Nikkei Asian Review: Thailand caught in power struggle as Prayuth forms coalition cabinet
My take on Nikkei Asian Review on the latest political development in Thailand.
The Democrats only came on board hours before the two houses began a marathon, 11-hour debate, during which Prayuth's record was eviscerated by the pro-democracy opposition bloc. The session was then followed by a vote to choose the premier.
The Democrats lobbied for control of the ministries of agriculture, commerce, and social development and human security, in addition to the position of deputy prime minister, in return for backing the pro-junta coalition, political insiders said. Bhumjaithai pressed for transport, public health and sports and tourism ministries, and a deputy prime minister position too.
On Thursday, two key ministries that the Democrats and Bhumjaithai had lobbied for - commerce and transport - are still up for grabs and leading members of the pro-junta party are said to be eyeing them. Prayuth has yet to unveil any positions in his cabinet.
"Cabinet positions for commerce and transport ministries are still being negotiated," said Kan Yuenyong, executive director of Siam Intelligence, a Bangkok-based think tank. "Palang Pracharat wants to keep the ministries that shape economic policy like finance, commerce and industry in its hands to continue with the junta's policies."
The tension between Palang Pracharat and its junior partners can be traced to pressure from business leaders on Prayuth to keep Somkid Jatusripitak as deputy prime minister. As the junta's economic architect, Somkid has spearheaded the $44 billion Eastern Economic Corridor, an ambitious project to develop the eastern seaboard into a high-tech and high-value hub that can also serve as a gateway to Thailand's neighbors.
Thailand's business elite want Somkid to continue in his position to ensure the smooth implementation of the EEC.
Veteran Thai politicians said that Prayuth will also have to contend with possible squabbling over cabinet positions within Palang Pracharat, which was cobbled together to campaign for the March poll, the first election since Prayuth seized power in a military coup in 2014.
"Palang Pracharat is essentially a coalition within a coalition," said Kobsak Chutikul, a former Thai legislator and diplomat. "It is a politically untested group in uncharted territory."
Taken from Nikkei Asian Review: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Thai-election/Thailand-caught-in-power-struggle-as-Prayuth-forms-coalition-cabinet