New government forms, but at what cost?
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New government forms, but at what cost?

ANALYSIS: Old enemies must now work together

Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra pays tribute to a portrait of the King at Don Mueang Airport's private jet terminal. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra pays tribute to a portrait of the King at Don Mueang Airport's private jet terminal. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thai politics is entering a new chapter as the colour-coded political divide which has polarised the country for several years is expected to end after Pheu Thai Party's prime ministerial candidate Srettha Thavisin won parliament's endorsement to become the country's 30th prime minister on Tuesday.

After more than a decade of conflict between red-shirt and yellow groups, the two opposing camps now appear to have buried the hatchet and joined forces to fight against the Move Forward Party (MFP), which is perceived as their main threat, according to observers.

Pheu Thai has now forged an alliance with the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party and the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), seeking to form a government with eight more parties also enlisted.

The UTN had Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as its prime ministerial candidate, and the PPRP had party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as theirs.

Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, told the Bangkok Post that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's homecoming and the alliance between Pheu Thai and the UTN and the PPRP had sent a message to political quarters that the two opposing blocs will now unite against the MFP which they perceive as their common threat.

"The changing political circumstances have forced them to co-exist. I also believe the new government will last long enough.

"Pheu Thai will have to transform into new conservatives and try to convince local political clans from the PPRP and the UTN to switch over to its fold," Mr Wanwichit said.

He went on to say that the power of the "three brothers in arms" will now diminish, and they will have to step aside and work behind the scenes.

The trio -- also known as the "Three Por" generals -- refers to Gen Prayut, Gen Prawit and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, along with their influence over Thai politics.

Mr Wanwichit noted that most senators who voted for Mr Srettha are close to Gen Prayut and that the cabinet seats allocated to the UTN are expected to be top-grade.

"Today's political situation is a little victory for Thaksin. But it comes with a price as Pheu Thai now has to grapple with a crisis of faith," Mr Wanwichit said.

Pheu Thai is coming under heavy criticism for going back on its word before the May 14 election that it would not work with the "uncle" parties, referring to the UTN and the PPRP.

"After the new government is formed, Pheu Thai will have to work on winning back the trust of its supporters," Mr Wanwichit said.

Somkid Chueakhong, a former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said that the latest turn of political events shows that Pheu Thai and the political camp led by the three brothers-in-arms have agreed to compromise in order to end the political conflict.

According to a source, Thaksin, who is widely believed to be Pheu Thai's de facto leader, attaches more importance to Gen Prayut than he does Gen Prawit. The UTN was invited to join the Pheu Thai-led coalition first, while the PPRP, which had bargained hard with Pheu Thai for a quota of cabinet seats, was brought into the coalition later, the source said.

The source said Gen Prayut will put forward Gen Natthapol Nakpanich, a former secretary-general of the National Security Council, for the defence minister post, while Gen Prawit wants either Gen Vit Thephasdin Na Ayutthaya, a former chief strategist of the PPRP, or his younger brother and former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, to take the post.

But the source said that Thaksin has more trust in Gen Prayut, so the defence minister post is likely to be offered to Gen Prayut's close associate as part of a move to prevent any future coups.

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