Another time bomb is about to hit Yingluck Shinawatra's government, except this time it looks as if it will be set off from the inside.
The bomb will certainly start ticking after May, when the ban on the 111 members of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party is lifted and some of them are given seats in the Cabinet.
Obviously, once these politicians are in the Cabinet, certain Pheu Thai Party members will end up losing their ministerial portfolios.
The first ripple of dissatisfaction was felt when Suranand Vejjajiva was made Prime Minister Yingluck’s personal spokesman.
Meanwhile, banned politician Chaturon Chaisang is saying that some Pheu Thai members holding ministerial posts have been trying to block the banned politicians from entering the Cabinet.
“They are strong, they are senior, and they want to cling to power,” Chaturon said.
Besides, it’s not just the banned politicians, but other Pheu Thai MPs, including red-shirt leaders, who are waiting in line for ministerial posts. Clearly there are more people than positions available.
So if a Cabinet reshuffle does take place and the banned politicians are brought back, an internal war is bound to break out.
Thai Rak Thai minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said earlier that ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra had indicated that banned politicians would not be given Cabinet posts unless it was really necessary. “He wants to give a chance to the younger generation,” she said.
However, this statement failed to convince people.
It is widely known that many prominent political figures who were banned, such as Sudarat, Chaturon, Pongthep Thepkanchana, Prommin Lertsuridej, Varathep Ratanakorn, Pongsak Raktapongpaisal, Phoomtham Vejchayachai and Suranand, have been working as Yingluck’s advisers right from the start. Therefore, it would not be difficult to move them from behind the scenes to the centre of the spotlight.
As swords start getting drawn within the ruling party, Yingluck needs to get ready for other rows brewing between her coalition partners – Banharn Silpa-archa’s Chart Thai Pattana Party and Sonthaya Khunpluem’s Phalang Chon Party. Both Banharn and Sonthaya are banned politicians.
When Yingluck’s Cabinet was first formed, it appeared as if Chart Thai Pattana was more favoured. The government’s policy was to grant one Cabinet portfolio for every seven to nine MPs. However, it appears as if Banharn’s party ended up getting a bigger quota than others. His party only holds 19 MP seats yet it was given the Sports and Tourism, Agriculture and deputy Commerce portfolios, and a deputy premiership.
Therefore, if any of the 111 banned politicians do return to the Cabinet, Banharn’s people might be in trouble.
In addition, Sonthaya’s Palang Chon Party is expecting to swap some Cabinet posts with Banharn’s people. Sonthaya’s wife Sukumol is currently leading the Culture Ministry, while Sonthaya, who was previously the sports and tourism minister, wants his old post back. He had his eye on his former post since this government was being formed, but his wife was too much of a junior politician for it, so Banharn took the opportunity to snatch it up.
Palang Chon, which only holds seven MP seats, had no choice but to accept the Culture portfolio, though now it’s time for Sonthaya to take his old post back.
There are also reports that the Pheu Thai Party wants to take the Agriculture Ministry off Banharn’s hands because it wants to control the country’s water management.
“As of now there are no signs from Thaksin [if he wants to take back Agriculture], but we believe he will not touch our [quota] because Banharn has always taken care of Yingluck and her government. Plus, he is promising to support the charter changes,” a key leader from the Chart Thai Pattana Party said.
Meanwhile, someone spotted another banned politician – Suwat Liptapanlop, the de facto leader of the Chart Pattana Party – on a flight to Dubai last week. Thaksin is currently based in Dubai and it is believed that Suwat went to discuss his political future once his ban is lifted.
Political analysts believe that Suwat is far too much of a senior politician just to sit in a ministerial post. He could very well be made PM’s adviser or secretary-general of the ruling party.
Once the ban is lifted, many politicians will be given the key to freedom, yet this freedom might set off a political time bomb for others.