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August 27, 2023





I opened my digital Bangkok Post this past Tuesday to a headline that says it all about the recent Thai parliamentary election and the blurry Thai military, royal and commoner segments of the population. The news was Parliament Elects Srettha Prime Minister.  The subtitle was Property Tycoon from Pheu Thai-led Coalition Secures Comfortable Majority 100 days After Election. The image below reflects the actual voting process as parliamentarians are called by name during the joint sitting to elect a prime minister.  In fact, I have been in that impressive hall when I met with a Thai parliamentarian to seek support for an oil project offshore Thailand.

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The joint meeting of the House and Senate elected Srettha Thavisin of the Pheu Thai Party as the 30th prime minister of Thailand with 482 votes in favor, 165 votes against and 81 abstentions. It only took 100 days to form a government after 39 million people voted in a parliamentarian election, the results of which were upside down to the actual outcome. There are 500 elected House representatives and currently 249 appointed senators of which 728 were present. Following five hours of debate, Srettha shown below, won the count with almost all the opposition coming from the majority winner in the election, the Move Forward Party.

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It was evident in the remarks of the Move Forward Party, it could not support the Pheu Thai Party even though the two parties followed the election results by forming a coalition to support the leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP), Pita Limjaroenrat, to become prime minister.  The respective platform planks to review the role of the monarchy and the military were clearly an anathema to the Thai traditional structure of Thailand.  Accordingly, MFP became isolated as the other parties fell in behind Pheu Thai.  Pita is shown below waving his hand to the crowds which gather around him.

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Ultimately, the Pheu Thai Party formed an omnibus coalition with everyone else including the two military-linked parties.  It is ironic that Pheu Thai was formed by the former prime ministers, Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck, who were overthrown by coups led by the same military leaders in place today.  Thaksin has been a fugitive from Thai justice since he was overthrown in a coup in 2006.  Nonetheless, he returned to Bangkok on the day Pheu Thai assumed control of Parliament.  His daughter and prominent figure in Pheu Thai, Paethongtarn, made a trip to Thaksin’s safe haven in Dubai to help him with an eye exam which was an interesting reason to outline the conditions for his return to Thailand.  He was met at the Thai airport to much fanfare to then be whisked off to a cozy private cell to await his future which we can assume will be a royal pardon.

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The Pheu Thai coalition of most parties, except the actual winning party, may not have reflected the will of the people.  Nonetheless, the system has spoken and there are rumors of a new Thai constitution being drafted to be presented to voters for approval.  Constitutional reform has been common over the years so we can only imagine which way this process might go. One thing is clear in most countries is that “dependable governments” are not always dependent on the leaders wearing “Depends.”

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