Pheu Thai to decide Move Forward's fate
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Pheu Thai to decide Move Forward's fate

Coalition mulls rejig after knock-backs

Chartthaipattana Party leader Varawut Silpa-archa, left, is welcomed by Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew, right, at the Pheu Thai Party headquarters on Sunday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Chartthaipattana Party leader Varawut Silpa-archa, left, is welcomed by Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew, right, at the Pheu Thai Party headquarters on Sunday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The eight-party alliance will meet on Tuesday to conclude whether the Move Forward Party (MFP) will still join them in forming the new government after other parties refused to support the coalition in a prime ministerial vote if MFP stays on.

Over the past couple of days the Pheu Thai Party (PT), which is leading efforts to cobble together a government after MFP failed in its bid to get its own leader elected to the post, has asked parties for their support during the second vote planned for Thursday.

A common response is they could not agree to work with Pheu Thai if MFP, its major coalition partner, stands by its plan to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, said Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew.

He was speaking after talks with the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) on Sunday. This stance will be reported back to the alliance before any further decisions are made regarding the composition of the coalition, said Dr Cholnan.

Pheu Thai intends to seek talks with all parties, except the Democrat Party, which appears unready for talks as it still is without a party leader.

"Before Pheu Thai nominates its prime ministerial candidate, the alliance will have to conclude how it can secure at least 375 votes in support of the candidate," he said.

Pheu Thai has also decided to send former industry minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit to conduct the talks, starting on Monday, with certain senators individually instead of making it a formal meeting with the Senate, he said.

PPRP secretary-general Santi Promphat said the PPRP finds the MFP's bid to amend the lese majeste law unacceptable and has a firm stance against that.

"The PPRP has also told Pheu Thai so, and that the MFP's intention to amend the lese majeste law is a key factor which could persuade the PPRP to turn down Pheu Thai's offer that it join the new coalition," said Mr Santi.

Meanwhile, Capt Thamanat Prompow, a PPRP MP for Phayao, insisted the PPRP would not nominate Gen Prawit Wongsuwon for a prime ministerial vote because the party missed its target set for the May 14 general election of winning at least 250 House seats.

While waiting for Pheu Thai to form the coalition government, the Senate whip suggested on Sunday that Pheu Thai may consider postponing the next prime ministerial vote to early August if it has yet to muster sufficient support for its candidate and still isn't ready for the next vote.

First, Pheu Thai will have to clarify which parties will be included in the new coalition it is attempting to form, Senator Somchai Sawangkarn, in his capacity as secretary-general of the Senate whip, said.

Likening the new coalition formation as a wedding, with Pheu Thai as the groom and MFP as the would-be bride, the senator said the groom will have to say clearly who would actually be his bride.

"Make the Senate a scapegoat no more. It'll be ungentlemanly of you to not break up properly with the would-be bride named Move Forward and try to make the Senate announce the break-up for you," said Mr Somchai.

"That will be highly inappropriate. If you aren't ready, don't tie the knot. You had better get everything ready first to ensure the wedding will run smoothly. Picking a prime minister isn't like choosing things at a department store," said the senator.

In another development, Chartthaipattana Party leader Varawut Silpa-archa insisted after a formal meeting with Pheu Thai on Sunday that his party would decide to work with Pheu Thai only when the latter has clearly excluded any parties with an intention to amend or end the lese majeste law.

A group of protesters on Sunday gathered outside Pheu Thai's head office while the party's executives were meeting the PPRP. Protesters demanded Dr Cholnan honour the promise he made on behalf of Pheu Thai on the day they and six other parties signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to work together.

Now Pheu Thai has turned to work with two military parties in disguise, Dr Cholnan must resign, said the protesters.

Some protesters threw flour at Dr Cholnan and Capt Thamanat when they emerged from the meeting. The incident prompted both Pheu Thai and PPRP politicians to flee the scene through a back exit of the building.

The flour was a reference to Capt Thamanat, who spent four years in an Australian prison for heroin trafficking in the 1990s. When the case came to light in Thailand years later, he claimed the substance was flour.

Ruling on the Thamanat case in 2021, the Constitutional Court said that being convicted of a major felony in another country is not a barrier to serving as an MP in Thailand.

One of the protesters was identified as Thanalop “Yok” Phalanchai, a 15-year-old activist released from a juvenile centre in Nakhon Pathom while on a royal defamation charge..

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