Thailand's progressive coalition splits, Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai party to try forming govt

Pheu Thai's announcement sparked protest, with effigies burnt and red paint splashed on the party's HQ.

Tan Min-Wei | August 03, 2023, 11:19 AM


Thailand's political situation became ever more uncertain as the eight party coalition led by the Move Forward Party crumbled after months of deadlock, with the second largest party Pheu Thai looking likely to form a  government without them.

The Fellowship fails

MFP unexpectedly beat Pheu Thai's performance in May's general elections, becoming the Thai parliament's largest party with 151 seats to Pheu Thai's 141.

Both parties joined together in an eight party coalition, with MFP's leader Pita Limjaroenrat taking precedence as the prime minister candidate.

But having failed to become PM after two attempts, it appears that Pheu Thai's patience has run out, formally announcing on Aug 2 that it will move forward with its own plans, without the MFP.

According to Reuters, Pheu Thai intends to nominate Srettha Thavisin, a real estate tycoon, for the position of PM during Aug 4's parliamentary session.

The party's leader, Chonalan Srikaew was quoted as saying that Pheu Thai had supported MFP "to our fullest ability", but now intended to move forward without them.

Cobble together

The Bangkok Post speculated that Pheu Thai was now planning to "cobble together" a 10 party alliance.

The coalition would include the pro-military parties of incumbent PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, the United Thai Nation party, incumbent deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon's Palang Pracharath Party, as well as the Democrat party.

This would give the coalition 302 seats, less than MFP's coalition, which had 312.

But it would likely give Pheu Thai the support of the upper house of parliament, and its nearly 250 military appointed senators.

In return, they are expected to received seats in a prospective cabinet, allowing these conservative parties to retain a fair amount of power, potentially derailing any progressive agenda MFP or even Pheu Thai had hoped to achieve.


Pheu Thai is the latest iteration of Thaksin Shinawatra's political movement.

Thaksin and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra were both ousted in military coups, Thaksin in 2006 and Yingluck in 2014.

Thaksin's daughter Paetongtarn is a leader within Pheu Thai, and was also named one of the party's three possible PM candidates prior to the elections.

Both Thaksin and Yingluck have gone into self imposed exile, although Thaksin has repeatedly said he intends to return to Thailand soon.

Thaksin has been convicted of several crimes, including corruption, and could face ten years imprisonment should he return.

The military government that ousted Yingluck in 2014 rewrote the constitution to require a prime minister to be selected by a vote of both houses of parliament: the popularly elected lower house, and the military appointed upper house, or senate.

Section 112

Pita has been labeled as an anti-monarchist, mainly due to MFP's insistence on reforming Section 112 of Thailand's criminal code.

Commonly known as the Lese Majesty law, Section 112 allows for severe punishment for perceived insults against Thailand's monarchy.

As a result, several more conservative parties and senators have said that it would be impossible to elect him as PM.

Pita has also been suspended from parliament, due to accusations that he has held shares in a now defunct media company while running for parliament.

Pheu Thai's likely PM candidate Srettha has said that he would not amend Section 112, indicating that he would focus on economic issues as his primary concern, according to the Bangkok Post.


MFP supporters have been frustrated at every turn since winning the May election, with Pita being denied power twice, with barely 10 senators voting for him.

MFP has stuck to its reformist guns, refusing to abandon its section 112 reforms, as well as openly stating that it intended to remove the power to elect prime ministers from senators, which might not have endeared them to the group.

MFP supporters protested outside parliament both times as their leader was rejected as well as ejected from parliament.

However, as news broke that Pheu Thai was leaving their coalition, about a hundred MFP supporters marched on the Pheu Thai headquarters in Bangkok, according to Khaosod Thai.

There they burned effigies and splashed red paint on the walls.

Reuters reports that several of the protestors expressed feelings of betrayal when interviewed, seeing the break up of the coalition as a divorce.

Local authorities, seemingly fearing that Friday's parliamentary vote could elicit even more protest, have designated a 50 metre cordon around parliament a "protest free zone".


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Top image via Pita Limjaroenrat/Facebook, ittipat pinrarod/Twitter, Srettha Thavisin/Facebook