appeared in the ''most unlikely'' list, let alone the ''likely''.
Mrs Yaowapa reminded those flapping around her on Thursday that she was not a ''reserve'' prime minister. She was not returning to the national assembly to keep other MPs in check, because Pheu Thai already had whips. She was there only to represent the voters in her constituency, and so was merely an ''ordinary MP''.
But what else could she say? All those denials are required of her.
With an overwhelming majority in the House, Pheu Thai MPs take it for granted that because they control the floor they can shrug off the importance of the opposition Democrat Party. But many House meetings have collapsed in disarray because the MPs cannot be bothered to turn up.
Thaksin does not like what he is seeing, especially as parliament will reconvene next week and key bills will be up for scrutiny. He wants to make sure the bills sail through without the unnecessary need to call the names of absent Pheu Thai MPs.
Key members of Pheu Thai are assigned to control MPs in the House, but the ones who the insouciant lawmakers fear most have Shinawatra as their last name (or used to).
From now on, the whips and chief whip in the administration camp will have to be on guard as Mrs Yaowapa will be prowling around behind the scenes to make sure meetings are not derailed and complacent Pheu Thai representatives are punished.
Thaksin is more comfortable having someone he can rely on to guide Pheu Thai's moves both at Government House and in parliament. Nobody is better at doing that than someone with the family name Shinawatra.
Mrs Yaowapa's role, in fact, is more significant than that. In case Ms Yingluck should stumble into a ''political accident'', Thaksin need have no concern about a successor. He has one in stock, equally important if he decides not to call a snap poll and let his youngest sister serve out her four-year term.
Anything can happen to Pheu Thai and Ms Yingluck since her Mongolia speech on April 29.
Saritdet Marukatat is Digital Media News Editor, Bangkok Post
About the author
- Writer: Saritdet Marukatat
Position: Digital Media News Editor