Last week, rumors that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha was going to be ousted by an internal party conflict reached a crescendo with many speculating that he would be removed by the weekend.
Yet after Saturday’s censure vote, Prayut emerged all smiles having survived the no-confidence motion. Despite receiving the most number of no-confidence votes among any cabinet ministers with 208 against, the prime minister lived to fight another day.
It was anything but certain just 24 hours before the censure vote when coalition partners were reporting that a renegade faction of Palang Pracharat MPs led by the enigmatic convicted drug-dealer Thammanat Prompao were ready to cast the premier out of office.
According to some members of the Palang Pracharat Party, Thammanat and other senior leaders within the PPRP had seemingly struck a deal with the opposition that would cement his own power base, end the current round of street protests and arrests through a blanket amnesty, and drive out Prayut Chan-ocha as a catch-all scapegoat.
Others said that Thammanat was acting at the behest of PPRP Party Leader Prawit Wongsuwan to use Prayut as a scapegoat and propel Prawit to the premiership.
What is clear, however, is that aides to Prawit Wongsuwan and the general himself were making calls late on Friday night to coalition allies and well-connected Thais to reassure them that all was well and that there would be no sudden change of government.
What followed was a hastily organized, and according to sources from both the PPRP and the coalition partners, a very intense meeting.
During the meeting, according to local media, Prawit, Prayut, and Anupong Paochinda patched up any differences and emerged to reporters united in triumph. Among those attending the closed-door meeting was Thammanat who was told by the three generals to play ball and not cause trouble.
Thammanat had been making a lot of noise about selfish ministers during and in the lead-up to the censure debate, he has been conspicuously silent since the censure vote. Questions will now be asked about his position in the party and whether the PPRP can afford to get rid of the troublemaker/kingmaker who likely will take up to 20 MPs with him should he leave.
For now, an uneasy alliance continues to govern the country, led by the same three generals that have inextricably woven their way into the Thai political narrative for the past decade.