After making a policy statement before parliament on Monday, the Pheu Thai-led coalition is set to jumpstart its work under tight scrutiny from the opposition, especially the Move Forward Party (MFP). If this was not enough, members of the public are casting suspicious eyes at its policies, as several seem too good to be true.
With a bloated majority of 314 MPs from 11 parties compared to 184 opposition MPs, stability is not an issue for the new administration. Even if a major coalition partner, like Bhumjaithai (71 MPs), withdraws, the coalition can remain strong as it still has the Democrat Party as a political spare part. The coalition is likely to complete its four-year term without much difficulty. This is because most other parties have isolated the MFP, the real poll winner, due to its goal of having Section 112, the lese majeste law, amended.
The conservatives are forced to stay united as they share the same fear: losing to the MFP in the next elections, which is a very likely scenario after Pheu Thai abandoned its partnership with the MFP -- the real election winner -- and joined hands with the United Thai Nation (UTN) and Palang Pracharath (PPRP) or so-called "uncle" parties, ignoring people's wishes for a new political era free of the junta's influence.
In the worst-case scenario, suppose the coalition were to experience a rift, causing Srettha Thavisin to lose his premiership, it would still have Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of Thaksin, who is currently sidelined.
But things often come with a cost -- a tremendous cost, in fact.
Mr Srettha is well aware of the dwindling support for Pheu Thai after it kissed and made up with the "uncle" parties, even though both Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon are not in either party's structure.
A recent survey by Sri Pathum University shows Pheu Thai's popularity has plummeted by 62% while the MFP's popularity has soared by the same degree. This is the cost the new prime minister and Pheu Thai have paid for reneging on their political promises, abandoning the MFP, and for Thaksin's privileges in jail -- he served less than 13 hours inside Bangkok Remand Prison's quarantine area before he was transferred to a premium ward at the Police General Hospital.
Thaksin's petition for a royal pardon was facilitated by Gen Prayut, who countersigned the royal command that commuted his eight-year term to just one year.
It is no wonder Pheu Thai's stance toward the UTN softened, while Mr Srettha kowtowed to his predecessor, the guy who toppled the Pheu Thai-led coalition in 2014, asking for the latter's "advice" in running the country.
As many in the red-shirt brigade are now feeling unhappy, we can see an outburst of anger in the yellow-clad faction over Thaksin's reduced jail term. While some conservative elements find the Pheu Thai-UTN alliance more or less understandable, given the rise of the MFP, a large number are extremely upset. They view the lowered jail term as a double standard, especially when compared to Boonsong Teriyapirom, the former commerce minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government, who remains in jail despite his poor health. Commuting the term to one year is far too much. At least, Thaksin should have spent some time behind bars. It's this group that is ready to shift its support to the MFP despite the party's position on amending Section 112.
Moreover, there is still a chance Thaksin's sentence may be further reduced, given his old age and on the basis of good behaviour. In that case, he would only serve one-third of his commuted term, or just four months. According to tradition, the palace grants royal pardons on certain commemoration days, like the anniversary of King Rama IX's passing on Oct 13, or King Rama IX's birthday on Dec 5. It's widely believed that Thaksin will be a free man on Dec 5, or even earlier.
If the Pheu Thai coalition has the will to tackle such judicial double standards, it must find ways to grant an amnesty to all those facing criminal sentences in connection with their political activities, on both sides of the colour-coded political conflicts, as well as those persecuted in accordance with Section 112 and the emergency decree. Most of them are young activists, and at least six are minors.
After all, they are prisoners of conscience, compared to Thaksin, who abused his power for ill-gotten gains -- a more serious crime. He deserves to face heavy penalties to serve as an example. Political officeholders should get tougher penalties than ordinary people for a similar offence.
For this reason, there are specific laws and agencies, like the National Anti-corruption Commission and the Criminal Court for Political Office Holders, to deal with wayward leaders and state officials.
The administration must rectify the problem to restore public trust by upholding a single judicial standard. If not, people will lose faith in their leaders, institutions and the country. This socio-political time bomb will plunge the country into a new crisis where no one wins.