How censure ended should worry both sides

Friday, February 28, 2028: The opposition has been troubled by clear signs of “cobras” and conflicts between the Pheu Thai Party and MPs of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, while some Democrats have lined up against Deputy Agriculture Minister  Thammanat Prompow.

Who should be worried more? Time-allocation conflicts between Pheu Thai and MPs of the dissolved party look serious enough, with a press conference by the latter in the wake of the censure debate and prior to the crucial vote joined by Future Forward big guns, who pointed unmistakeable fingers at the biggest opposition party. Future Forward MPs and leaders all but directly accused Pheu Thai of stabbing them in the back in order to cushion censure impact on the government.

Signs of conflicts had appeared before the censure, with Pheu Thai apparently reluctant to attack Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. Pheu Thai’s allegedly shrewd use of censure time allocated to opposition speakers during the no-confidence debate prevented MPs from the Future Forward camp from delivering their utmost performances, the latter said.

To add to that, the government insisted Prawit received two votes of confidence from Pheu Thai and three from Seri Ruam Thai, another opposition party, whose leader, Seripisut Temiyavet, is one of the most outspoken critics of the administration.

But despite comfortably winning the no-confidence battle and being able to give the opposition a “cobra” taunt, the government is far from happy. What must worry the coalition the most is the simmering resentment of university students against the dissolution of Future Forward, and post-censure manoeuvring of some Democrats.

The Democrat Party huddled after the censure and before the vote and a sizeable number of its MPs did not think Thammanat answered questions clearly. In a very rare move, the Democrats reportedly voted among themselves to decide how they should vote when Thammanat was concerned. According to Trang MP Satit Wongnongtoey, up to 17 Democrat MPs did not want to give Thammanat their votes of confidence. That number was remarkably high but still defeated by a majority of 24, Satit said.

Thursday, February 27, 2020: The no-confidence debate was jolted into non-political excitement on Wednesday evening with a disclosure that a Palang Pracharat MP had just returned from Japan with a bit of a fever.

Attakorn Sirilattayakorn, a party-list MP of Palang Pracharat, confirmed that a fellow MP had returned from Japan a few days ago, but insisted that doctors had confirmed her fever was a result of a normal flu. He did admit, though, that she is still having medical checks regularly.

More masks went up immediately in the assembly hall following the disclosure by the Pheu Thai Party and Attakorn’s confirmation. Official and private discussions inside the hall switched toward the outbreak and cautionary measures at Parliament, with some MPs saying that if the virus had been in the compound, people who put up the masks too late were acting in vain.

Meanwhile, businesses and news commentators have mentioned what looks like the virus’ imminent impact on upcoming Songkran, which usually brings tourists and local revellers together. The festival generated a major revenue for Thailand’s tourism annually.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020: Every administration is guaranteed to win censure vote, but serious and well-researched allegations with strong evidence can catch fire later. In the past, they led to bad splits among coalition parties, high-profile ministerial transfers or even collapse of government alliances.

The on-going censure debate, though, is not imprinting anything in public minds except old, unsettled ideological issues that everyone knows about and leaving the conventional and social media little to pursue. When the House speaker’s wisecrack on how Prayut Chan-o-cha should be referred to _ as Mister Prime Minister or just Mister _ dominated news reports about the no-confidence showdown, it was not funny as far as the opposition was concerned.

Whether or not the dissolution of the Future Forward Party would snowball remains to be seen. But it looks like the opposition needs to significantly up its game in the few censure hours it has left in order to make the whole deal worthwhile.

Strategically speaking, the opposition perhaps should have done things differently. MPs of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, for example, spoke eloquently but they did it like academics dissecting state policies, a performance that can be praiseworthy at a budget debate but can do little to hurt the government at censure. Thai Liberal Party (Seri Ruam Thai) leader Seripisut Temiyavet, meanwhile, has revoked the oath recital controversy as expected, playing into the hands of the government which gleefully made tactical protests that killed time in the process.

The increasingly scary COVID-19 and dust situations as well as the “Cobras” issue did not help, either.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020: What’s happening in Parliament is struggling to match what’s occurring outside it. Students’ protests against the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, and some of its MPs defecting to the government’s side are receiving massive attention in the traditional and social media.

“I voted for you because I liked the party. Get that into your head,” one pro-Future Forward Twitter user said this to an MP who is reportedly joining Bhumjaithai.

In fact, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had suggested he knew it all along. He used to say Future Forward needed only “real steel”. That statement was seen as him alluding to suspicion that not every Future Forward MP shared its ideology, and that quite a few election candidates only wanted to take advantage of the Thanathorn fever.

But whatever influenced the so-called “Cobras”, Future Forward fans are not happy. Pro-Future Forward social media accounts have shown varying degrees of disappointment.

“I have been crying so hard,” a woman said on her Facebook. “Me too,” several said in their comments.

Monday, February 24, 2020: The “Future Forward Group”, or “committee”, as the dissolved party is calling itself now, has begun its “non-parliamentary” task in style by accusing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of being involved in Malaysia’s biggest corruption scandal of the modern days.

In parallel with the on-going censure debate in the Thai Parliament, Future Forward is carrying out a no-confidence session of its own. Its first bombshell allegation was that Prayut, while he ruled with summary powers in the wake of his 2014 coup, could have helped former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak take care of loose ends in the 1MDB scandal a few years back.

The financial scandal, which led to Najib’s political downfall, involved paying way over the top from the massive development fund to project owners with political connections and silencing of perceived whistleblowers or those in possession of secret information. Future Forward suggested some “fugitives” fled to Thailand which turned out to be anything but a refuge.

The Thai government has vowed to sue Future Forward, which responded by saying it was not accusing “this” government, so any lawsuit should be filed by Prayut directly. Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich insisted that the allegation was serious.

Sunday, February 23, 2020: As of now, the number of people interested in the industrial dust situation is three times higher than those who think the no-confidence debate against the Prayut government is the biggest issue, according to Super Poll.

The poll’s analytic assessment of Thais’ online activities has found that 36.8 million Thais were more aware of, worried by and interested in the daily changes of the dust situation than the oncoming censure. About 11.5 million Thais gave more importance to the no-confidence issue.

Another recent survey, Dusit Poll, showed big percentages of Thais have adopted a “Help yourself because nobody is going to help you” approach to key issues, namely the economic problems, the coronavirus threats and public safety. This group is either the biggest or second biggest concerning those issues, swapping places with Thais who pin their utmost hope on the prime minister.

Saturday, February 22, 2020: Amid an uproar in the wake of the Constitution Court’s ruling dissolving the Future Forward Party, the prime minister’s Facebook post asking Thais to accept the verdict has been deleted.

Many people were surprised by the delete, as the wording of the post looked straightforward enough. In it, Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose government benefits from the opposition’s reduced numbers in Parliament, said the judges’ ruling should be accepted and there were still means to carry out checks and balances in the Thai political system of constitutional monarchy.

“Strange” was a short but telltale comment by reporter Wassana Nanuam in her tweet.

Friday, February 21, 2020: Future Forward is no longer a political party, it said so itself, defiantly, after the Constitutional Court ended its parliamentary existence.

Future Forward’s Facebook page has shown its logo with the word “party” marked out, after the court’s ruling was handed down.

A press conference was taking place, and more defiant messages would come thick and fast, but the “new” logo was the first symbolic act that virtually generated a strong pledge that Future Forward and its outspoken leaders are not going anywhere.

It’s certain that they will go door-to-door, or hit the street and continue their ideological campaign as much as legally allowed.

Thursday, February 20, 2020: Anything can get politicised these days, and issues less debatable than supposed government requests for a patriotic film portraying heroic soldiers have to face political storms.

So, the Future Forward Party’s opposition to a government idea of making a movie like that is not a surprise. A Future Forward MP, who used to lead Thai film directors’ association, said that kind of movies is nothing but dictators trying to force-feed the public their ideas.

To be fair, though, using films to propagate political ideologies or present lopsided stories is a universal tactic, employed the most noticeably by America.

Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, the Future Forward MP, also proposed an alternative to the government’s idea. “Instead of having films that praise the military, we should have films that highlight its flaws, so lessons can be learned,” he said.

His party faces a moment of truth tomorrow, when the Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule on the explosive case of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit lending a large amount of money to his own party.

**Photo from Tanwarin’s Facebook

Wednesday, February 19, 2020: The House anti-corruption committee has been asked by its pro-government members to investigate the mother of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and find out whether some land she owns is totally lawful.

The demand came as the House committee was looking at complaints against the family of government MP Pareena Kraikupt which has been accused of possessing some contentious land. Government MPs in the House panel said that the committee, chaired by an outspoken opposition leader, Seripisut Temiyavet, must treat all allegations or suspicion “equally” to prevent charges of prejudices.

Seripisut replied that the committee would fairly handle every charge or complaint as long as they are filed properly. The suspicion against Thanathorn’s mother was brought up during the House committee’s meeting by a Bhumjai Thai MP and triggered a chorus of support from other government members of the panel.

Land-grabbing in Thailand is believed to be rampant among people with political connections and take place on both sides of the political divide.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020: A Facebook page has publicised an interview of a deputy Pheu Thai leader, who has conveyed an apparent doom-and-gloom message from Thaksin Shinawatra.

Deputy Pheu Thai leader Nakhon Machim talked with Thaksin lately and the latter predicted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would remain in power for at least eight years and up to 20 years.

“He (Thaksin) sees the Thai Parliament and he is in despair,” Nakhon said. “The only way he can come home is through a chorus of calls from Thai people.”

According to Nakhon, Thaksin sees himself as the ultimate enemy of the state because the former leader had possessed the three prerequisites _ money, mass and political power.

Thaksin, Nakhon said, thought Prayut represented an ideal that was in control at the moment, and even if something happened to Prayut, a replacement would be handy and so forth.

Monday, February 17, 2020: The biggest sports news of the hours is reminding many of Thailand’s biggest political issue.

To cut a long story short, UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) has decided to ban Manchester City from key European competitions for two years and impose a heavy fine of 25 million pounds. UEFA found the club guilty of seriously breaching the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations by disguising the club’s owner’s own money, spent on players’ purchases, among other things, as sponsor’s money.

FFP limits how club owners spend money on their football teams. Two primary reasons are that 1. owners shouldn’t go for broke and overspend on player purchases, thus risking bankruptcy or other future financial trouble and 2. the restrictions help create some fairness for poorer clubs.

It’s the logic behind the latter reason that apparently is the crux of contention in the Future Forward Party’s “loan” controversy. Some say the Constitution does not allow political parties to borrow big from their leaders because the borrowing can be hard to prove. In other words, parties can get big amounts of money from rich leaders in the form of “loans” , making the political playing field imbalanced.

Others say the Future Forward loans provided by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit were genuine, openly-reported borrowings, made necessary because of years under military rule that prevented political parties from getting the funding they needed.

In politics, things get a little more subtle still. While football clubs can use the term “owner(s)”, it’s debatable whether we should say Future Forward “belongs to” Thanathorn, or whether Future Forward “is led by” Thanathorn. Some say no specific individuals should “own” a political party, but others say that is too idealistic to be practical.

What the Thai Constitutional Court will say about the whole issue will be known soon.

Sunday, February 16, 2020: Good news is that the Thai public seem satisfied with how the Prayut government has handled the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak so far. Bad news is that they are worried a lot more about food on the table.

That appears to be the main message of the latest Super Poll survey of 1,302 Thais over the past few days. More than 71% thought the government was paying proper attention to the medical crisis. A good majority, nearly 69%, said they were satisfied with how concerned state agencies had handled the situation.

However, for the people surveyed, COVID-19 was not their utmost concern. An overwhelming majority, 77.4%, said what worried them the most was the economic trouble that could reduce their earnings. The rest said the disease worried them the most.

Saturday, February 15, 2020: The on-going countdown to the Constitutional Court ruling on the Future Forward Party’s “borrowing” of funds from its leader is showing growing signs of future trouble, with campaigns pros and against the new political camp promising to intensify in the next few days and beyond the judgement day.

An online signature campaign has begun for the party, whose members have also been urged to file complaints against the Election Commission nationwide. Critics of the moves have hit back, citing, among other things, the potential for contempt of court and the possibility of putting undue pressure on the judges before they hand down a ruling.

No matter what the verdict is, analysts see the continuity, or likely an increase, of political divide that has stalled national progress, promoted social illness and upended moral standards over the years.

Friday, February 14, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has effectively greeted the formation of a new political party, Kla, by warning that military opportunism is no longer “the only enemy” of democratic politics.

“In the past, military dictatorship was the sole obstacle to democratic development, but today’s situation is a lot more complicated,” he said while giving a speech as an honorary speaker at a forum hosted by the Political and Electoral Development Institute.

“Let’s just say we never thought that after finding ways to contain Cholera we will have to deal with the HIV,” he said. A new big threat to democracy is undue influences of business people whose activities can spread major political diseases, according to the former Democrat leader.

Unscrupulous money can buy everything _ checks and balances organism which is supposed to be fully independent, votes in Parliament, the justice system and the media, he said.

“Everything has its financial value, and that’s dangerous,” he said, stressing that all political parties, old and new, must strive to contain the new political virus.

Thursday, February 13, 2020: In his Facebook post, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit insisted that what happened recently in Nakhon Ratchasima “must not end with the tears of the Army commander.”

He claimed the incident cried out for a reform of the Thai military to end an environment conducive to superiors taking advantage of people working under their commands.

“The incident must not end with the tears of the Army commander, but it should lead to a total reform of the military to end a culture of superiors taking advantage of their inferiors,” Thanathorn wrote.

Reports say the man who carried out the random killing spree apparently took the action after being upset by a property deal that allegedly involved a commander and took advantage of him.  The government, meanwhile, has urged the public to view the tragedy as a one-off incident and not blame the system for it.

Thanathorn’s Facebook post also said the military must be “transparent” and produce safety for all Thais.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020: A lot of people are waiting to see what name Korn Chatikavanij will give his new political party. That is supposed to be revealed on the Valentines’ Day, but what his supporters, friends and foes are really interested in concerns how the man himself will do.

“Old wine in a new bottle” is one of the most common political cliches, and it usually accompanies every political rebrand. However, Korn’s unique political characteristics that make him one of the least confrontational political leaders over the years have given rise to positive political sentiment. Can he become a true “alternative”, one that is not divisive or seen as divisive?

Thai politics requires populism, nepotism and ability to deal effectively with factionalism _ in other words all elements that court corruption and injustice in society. The toughest challenge of Korn, who is on the verge of unveiling his own political party, is how to find a way to rise above all that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020: Widespread sharing of tragic photos, proliferation of false rumours and pretentious “copycat” postings in the wake of the Nakhon Ratchasima bloodshed are among reasons why Thailand’s computer laws can get remarkably tougher.

According to Puttipong Punnakanta, the minister of digital economy and society, the authorities are looking into online problems stemming from the Korat incident and possible ways to solve or tackle them.

“We need to increase penalties and expand rules,” he said. “The social media have evolved faster than the state’s capacity to handle them effectively.”

An order has been given for the authorities concerned to review laws and penalties with post-Korat lessons in mind, he added.

Monday, February 10, 2020: Thailand stands to lose up to Bt100 billion in tourism revenue over the months if the coronavirus crisis is not resolved soon, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand.

A few figures were involved in that. For example, each Chinese tourist spends about Bt50,000 per week in Thailand, and up to 2 million Chinese tourists are either disappearing or will disappear soon unless the coronavirus situation improves significantly. If the crisis drags on for a few more months, Asian countries relying on tourism such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan will take big economic hits.

The Thai council also noted that the Thai tourism industry employs 10 million people, both in direct and indirect businesses, so a chain reaction to the overall local economy is likely.

Chairat Rattanajarasporn, senior president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said that the threat of the country having fewer tourists who are not Chinese was real. The crisis is making mqny want to stay home and those who travel may avoid Asian destinations.

Sunday, February 9, 2020: Soccer players using their hands to form mini hearts after scoring is one thing, a prime minister acting like a celebrity while visiting the scene of a brutal and tragic incident is another. There are times and places for gestures, but Prayut Chan-o-cha, critics say, apparently needs to learn about that.

His visit to Nakhon Ratchasima following the shooting spree that left many people dead and injured ended up a political mess, with critics saying it was too much politicised and did not reflect the gravity of the situation.

Social media posts have lambasted him, and many of them seemingly came from politically neutral Thais. One said that although nobody should need a tutor on how to behave during such trips, Prayut absolutely should.

Saturday, February 8, 2020: Tell us the truth. That’s what the majority of respondents to an opinion poll said when asked what they wanted the Prayut government to do the most when the coronavirus is concerned.

Bangkok Poll surveyed 1,199 Thais on the public health crisis over the past few days. On the question of what they wanted the government to do the most regarding the coronavirus, 66.7% said they want to know everything and do not want the government to hide anything. The same group also wanted the government to deal effectively with rumours or fake news.

What the surveyed Thais wanted next are mobilisation of qualified medical personnel to cope with the crisis and thorough information on how to protect themselves.

Over 20% said they were “very” worried. About 42% were “fairly worried”. Over 37% were either the lest worried or not worried at all.

Vast majorities have confidence in the ability of Thai health personnel to handle the crisis yet they want all news provided by the government and media to be accompanied by information on protective measures.

Friday, February 7, 2020: Piyabutr Sangkanokkul has pledged that his Future Forward Party’s censure information would not go to waste even if party leaders were not able to deliver it in Parliament after a crucial Constitutional Court verdict.

The secretary-general of the Future Forward Party acknowledged the possibility of the February 21 verdict cancelling some party MPs rights to speak at the no-confidence debate, scheduled to take place between February 25 and 26 with a potential extension to February 27. But he said his party’s leaders would “go on tour” to publicise the information, “which would definitely end the government’s legitimacy.”

The court is scheduled to rule on whether it was unconstitutional for the party to borrow a huge amount of money from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. A guilty verdict would lead to harsh penalties against party leaders or even dissolution of the party entirely. Either scenario would seriously affect Future Forward’s participation in the censure.

“Nothing can stop us from sharing the (censure) information,” Piyabutr said.

Thursday, February 6, 2020: For someone accused of massive tax evasion and interfering with financial institutions, Thaksin Shinawatra’s preaching that the economic system should better serve the poor, not the rich, is intriguing and being questioned online.

Thaksin wrote the following as a guest writer for an English-language website about Thailand: “This fear (among Thai banks of helping the poor) coupled with the serving-the-rich mentality has created a cycle that could bring our country to its knees. The banks in our country are helping to make the rich become richer while they are letting the poor get poorer.”

The paragraph pretty much reflected the main theme of Thaksin’s article _ the rich and powerful taking all financial advantage they can see, leaving behind those whom financial institutions could not care less about.

“In Thailand today what we see is that the banks are giving all the support to the conglomerates who are getting bigger by the day while the general population are scrambling to even get their working capital from these financial institutions,” he wrote.

Parts of Thaksin’s article, published a few days ago and picked up by certain Thai-language media outlets, are going viral on the social media, with a number of people mentioning legal cases that took place while Thaksin was in power and after his downfall, notably his allegedly massive tax evasions and suspicious state-run bank lending that served those with political connections.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020: The opposition has suggested that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha can expect a lot of references to his “contempt for democracy” charges during the censure debate, although such criticism might be deemed irrelevant by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

“You wait and see,” Pheu Thai spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said regarding whether the opposition would dig into the past and chastise Prayut’s role as a coup leader. “Let’s see whether charges that he is the one who tore up Thailand’s Constitution matter or not.”

Prayut is among six Cabinet members named in the opposition’s censure motion. Whether criticism related to his 2014 coup would be allowed or deemed relevant by the House speaker remains to be seen. Those who think it should not be allowed said it was divisive, was related to common knowledge and thus should not be revisited unless the opposition has some information that the Thai public have not known. Those who think it should be allowed said the criticism has a lot to do with democratic leadership.

Anusorn suggested the opposition is in the latter group. “It’s up to the House speaker to decide. But (he should be aware that) what should or should not be done in this country has been dictated by the government, which should not be happening in a democracy,” he said.

Censure might take place between February 25-27, with the voting on February 28. “For five years, Gen Prayut ruled with a blank cheque. Not any more,” Anusorn said.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Whispers of discontent within the opposition’s bloc over former New Economics leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan’s plan to be part of the censure attacks against the Prayut Cabinet are getting louder.

Following his insistence that he would keep his MP status because he wanted to join the censure to honour voters who supported his party’s anti-military stand in last year’s election, some opposition figures and their supporters are claiming it’s a win-win for New Economics but lose-lose for the rest of the opposition.

Here’s the situation: New Economics executives have resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance. Since the party has not yet joined the Prayut coalition, it can only be _ and has vowed to be _ an “independent” opposition camp. In other words, New Economics has disavowed toeing the opposition’s line in any voting if it deems fit. Former leader Mingkwan has denounced the resolution, but he has not cut the ties with the party entirely, due to fears that losing party membership would deprive him of the right to speak against the government at the censure debate.

This has led to a Facebook criticism by a leading pro-opposition activist, Nuttaa Mahattana. Her strongly-worded post said, “If the opposition is stupid, it should let Mingkwan continue to reap popularity that way. In fact, it’s not only stupid, but also unfair to the other (opposition parties).”

Her comment has won support from a senior member of the Future Forward Party. Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, a party list MP and deputy Future Forward leader, responded to her post in a comment: “I agree. How many times have they been duped by this kind of parties?”

Monday, February 3, 2020: Former New Economics Party leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan has reiterated his anti-Prayut stance and confirmed his heart remained firmly with the opposition bloc, but his intention to attack the government during the censure debate is preventing him from cutting the ties with the party completely.

Mingkwan lambasted the New Economics Party’s new leadership for having resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance and become “independent”, saying his decision to remain with the bloc was because he wanted to honour voters who supported the party in last year’s election.

“Now that we (I and other New Economics executives) no longer share the same ideology, there’s no point staying together,” he said. But he needed to remain with New Economics to preserve his right to speak against the government at the censure debate.

“Half a million people supported my (anti-Prayut) stand during the election. What would they say if I just disappeared?” Mingkwan said, responding to a question why he did not immediately resign from the New Economics Party.

Sunday, February 2, 2020: A clear majority of Thais surveyed by NIDA pollsters are strongly opposed to MPs handling parliamentary cards of their peers, particularly during voting processes.

The latest NIDA poll was conducted between January 29-31 and 1,254 Thais were surveyed. A whopping 80% of them deemed inserting other MPs’ cards or asking other MPs to insert cards on ones’ behalves a highly irresponsible or unethical act. Almost 9 % even considered the mishandling of the electronic cards as being tantamount to adding salt to the wound of the bad Thai economy, particularly if the Budget Bill passage is overturned.

Almost 46% wanted the MPs involved in the Budget Bill voting controversy to “show responsibility” by resigning from Parliament. A remarkable 19.6% wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign as well.  Another 19.5% wanted Parliament to fire the MPs involved.

Almost 12% thought the MPs involved should be banned from politics for life.

Saturday, February 1, 2020: How the New Economics Party will behave itself during the no-confidence debate remains to be seen, but the Thai public is likely to see its former leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan speak out against the government at the session.

According to opposition and Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat, Mingkwan is among 20-30 MPs earmarked as pro-opposition debaters. This is despite the fact that the New Economics Party has resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance and become “independent.”

Mingkwan’s role is another issue highlighting the opposition’s trouble plaguing the censure plan, which has led to the reduction in the number of “targets” from nine to six. The official target list now includes Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao.

Friday, January 31, 2020: After months of rumours, the New Economics Party has informed its opposition allies that it is leaving them. Where it goes from here _ or where it wants to go _ should not be hard to guess.

In a January 30 letter to the opposition leader, acting New Economics leader Supadich Akasariksha officially notified him of a party vote supporting a resolution to become “independent.” By that, the party is effectively saying it does not need to toe the opposition bloc’s lines in any voting.

News reports have hinted at the possibility of the party joining the Prayut coalition for quite some time. Such a scenario, of course, drew silent disagreement among government factions as re-dividing the Cabinet cake could be required. Senior government figures, however, are well aware of the need to strengthen the coalition’s fragile majority control of the House of Representatives.

Problems have rocked New Economics itself, leading to resignation of former leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan. Whether the party’s latest move, which is coming against the backdrop of the opposition’s censure offensive, is tantamount to throwing the ball into the government’s court shall be clear soon enough.

Thursday, January 30, 2020: For its own good, the opposition must deliver on its latest schedule to submit a no-confidence motion, which is supposed to be officially presented to Parliament on Friday, January 31.

According to high-ranking sources in the Pheu Thai Party, nine names including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will be in the motion, which has been postponed time and again amid speculation that the opposition parties were split over key issues. The long delay has subjected the opposition to much scepticism by politically neutral Thais and ridicule by those supporting the government.

Apart from Prayut, named in the motion include Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai is making the rounds, being an honourable guest at meetings of House committees, amid growing concern that partisan politics could disrupt the panels’ supposedly unbiased work for the public.

Drawing much media attention was his attendance at a meeting of the House anti-corruption committee, where flare-ups have been reported between government and opposition MPs.

Talking to reporters afterwards, Chuan admitted that media reports about political quarrelling worried him.

“I’m taking an opportunity to observe what was going on (at House anti-corruption committee meetings),” Chuan said. “My only motive is to give everyone encouragement and facilitate teamwork. If the House committee cannot work smoothly, public complaints (or tip-offs) could face a delay.”

He added that “It is all right” for opposition MPs to call for a probe into how he is doing his job, but calls for House anti-corruption committee chairman Seripisut Temiyavet to be investigated “are not supposed to happen.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2020: Latest comments by deputy Democrat leader Prinn Panichpakdi on his relationship with Korn Chatikavanij only serves to make the situation within the Democrat Party more curious.

Of course, Prinn strongly denied that he and Korn, who has left the party a few days ago, have been at odds over their economic roles, but the former’s description of Korn as his “idol”, as his “friend”, as his “big brother” and as his “father” makes the latter’s move even more puzzling.

Recent reports said Korn left the Democrat Party after about a decade and a half because he felt belittled regarding his formerly big status as the party’s economic guru, among other issues. But in a lengthy media interview, Prinn said younger-generation Democrats often sought, and always got, Korn’s advice on key economic affairs of Thailand.

“We learned a lot from him and we talked and exchanged opinions all the time,” Prinn, who, like Korn, wields a rather impressive economic pedigree, said. “He’s my true idol whom I love. He’s my friend, my big brother and my father. Apart from economic affairs, we also talked about football, other sports and practically everything.”

Prinn is an important figure among the Democrats’ so-called “Avengers”, who seemingly represent the party’s increased projection of teamwork and youthful outlook.

On how the government has handled the economy, Prinn said every elected administration needed to react to short-term situations, leading to policies like “Chim, Shop, Chai”. He insisted that long-term policies are equally, if not more, important.

Monday, January 27, 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is guardedly optimistic that the economic impact of the coronavirus on Thailand’s tourism will not last long, as resort operators and immigration authorities grow increasingly weary of arrivals from China.

“There has been impact but I think it is short-term,” Somkid said, expressing full confidence in the Chinese government’s ability to bring the situation under control.

He said the current impact on Thai tourism can be cushioned by the growing trend among Thais to take vacations in their own country. The deputy prime minister, a leader of the government’s economic team, also advised those in the tourism industry in Thailand not to put all eggs in the Chinese basket.

A big boom in arrivals from China has given birth to tourist businesses that exclusively cater to the Chinese. Those businesses are reportedly being affected the most by global fears of the virus.

Sunday, January 26, 2020: A survey shows Thais want to see the Prayut administration being grilled in a no-confidence debate. Problem is that a considerably smaller percentage expects the opposition to pull off an impressive fight.

NIDA Poll surveyed 1,252 Thais over the past few days. A total of 42.5 % of them loved to see the whole Cabinet censured, whereas 35.5 % suggested censuring individual ministers. Only 5.3 % absolutely did not want to see a no-confidence debate now, while 13.8 % thought the time was not ripe yet.

When it comes to faith in the opposition, 20.7 % said they were “very confident” that information to be presented would be useful, compared with 15.2 % who did not feel confident “at all”. A total of 32.9 % said they were “rather confident” in the opposition’s information, while 28.5 % were skeptical.

Saturday, January 25, 2020: There are issues that shall never be politicised, and one of them is the increasingly fearsome coronavirus, according to academic, commentator and political activist Seri Wongmontha.

He said that while the Thai government and opposition have fought over everything, devaluing each other’s efforts or measures even if there are actually some good in them, both sides should know that politicisation has its limits. Issues like the coronavirus outbreak and the worsening industrial dust problem require political non-partisanship, he emphasised.

“It does not matter whose ideas are better and it should not be about who gets the credit or who should be blamed,” he said. Seri asked anybody with a good plan to come forward because there are times when time can’t be wasted on political manoeuvrings.

Friday, January 24, 2020: Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and former PM’s Office minister Suranand Vejjajiva are among a number of people facing charges that her government’s costly public relations campaign in support of a massive borrowing programme was plagued with irregularities.

Her government attempted to borrow Bt2 trillion for a mega infrastructure development plan, drawing widespread criticism from the public and the opposition bloc. To promote the plan, which was yet to be approved by Parliament, the government spent Bt240 million hiring public relations strategists, attracting further criticism.

Complaints were filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and its investigating arm has decided to recommend charging her, Suranand and a number of people in the private sector in connection with the PR campaign.

The PR issue was hotly debated at the time, as it required a big amount of taxpayers’ money to advocate an idea that was not even passed by Parliament yet. There were also allegations of irregularities in the PR hiring process.

The borrowing plan was among key issues that triggered serious charges against the Yingluck government, leading to street protests and finally the 2014 coup.

Thursday, January 23, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has insisted that there is no circumstance whatsoever that can allow MPs to handle their peers’ parliamentary ID cards, particularly during voting.

His comment came amid a growing controversy that could derail the recently-passed Budget Bill. It has been discovered that some MPs handled other MPs’ cards during a crucial voting process.

During a parliamentary meeting today, Chuan was asked if it was okay for a “forgotten card” to be removed from the counting machine by somebody else (there have been claims the act of removing can be caught on camera and interpreted as the act of inserting), or if MPs can ask their peers to insert the former’s cards for convenience’s sake. Chuan’s answers for both cases were “Absolutely not.”

According to Chuan, even if the card owner is present, he or she can never ask anybody else to insert the card on his or her behalf.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020: Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has suggested there is now light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to combatting graft in the country.

Public figures are facing tougher, more thorough scrutiny, he said, adding that punishment was swifter and harsher, and the overall justice process seems to have improved.

“Public awareness is now better than before, and the new generation as well as the social media play a big part in that,” he said.

The war is way from over, but the trend is improving, Mana emphasized.

The number of complaints or tip-offs has doubled, and Thai efforts have started to catch the eyes of the international community, he said. Other major factors include the reduction of red tape in public services and tightened rules in government contractual activities, making life of those looking for bribes harder, according to Mana.

But there’s a lot of room for improvement in terms of effectiveness in the political checks and balances and the speed with which action is taken against the famous and wealthy, he said.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020: Buoyed by the Constitutional Court’s decision to drop charges that it seeks to overthrow Thailand’s political system of constitutional monarchy, the Future Forward Party has declared that it would continue its fight against military interferences in political affairs.

“It was not supposed to go to court in the first place,” said Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul.

“It was military intervention in politics that is destroying the current political system. It was not us.”

In finding the party innocent, the Constitutional Court, however, advised Future Forward to make it clearer in the party’s founding doctrine regarding its support for Thailand’s political system. In the written document, the party said it supported “democracy”, leading to charges that it harboured ill intention towards the constitutional monarchy system. The court, obviously, considered the incomplete mentioning of the Thai political system as an honest oversight.

Thanathorn welcomed the court’s decision and said protests against the powers-that-be were parts of fundamental rights in a democracy. He was referring to a recent running event which was dubbed a show of dissatisfaction against the prime minister.

Monday, January 20, 2020: On the eve of a crucial Constitutional Court ruling that might send him and senior colleagues into semi political oblivion, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit distributed masks to Bangkokians amid the worsening industrial dust problem and declared his Future Forward Party’s readiness to face any kind of future.

It’s a come-what-may kind of defiance, shared with Thanathorn by his top lieutenants Piyabutr Sangkanokkul and Pannika Wanich. They will stay at the party’s headquarters instead of going to the court tomorrow (Tuesday, January 21), when the verdict will be handed down on charges that Future Forward is bent on changing the Thai political system of constitutional monarchy.

Today, Thanathorn was asked if he had a “substitute party” in preparation for a possible dissolution of Future Forward. He declined to say anything about what would happen to Future Forward MPs if the worst was to happen.

“Please just wait and see,” he said. “(All I can say is) we are ready no matter what happens to us. He said he and Piyabutr would “go on provincial tours” to campaign on issues affecting the people if they could not do so in Parliament.

Sunday, January 19, 2020: A vast majority of Thais are very concerned about their safety and believe that the problem of serious crimes is worsening, according to the latest Suan Dusit Poll.

The findings were from a survey of 1,365 Thais between January 15-18. The pollsters were motivated by the shocking murder/robbery at a gold shop in Lop Buri recently.

Close to 70 % of respondents say they are feeling less safe and worried more about their assets and properties. More than half of the respondents blame the economy for the deteriorating problem of serious crimes.

More than 80 % of respondents say they are “very” or “fairly” worried about crimes. Only about 17 % are “not worried at all” or “worried just a little.”

Asked what the government should do, 46.5 % want effective implementation of laws and legal revamp to rein in criminals; 43.4 % want close-circuit cameras in public places to really work; and 20.5 % want the people who matter thinks seriously about improving the economy.

Saturday, January 18, 2020: It’s not everyday that Thaksin Shinawatra would be tainted so negatively by mainstream western media. In a Forbes article titled “Crimes Without Punishment: How the Wealthy Before Carlos Ghosn Often Escaped The Law”, he joined the well-known outlet’s unfavourable category of rich fugitives who could have gone to jail in their countries if they had been poor citizens.

The article mentioned the Ratchadapisek land case, in which Thaksin was found guilty, which prompted him to start a life in “political exile.” It also described as “infamous” the sale of Thaksin’s telecom empire to Singapore’s Temasek.

Thaksin’s massive wealth even increased after the escape, according to the article.

Thaksin portrays himself as a political victim and often compared himself to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, western media’s former darling who has become anything but.

Friday, January 17, 2020: Chalerm Yoobamrung, a key opposition strategist, does not think Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan should be censured unless fresh evidence of wrongdoings has been dug up against him. The opinion, however, is divisive.

Whether or not Prawit’s name should be included in the opposition’s censure motion is a highly contentious issue, which many believe is holding back the opposition’s no-confidence plan. Chalerm has insisted that the luxury watch controversy that had rocked Prawit previously has been debated inside and out, in addition to the deputy prime minister being cleared by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. Unless there were new pieces of evidence or issues against him, Prawit should be let off the hook, Chalerm said.

News reports say other Pheu Thai members have hotly disputed Chalerm’s opinion. Other opposition parties do not entirely agree with him, either.

Prawit has reacted to the news guardedly. But he strongly denied that the “escape” was because he had struck a “secret deal” with Chalerm, who is one of the opposition’s de facto censure leaders.

Thursday, January 16, 2020: Politicians go back on their words everyday, but it will take remarkable efforts to unsay what Chadchart Sittipunt has said regarding rumours that he was forming a political alliance with Korn Chatikavanij.

Chadchart’s social media post praised Korn, who is leaving the Democrat Party, as a person and as a politician, but it unequivocally denied that the two would join forces politically.

“That I and Korn will join hands is simply not true,” said Chadchart, a former Pheu Thai heavyweight who, however, is set to run in the Bangkok gubernatorial election as an independent.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020: His “farewell” was reportedly tearful, but Korn Chatikavanij has made the political scene buzz with speculation that a new, “alternative” political party might be on the horizon.

Korn thanked the Democrat Party, with which he has been for 15 years, but gossips abounded that he felt under-appreciated by Thailand’s oldest political camp, which underwent a leadership revamp last year.

His latest statement has confirmed he would remain in politics, but it stopped short of telling the public exactly what he was planning to do. His “options” seen by mainstream media outlets include joining the Palang Pracharat Party and/or becoming an economic minister; forming a new political party; and running in the Bangkok gubernatorial election.

His future is under as much scrutiny as the future of the Democrat Party, whose former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, the man he hugged on Tuesday in a symbolic act of goodbye, is also having a diminishing role. Korn’s departure prompted talks _ and denials _ about the party plunging into oblivion.

Rumours that Korn and Chadchart Sittipunt, who is certain to run in the Bangkok gubernatorial election as an independent despite having been with the Pheu Thai Party, will form a formidable political alliance will most likely intensify.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020: Currently, it looks like a trivial, technical controversy, but a court decision to practically allow a massive bidding to go ahead despite being completed beyond the official deadline might set a political time-bomb ticking.

It was a Supreme Administrative Court decision, but attention could swiftly turn to the government, as the matter involves a mega airport development project in U-Tapao and one of the country’s richest and most influential firms.

The Supreme Administrative Court has reversed a ruling of the Administrative Court regarding the selection of private firms bidding to participate in the U-tapao Airport development project and Eastern Aviation City project. To cut a long story short, Thana Holding Co, a firm affiliated with Charoen Pokphand and partners, must be uncorking the champagne.

The secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) has questioned Thana Holding Co’s right to be involved. The process of the firm’s bidding submission reportedly took place within the deadline but was completed beyond it, with some documents arriving late.

The airport development project involves an enormous amount of money, in addition to CP being a massive firm with massive interests. Inquiries and criticism are expected to intensify. The issue can be heavily politicised.

Monday, January 13, 2020: The initial date earmarked for submission of the censure motion was December 5, give or take. Now, the opposition is looking at January 20.

The reason provided for the very first delay was that December 5 would risk having the no-confidence debate take place while people were going out shopping or partying during the Christmas and New Year.

New dates were then mooted _ late last year, early January and middle January. Now, the opposition’s main man, Phumtham Wechayachai, is saying January 20 is the likeliest date.

“If we submit the motion sooner, they may set the Chinese New Year as the time for the debate,” said Phumtham, chief adviser of the opposition leader, Sompong Amornwiwat.

The logic for avoiding the Chinese New Year is the same as the one used for avoiding the festive year-end period _ the opposition is afraid that the public would not pay suitable attention to what is said in Parliament while they party, shop, or visit relatives and friends. This somehow goes against the opposition’s initial insistence, when cautioned initially that the government had just started working, that national problems couldn’t wait.

Whether the opposition is right or wrong is debatable. What is undebatable is that Songkran will come soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2020: Optimists must be loving it, but pessimists must be praying. Today’s running and walking events held to show dissatisfaction with and support for the prime minister unfolded like the beginning of every political gathering _ with smiles, promises and carnival-style props.

Thousands took part, converging at Bangkok’s key parks and some other places around Thailand. Although some posters and banners carried strong messages, they looked cute, with child-like paintings or drawings taking out some heat. It was peaceful and participants went home early.

Long may the trend continue.

Saturday, January 11, 2020: Not only will “walkers” and “runners” be active tomorrow (Sunday, January 12), but fault-finders on both side of the Thai political divide will also work overtime to get evidence or glimpses of evidence that political parties are behind the pro- or anti-government street events.

“Running to shoo the uncle away” is an event aimed at showing public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It will take place nationwide, but so will a counter event intended to support him. Political parties, of course, can’t say they are organising the events or financially supporting them, as legal restrictions prohibit them from using street movements to get political results that could be achieved in Parliament.

So, Thais are hearing that political parties support this or that running event. No politicians are going overboard in promoting the activities. For example, Pheu Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan said the “Running to shoo the uncle away” is a “beautiful” democratic activity but she would not go as far as saying “Join it if you love Pheu Thai.”

Friday, January 10, 2020: “See you again at the censure” was the opposition’s message for the embattled foreign minister during this week’s debate on his ministry’s budget. Don Pramudwinai was bombarded by opposition MPs for his US-Iran comment so much that House Speaker Chuan Leekpai had to intervene.

“This is not a no-confidence debate,” Chuan reminded opposition MPs as they lined up on Thursday to accuse Don of “bringing the war home”. Don had said Asean governments had received US notifications before the drone strike in Iraq that killed an Iranian top commander, and the opposition said the Thai taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to fund this kind of “incompetent” diplomacy. They asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha to remove Don before it was too late.

The budget debate was so heated Chuan had to step in, reminding the opposition MPs that it was not an occasion for character attacks.

The opposition MPs barely listened to Chuan, and asked Don to be prepared for more, harsher attacks during the censure debate. A censure motion will certainly have Don’s name on it.

The Foreign Ministry’s proposed Bt4.97 billion budget, however, passed the second reading thanks to the government’s superior control of the House of Representatives.

Thursday, January 9, 2020: Amid “We will follow you” chants, Sudarat Keyuraphan has reportedly insisted that she was still a member of the biggest opposition party. But, obviously, all remains unwell between her and some high-ranking party figures.

She is quitting as the party’s chief strategist, a position many find redundant to that of her nemesis Chalerm Yoobamrung, who has allegedly teamed up with party leader Sompong Amornwiwat to dilute her influences in Pheu Thai.

Two days ago, Sudarat held a New Year party for Pheu Thai’s Bangkok MPs as well as those from the Northeast who helped the party campaign in the Khon Kaen by-election. About 50 Pheu Thai MPs showed up at her home.

During the party, she insisted that she remained a Pheu Thai member, but bitterly suggested that rumours about her quitting the party entirely had come from enemies within who stabbed her in the back.

Sudarat said although she had decided to quit as the chief strategist, she was willing to help the party with her remaining capacity. It was reported that “We will follow you” chants were heard constantly that evening.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020: What Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said regarding the US strike that killed a top military leader in Iran was bad. But maybe so was the assumption of his critics.

The “Don out!” uproar has followed Don’s statement that he had known about the US strike one day before it happened. Asked to comment on the global tension created by the US strike, Don said he hoped the situation would not deteriorate. But problems concerned other things that he said.

He was quoted as saying that “some coordination has been made” by Washington on the US move. Asean, he said, had known one day before hand what was going to happen. The minister added that Thailand was convinced what was about to happen would not snowball into something worse.

“It doesn’t matter if Minister Don was telling the truth or not,” said dormant red-shirted leader Chatuporn Prompan. “He just can’t say that kind of things, which can make Thailand an accomplice.”

According to news reports, government MPs disagreed with Don’s action, too. The minister has been called a “loose-tongued” man.

But the critics are assuming that the United States actually informed an “allied” government, one led by a former military junta leader whom Washington apparently abhorred, that it was planning a highly confidential military operation against a target that might include a top commander of a Muslim nation. And Don’s statement also referred to Asean, where a few governments are dominated by Muslims.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Several mainstream news agencies have reported that Sudarat Keyuraphan’s problems within the Pheu Thai Party may have reached a breaking point. Some reports have gone as far as the politician having packed up and prepared to leave.

Reporters were scrambling to get actual words from her mouth. She will be asked questions about the rumours very soon.

The rumours followed recent trips to Dubai by Sudarat and her opponents in the party. Their growing conflicts were said to require the highest level of refereeing, or Thaksin Shinawatra to be exact.

Party insiders point at Sudarat’s prolonged conflicts with Chalerm Yoobamrung which have led to redundant party positions on election strategy. There is also a serious disagreement between Sudarat and some high-ranking party members when it comes to whether Pheu Thai should field a replacement Bangkok gubernatorial election candidate now that Chadchart Sittipunt is almost certain to run as an independent.

Monday, January 6, 2020: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said his government was closely monitoring the growing problems between Washington and Tehran, and admitted that the on-going tension could threaten stability of energy prices.

“A lot of things can affect us, although we live far away from the conflict zone,” Prayut said. “One of the things worrying us is that energy prices can go up globally and affect the local ones.”

Stepped-up security has been arranged for important venues like embassies, he said. On evacuation of Thais overseas, he said measures had already existed and could be enforced if necessary.

“The Thai Foreign Ministry has been told that if they have to act, they don’t need to wait for orders (until the last minute),” he said.

“Of course, countries are worried. Many things can affect us, especially when trade, the economy and confidence are concerned.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020: With controversies surrounding Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Sangkanokkul and Pannika Wanich, Chaithawat Tulathon has managed to fly under the radar. With uncertainties rocking the Future Forward Party, which might even need to be rebranded and could face restrictions on the trio’s political activities, not any more.

Chaithawat has been tipped as a possible candidate to lead the embattled party, whatever new name it might have to take. He is currently deputy party secretary-general but his revolutionary political ideology is said to be stronger than most in Future Forward.

He and Thanathorn worked together during their student activism days. Student activists during the period, it has been noted, came to embrace the capitalism ideology and became affluent. Their wealth has been used partly normally and partly to advocate an old political principle of “everyone is equal”, which many may find ironic.

But in an interview published very recently, Chaithawat insisted that Future Forward is not relying on political marketing. “You can’t succeed through marketing in politics,” he said. “You have to really believe your belief in order to succeed.”

Saturday, January 4, 2020: The Democrat Party must have loved to hear a stronger denial, but Korn Chatikavanij’s Facebook post stating he is with it at the moment is as good as it’s going to get.

Rumours about Korn defecting to lead a new group or a party have been hounding the Democrats for months. In the Facebook post, he said the following (direct translation from his Thai-language post):

  1. I’m still a member of the Democrat Party and preparing to do my job on the Budget Bill. Please stay tuned for the debate.
  2. It’s true that some people have come to talk to me about setting up a group or a party. They all want to see our country move forward. But (if there’s any doubt) please read the number 1 again.
  3. Palang Pracharat has never approached me to ask me to do anything.
  4. I have never approached anyone in the Future Forward Party.
  5. The Democrat Party has never asked me to contest the Bangkok gubernatorial election. They only wanted me to be a vice chairman of a committee to screen candidates. I have declined that request.

His post ended with a curious statement. “If I’m to make any (key) decision in the future, I will come forward straightforwardly on this space,” he said.

Friday, January 3, 2020: The Prayut government is entering 2020 with everything “under control”, according to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, considered one of the key coalition managers.

In an extensive interview published by Thai Rath, Prawit said the “Three Ps” _ himself, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Interior Minister Anupong “Pok” Paochinda have known one another since childhood and rumours about a split were simply not true.

“We go back 30-50 years,” Prawit said.

Analysts say military-related stability of the government depends much on the three men’s relations.

On the Thai economy, which could turn political sentiment strongly against the ruling coalition, Prawit said the global prospect was not nice but there are things that can be blamed on the government and things that are beyond the government’s control. Internal factors are “fine”, he said.

On the running event dubbed “Run to shoo the uncle away”, which is supposed to expose the scale of how much the Thai public are unhappy with the Prayut government, Prawit said: “There is nothing to worry about.”

On whether the government’s economic leaders were working as a team or whether there have been serious conflicts among them, leading to bad economic management, Prawit said: “There are no conflicts whatsoever.”

On much-speculated relationship among coalition partners, particularly when the Palang Pracharat, Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties are concerned, Prawit said: “Take my words for it. There is no problem at all.”

Thursday, January 2, 2020: Saying Buddhist prayers “across the years” has been trendy over the past half decade, so Super Poll has conducted a survey on what are the most popular wishes during the process.

Coming first among some 3,000 people surveyed is a good economy (79.5 %), followed by national peace (74.6 %), safety from crimes (66.5 %) and harmony and unity among Thais (64.3 %).

Instead of partying, an increasing number of Thais are now preferring to meditate or say Buddhist prayers in the evening of the New Year’s eve over into the New Year. Many temples have been hosting such activities, attracting a growing number of religious faithful.

Critics of Super Poll have always accused it of being politically biased. Among the pollsters’ latest findings include Thais’ “disagreement” with the proposed cancellation of mandatory conscription, the “big success” of the government’s “Chim Shop Chai” campaign and public questioning of charter reform motives.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020: He keeps Thais guessing about his political ideology. And he has addressed two explosive issues _ military roles in politics and constitutional reform.

Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has suggested that it is too soon to change the Constitution, and that the military has an important role to play but it needs a better public relations strategy.

In a Facebook post of a well-known reporter covering military affairs, Chavalit, former Army chief who turned into a political party leader and once served as prime minister, did not seem to agree with the controversial idea of scrapping the mandatory military conscription system entirely.

“We still need it,” he was quoted as saying. He suggested that the military has done too little to defend its grounds on this subject.

On the current Army chief, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Chavalit said he must be composed and not let roller-coaster politics dictate his action. “Don’t listen too much to politicians because they are singing the same old tunes,” Chavalit said.

On charter amendment, Chavalit said the current Constitution has come into effect for just a couple of years but critics have already started bombarding it.

“The right way to do it is see whether measures (laid down by the Constitution) work or not and then discussions can begin on how they can be improved,” he was quoted as saying. “But some people already are demanding changes.”

On Thailand’s situation as a whole, Chavalit said: “I’m still very worried.”

Chavalit’s political leaning has been a subject for prolonged scrutiny. He has always been deemed supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra and is not popular among those on Thaksin’s opposite side.

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