PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT Chan-o-cha will likely survive next month’s censure/no-confidence motion which might probably be followed by a major cabinet reshuffle since the Palang Pracharath-led coalition government’s four-year term is scheduled to end next March.
The approaching censure debate and subsequent no-confidence votes against Prayut and 10 other cabinet members will not substantially differ from last year’s motion which saw the unelected premier survive and shortly make a surprise cabinet reshuffle by deposing Thammanat Prompao and Naruemon Pinyosinwat from their ministerial seats. It was up to anyone’s guess as to how Prayut had managed to barely survive last year’s no-confidence bid amidst hearsay of “bananas” or hard cash being handed out in hush-hush fashion to certain coalition MPs in exchange for their vote in his support.
“Bananas”, which in Thai political jargon does not only refer to the yellow fruit for monkeys but metaphorically hard cash for politicians, might be clandestinely offered again as earlier alleged during the censure period or just a day ahead of the voting process to help out the embattled premier as well as any of the 10 other targeted ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister/Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister/Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, Digital Economy & Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn, Social Development & Human Security Minister Juti Krairirk, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Prompat and Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Boonyamanee.
Endorsed by Palang Pracharath, Bhumjaithai and Democrat MPs plus those of splinter parties, most of which only have one MP each, the Prayut regime will likely be given a simple majority vote or more than half the total of MPs, currently accounting for 239, to survive next month’s censure/no-confidence motion again. The pro-Prayut lawmakers are more or less expected among the “renegade” Thai Economic MPs though the number of yea votes for one cabinet member may slightly vary from that for another, according to political observers.
Thammanat and a few other “independent” MPs of Thai Economic Party are more or less speculated to abstain from voting either for or against Prayut or some other ministers but the nay votes cast by the opposition MPs alone will not be enough to send anyone packing out of the cabinet. Thammanat himself is not much anticipated to join the post-censure cabinet but a few of his protege MPs attached to Thai Economic Party which he currently leads might probably be given and accept ministerial seats in return for their yea votes. So would a certain legislator who may represent the pro-Prayut splinter parties be also given a cabinet post.
Besides, a dozen “cobra” MPs among the rank and file of Pheu Thai, Move Forward and other opposition parties will either abstain from voting on Prayut and the other censured ministers or ironically cast a yea vote in their support since they all will no longer stay with their current camps and most are expected to defect to Bhumjaithai Party during a run-up to the next race to parliament.
Nevertheless, the upcoming motion will likely intensify conflict of interest among the rank and file of each of the coalition partners, thus prompting a major cabinet reshuffle to depose some of the censured ministers and name others as their replacements. Most, if not all politicians, are undoubtedly looking to land the most favoured status in government, albeit in circumvented, indirect manner, which could practically give them some advantages and the likelihood of an electoral victory.
In the meantime, the Pheu Thai-led opposition bloc will be more bark than bite as usual with the planned grilling of Prayut and the other censured ministers likely to be a marathon, painstaking debate for which as many as five long days in a row might possibly be provided.
For the most part, the opposition bloc has come up with the same accusations against the coup leader-turned-premier pertaining to his handling of issues in allegedly erroneous, ineffective and corrupt manner ranging from the people’s economic woes and the pandemic situation to the questionable arms purchase plans.
Chief opposition whip Suthin Khlangsang recently remarked that the upcoming censure debate will virtually send Prayut reeling off balance, if not “knocked out in the middle of the ring”, though the premier and all other targeted ministers would never seriously lend an ear to the content of debate, no matter how patient they may look throughout the tedious, mind-numbing process.
Some opposition MPs have offered to produce pieces of evidence during the lengthy censure debate which might probably hold Prayut and others responsible for their allegedly mishandling certain issues, particularly pertaining to the people’s economic woes and the pandemic situation.
Prayut and none of those cabinet members targeted in the censure/no-confidence motion have looked concerned over the upcoming event in which they would quietly brave verbal attacks launched by opposition MPs and then read out messages prepared in paper by government officials in response to those barrages. More often than not would the targeted ministers simply sidestep the bones of contention raised moments earlier by the opposition MPs.
Kasetsart University political scientist Thanaporn Sriyakul concluded that the censure/no-confidence motion cannot do anything which might otherwise prompt Prayut to dissolve the House of Representatives shortly afterward, let alone step down, but it will very likely encourage the people throughout the country to make a very good choice when they go to the polls next time.
If accurate facts and figures cited during the live-broadcast marathon debate could practically hold the Prayut regime responsible for the people’s economic ills or severe damage and losses in national interests, the nationwide audience would almost certainly look forward to the making of an entirely different government after the next general election, according to the Kasetsart political scientist.
Only this time which is marking the final motion of its kind against the current government whose four-year term is scheduled to end next March will Palang Pracharath Party and Bhumjaithai Party, being the largest and second-largest coalition partners respectively, have a decisive say when it comes to the reallocating of certain ministerial seats in the anticipated post-censure cabinet reshuffle, according to political observers.
Given his unfaltering intention to prolong his rule for four more years beyond the next general election, Prayut will undoubtedly be glad and eager to satisfy the current coalition partners as much as possible so that they would endorse him again as head of the post-election government no matter which party may name him as candidate for the top post in the executive branch as had been the case following the 2019 election.
Not only the coalition MPs but opposition MPs have been more or less inclined to lend weight to the rare remark earlier made by Palang Pracharath Party leader/deputy premier Prawit Wongsuwan that Prayut would dissolve the House of Representatives and call a general election after he has hosted APEC meetings scheduled for November.
Prayut would ultimately prefer to head a future government consisting of the current coalition partners, namely Palang Pracharath Party, Bhumjaithai Party and Democrat Party, to any other coalition, either with or without Prawit’s camp.
Top: An image of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, as the previous censure debate takes place in Parliament, left. Composite photo: Matichon Weekly
First insert: Opposition MPs handing their censure/no-confidence motion to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai earlier this month. Photo: Spring News
Second insert: Thai Economic Party Thammanat Prompao, centre, flanked by Palang Pracharath Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, left, and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right. Photo: Matichon Weekly
Front Page: Prime Minister Prayut raising his hand to speak during the previous censure debate. Photo: Workpointtoday.com