Pheu Thai heavyweight Chalerm Ubumrung has joined the fray to criticise the Move Forward Party (MFP) as both parties continue to lock horns over who gets the House speaker position after the formation of a new government.
The outspoken politician said representatives of the eight prospective coalition parties are currently discussing who is suitable for the post.
When a conclusion is reached, each representative will relay the message to the respective parties so they can decide whether it is agreed.
Mr Chalerm said he is ready to comply with a Pheu Thai resolution on who gets the speaker post, adding that members of parliament will vote on the new speaker in parliament.
Asked if a younger person can serve as House speaker, Mr Chalerm said it is no problem as long as he or she is skilful and firm enough to control MPs during House sessions.
"A House speaker must maintain neutrality," the Pheu Thai list MP said, adding: "He or she must be a speaker for all parties [as opposed to a particular one]."
"It is wrong to say that a House speaker must only come from a party with the initial 'M'," he said, apparently referring to the MFP. "That party wants to take everything. If anyone has what it takes to be House speaker, there is no problem [in choosing that person]."
"Stop saying that the House speaker must belong to which party. Those who said this know nothing about politics and are causing confusion among the people," he said. "Today's politics is strange. Some likened the old generation to old tyres with past expiry dates. They said the old generation must make way for the new.''
"But if the old generation is more capable and knowledgeable than the new, where should the right place for them be? It is necessary to blend the old with the new. Don't look down on others," he added.
"Anyone who expresses different opinions will come under heavy criticism," he said, referring to MFP supporters, particularly on social media.
Chalerm Ubumrung, left, and his son Wan Ubumrung, right. Chalerm: Speaker must be neutral
Asked if MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat is suited to become prime minister, Mr Chalerm asked: "How can I favour others over Pheu Thai candidates?"
Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew on Thursday said the party is placing more significance on the views of its members than those of its coalition allies. Most Pheu Thai members want the party to hold the House speaker's post, he said.
However, he said Pheu Thai has yet to officially decide which party should hold the position.
"Pheu Thai cares about the feelings of all parties," he said. "Number one is the people who hand their power to us. Number two is the members and MPs of the party, and the last ones are the coalition parties."
Still, Pheu Thai members and MPs have yet to reach a consensus on the speaker issue, and the party is seriously aiming to prevent the issue from getting out of control, he said.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, told the Bangkok Post that the battle over who gets the House speaker position between Pheu Thai and the MFP will undermine the unity of the eight-party coalition.
Pheu Thai remained silent after its list MP Adisorn Piengkes said during a seminar for its newly-endorsed MPs on Wednesday that the party should not let the Move Forward Party take the House speaker seat.
"It looked as if Mr Adisorn was allowed to speak on Pheu Thai's behalf," Mr Wanwichit said.
He also issued a warning that any move by the Pheu Thai Party to snatch the House speaker post from the MFP would backfire.
He said he believes Pheu Thai's push for the House speakership may be intended as a gambit to bargain for more cabinet seats, given that several factions within the party are demanding their share.
Stithorn Thananithichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok's Institute, said the battle over the post will be a factor in deciding whether an MFP-led coalition government can be formed.
This will also have a significant bearing on whether senators will vote for Mr Pita to become the next prime minister, he added.