Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana unveil alliance
Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana parties yesterday announced an alliance after the upcoming general election "regardless of the results" - which means they can join either the Democrats or Pheu Thai Party to form the next coalition government.
However, leaders of Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana rejected speculation that the move was aimed at boosting their bargaining leverage and chance of returning to power.Chat Thai Pattana leader Chumpol Silapa-archa and Bhum Jai Thai leader Chaovarat Chanweerakul called a press conference at the Siam City Hotel, where key figures from both parties gathered for a lunch to discuss their tie-up. The meeting was held behind closed doors and key party figures who attended refused to reveal any details to the media.The parties' de-facto leaders, Newin Chidchob of Bhum Jai Thai and Banharn Silapa-archa of Chart Thai Pattana, also attended the lunch, titled "Holding Hands and Going Together". But they didn't take part in the press conference after, sitting instead among the journalists. Newin was initially reluctant to be in the conference room, but when the veteran Banharn told him, "If you are not inside, I will also leave the room," he went inside the room quickly.Both are serving separate five-year bans from politics.Banharn is his party's chief adviser while Newin holds no official party post. But they are believed to have retained their influence in both parties. Other banned politicians from both parties also were present at yesterday's luncheon.In the statement read out by Chumpol and Chaovarat, the parties agreed to work together in order to protect the monarchy and to bring reconciliation among people in the country. Both parties promised to be political allies and agreed that, after the election, whatever the results, they would be in the same camp."The election result has not come out, and you can't be sure we will be a key factor or will have the power to bargain," Chumpol said, adding that his party might win only five House seats and Bhum Jai Thai 10 seats. With gasps from his political colleagues, Chumpol added that he "may have overstated it". Banharn, his elder brother, joked that he preferred a zero to be added after the figure.When asked about the possibility of the two parties joining a coalition led by Pheu Thai, Chumpol said that was a matter for the future, but added: "We are ready to work with any party that shares the same ideology with ours. We do not prevent anyone." Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana are the second and third largest partners in the current Democrat-led coalition.Newin yesterday compared the political alliance to a marriage. "Banharn and I are senior witnesses to this marriage, and the couple will certainly stay together for a long time."Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday he viewed the two parties' political alliance as a bid to boost their chance of winning the election.Most Cabinet members from the two minor parties skipped yesterday's Cabinet meeting shortly before noon to attend the lunch. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who chaired yesterday's Cabinet meeting, said Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai from Bhum Jai Thai should have been at the meeting as there was a discussion about the rising price of consumer products.