6 June 2024

What is most frustrating about negotiations among the eight political parties forming the post-election coalition is what is seen as the “devil may care” attitude of its key player, the Move Forward Party, according to sources involved in the ongoing talks.

They said it was obvious from the very beginning that Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat was not willing to modify his party’s stand on modifying the lèse majesté law, despite heavy lobbying by its political partners.

“That makes the negotiations so frustrating,” said a source involved in the series of talks among the eight political parties.

The source told Thai PBS World that Pita is openly confident in the popular support that helped his party win the most House seats in the recent general election.

“It’s unlike the kind of political bargaining with which we were familiar in the past, when things could be settled through horse-trading,” said the source, a veteran politician who had taken part in striking political deals in the past.

Another source concurred that Pita took an unwavering stance from the start. “He appears to be a reasonable person, but he never departs from his party’s position,” he said.

Move Forward has made amending the lèse majesté law, which penalises people found guilty of offending the monarchy, front and center of its political platform. Pita failed in his first attempt at winning the prime ministerial nomination from parliament last Thursday, with the majority of the military-appointed senators voting against him or abstaining.

Pita insists, however, that his party will continue to pursue amendment of the lèse majesté law, which he said has been weaponised to target opponents of those in power.  Pro-establishment senators have reiterated that they will either abstain or vote against Pita again in today’s (Wednesday) parliamentary session, as long as Move Forward doesn’t abandon its stand on the law.

“Pita always gives the impression that the Move Forward Party doesn’t care whether it will be in the next government or not,” said the source.

He said Pita was repeatedly told by representatives from the seven other political parties involved in the negotiations to tone down its rhetoric on the lèse majesté law.

“But the answer has always been that it’s his party’s campaign promise, made to the people, on which it cannot backtrack,” the source said.

He said Pita often exhibits confidence that, whatever happens, he has his followers out there to support his party.

“He often gives the impression that, if worse comes to worst, he and his followers are ready to take to the streets,” according to the source.

By Thepchai Yong