11 July 2024

The ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) sacked its controversial secretary-general,Thamanat Prompow, and 20 other MPs loyal to him on Wednesday, further threatening the stability of the party formed just a year before the 2019 general elections and the formation of the subsequent government coalition.

The shocking decision came after a tense meeting of the party’s executive committee, held at the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation, following an ultimatum submitted by Thamanat and his group demanding a ministerial post, adding that they would resign en masse if the demand was not met. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the party leader.

It is widely believed that the group wanted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment portfolio, a position currently held by Varawut Silpa-archa of the Chart Thai Pattana party.

Former deputy labour minister and government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat, who is close to Thamanat, did not join the departing cohort, while another MP pulled out of the group at the last minute.

It is conjectured by some that the group will join a new party led by General Wit Devahastin na Ayudhya, the PPRP strategy chief.

The departure of Thamanat’s group will further weaken the coalition government’s hold on parliament and may result in an inability to hold House meetings, due to the lack of a quorum, without the support of opposition members. This could leave the opposition being able to force an early dissolution of parliament and a snap election having to be called.

Even without the open rebellion by Thammanat’s group and their subsequent departure today, House meetings have been abruptly cancelled on several occasions of late, due to a lack of quorum, partly due to opposition members refusing to register their presence in the chamber.

The events of today are rapidly turning into the worst political crisis Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has faced to date. Earlier today, government chief whip Nirote Sunthornlekha also had to play down reports of friction between Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin and Thamanat over a recent Line group chat leak.

On Tuesday, Suchart admitted that he talked on his Line group, of about eight members, about his idea to conduct an opinion poll to find out why the popularity of the core government party is fading and whether it has anything to do with Thamanat’s chequered legal history.

A highly controversial figure, Thamanat was convicted by an Australian court for drug trafficking in the 1990’s. Despite this, he has proved a valuable asset to the PPRP, by helping the party’s candidates win several by-elections and brokering mutual understanding between the party and other micro coalition parties before the internal rifts last year.

In September 2021, he and Narumon were sacked from their ministerial positions.

Thamanat posted on his Facebook page late Wednesday thanking his PPRP ex-colleagues and his supporters for moral support after the news of his sacking broke, saying he will still continue to serve the people as an MP.