Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul has reiterated his party’s stance that it will not join a Pheu Thai-led government if the election-winning Move Forward Party (MFP) remains in the coalition.
Mr Anutin set his pre-condition for joining Pheu Thai in forming a government during a press conference held at the Pheu Thai headquarters in Bangkok on Saturday afternoon.
However, he has not totally ruled out voting for a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate when parliament meets on Thursday, pending further discussions.
He made the comments after talks that lasted less than an hour on a busy afternoon of political wheeling and dealing. Pheu Thai also met with representatives from the two-member Chartpattanakla Party and the 36-member United Thai Nation (UTN) Party.
The latter two parties also made clear that they could not support any government that included Move Forward.
Bhumjaithai, with 71 seats, is the largest party currently in the opposition bloc. Throughout his political career Mr Anutin has marketed himself as a person who can get along with everyone, and he almost always ends up in government as a result.
The Bhumjaithai leader, party secretary-general Saksayam Chidchob and key party members met with Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew and party heavyweights at the invitation of Pheu Thai, which is seeking support from other parties outside the current eight-party coalition.
Pheu Thai wants to ensure that its first bid to get its prime ministerial candidate elected on Thursday does not fail. It has been given the opportunity after Move Forward conceded that its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, could not overcome heavy opposition from almost all of the 249 unelected senators in the chamber last week.
Mr Anutin thanked the Pheu Thai leader for inviting his party for joint discussions to solve the country’s problems amid an amicable atmosphere.
”Today, we came to know that the intention and objectives of Pheu Thai match with Bhumjaithai as we want to solve the political problem as soon as possible,” he said. “We want the country to have a government soon. Bhumjaithai is fully aware of this intention.
“I told the Pheu Thai leader and party executives that Bhumjaithai has some concerns and limitations. We are not in a memorandum of understanding signed by the eight coalition allies.
“Our limitations are that we cannot join or work if Move Forward remains in the coalition. There are no personal conflicts but it’s about a way of working, as I earlier informed the Pheu Thai leader, who will consider our limitations.”
‘Not just Section 112’
For the past two weeks Mr Anutin has been saying that the key sticking point for his party has been Move Forward’s plan to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law.
However, on Saturday he insisted that the differences went beyond Section 112 and had just as much to do with different working approaches and ideologies.
Dr Cholnan said Bhumjaithai had made its stance clear when it came to Move Forward’s presence in the coalition.
“The Bhumjaithai leader has limitations that his party could not work with us even if Pheu Thai takes the lead in forming a government,” he said.
“This means that an eight-party coalition of 311 plus 71 (from Bhumjaithai) is impossible. I will report those limitations to a meeting of the eight coalition parties.”
The coalition, which currently has 311 MPs, needs at least 375 votes for a majority in a joint sitting of the House and Senate.
Ultimately, all eight parties will have to decide whether to stand by Move Forward or propose that it consider sitting in opposition.
However, Dr Cholnan cautioned against any assumptions that Pheu Thai would abandon the MFP. (Story continues below)
Chartpattanakla Party chairman Suwat Liptapanlop (left) chats with Pheu Thai deputy leader Phumtham Wechayachai as Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew looks on at Pheu Thai headquarters on Saturday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Suwat: No to minority government
After Mr Anutin left, it was the turn of Chartpattanakla Party chairman Suwat Liptapanlop. He said his party would support a majority government and reject a minority government for political stability and would keep Section 112 untouched.
“We are willing to join a Pheu Thai-led government and support a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate,” he said. “If Move Forward’s policy to amend Section 112 still exists, it will not be line with Chartpattanakla’s policies.
“We cannot join the coalition government because amending Section 112 goes against the party’s resolution and promises made to the people.”
Move Forward was forced by its own angry supporters to withdraw an earlier invitation to Chartpattanakla, as its leader Korn Chatikavanij had supported the 2013-14 Bangkok Shutdown protests that led to the military coup. Mr Korn has since left Chartpattanakla.
The final meeting of the day involved United Thai Nation, the party set up specifically as a vehicle for 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha to extend his political life.
UTN leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga said his party would not vote for Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial nominee if Move Forward remained in the coalition.
Pheu Thai did not invite the party to join the coalition, knowing that its members would never forgive it for approaching the party whose adviser overthrew an earlier Pheu Thai government.
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United Thai Nation leader Pirapan Salirathvahibhaga (left) and Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew speak to reporters after their talks on Saturday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)