Playing field tilted to regime

Playing field tilted to regime

No matter how many former MPs the newly formed "three amigos" political group, or Sam Mitr, will eventually recruit for Phalang Pracharat, their alleged actions seem contrary to the spirit of the election law and the political ban -- both of which are the work of the military regime.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and other members of his government have tried to distance themselves from the group. But they have shown little concern that Sam Mitr's political activities may not be in line with the law or the political ban.

While Phalang Pracharat is a party committed to helping Gen Prayut remain as prime minister after the election next year, its political power and prowess are weak. That is why the three amigos group was approached and formed.

Led by shrewd and highly experienced politicians -- former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij and former industry minister Somsak Thepsuthin, two of the "three friends" -- the group has reportedly orchestrated several political acts, having met and greeted a number of former Pheu Thai MPs in the Northeast.

They were colleagues in the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and allegedly convinced them to defect and become part of Sam Mitr.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is believed to be "the third friend" but he has recently denied he has links with the group. However, Mr Suriya admitted that he communicated with Mr Somkid and other figures in the government about Gen Prayut's political plans before deciding to throw his support behind him, according to an interview with Thairath newspaper.

Poaching MPs was a tactic notoriously and successfully used by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra during his leadership of Thai Rak Thai. Mr Somsak and Mr Suriya were poached then, and now they are doing the same to support the Phalang Pracharat Party's agenda.

As the new election law forbids outsiders "meddling in a political party's affairs", a former Pheu Thai MP tried to make a case against the three amigos with the Election Commission (EC). But Gen Prayut has downplayed it, saying Phalang Pracharat has not been officially registered as a party yet by the EC. He also insisted that no one is given an advantage over others.

Gen Prayut may cite countless technical issues to justify the legality of Sam Mitr's political scheming. But it is hard to deny that he will benefit from their work if he chooses to return to politics, given that his political ambitions have become more obvious with a series of road shows to meet local people and politicians.

While the Sam Mitr group are allowed to meet politicians and discuss Phalang Pracharat's political ideologies, the regime has rigidly maintained the political ban on the two main parties, Pheu Thai and the Democrats.

This is not only unfair on politicians from the two camps, but also on the electorate who should have the chance to hear from all sides of the political divide, not just a number of policy statements from new parties and messages from the government.

The military regime has devised and controlled the rules governing Thailand's politics for far too long. It sponsored the charter which allows a non-MP to be nominated as prime minister, paving the way for Gen Prayut to claw back power. The constitution also enables the military regime to control the Upper House for five years following the poll through 250 senators it will have a final say in selecting.

If the regime allows Sam Mitr to continue its activities, Pheu Thai and the Democrats need to have the same freedom to stage political activities, recruit MPs and meet the electorate.

No matter what political tactics politicians use to achieve their goals, they must be done on a level playing field.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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