Last week, Thammanat Prompao nearly toppled the government according to local media reports. The one-time drug dealer turned deputy agricultural minister looked set to launch an internal coup against Prayut Chan-ocha and vote him out of office during a no-confidence motion.
A last minute intervention by the military clique within the ruling Palang Pracharat saved the government blushes and kept Prayut in power. (Read more here) But now the question remains, what to do with the would-be rebel Thammanat.
The easy answer would be to kick him out of his ministerial position and the party but the reality is not that simple. Thammanat remains a powerful figure in Thai politics with his grassroots connections extending deep within the Thai political strata, especially in his native North East where he has extensive networks.
Thammanat was seen as instrumental in propelling Palang Pracharat to victory in several run-off and local elections in the past two years, oftentimes being photographed next to the victorious candidate.
If he were to leave the ruling party, he would likely take a dozen MPs with him wherever he goes and going back to his former Pheu Thai allies is not out of the question.
That would mean that the ruling coalition would have less than the necessary seats to keep Prayut in power and the coalition intact.
“The weekend may have been a setback for Thammanat but I think he and his allies knows that the party needs him from a political point of view,” one PPRP insider told Thai Enquirer on Thursday.
“Right now, there is this uneasy alliance in place where every side agrees to continue to pay nice because there are still benefits to be had,” the source said.
According to analysts, if anything, not being able to get rid of Thammanat may show how dependent the ruling party is on the deputy minister.
“If anything, this weekend has solidified Thammanat’s position inside the party,” said London-based Thai political analyst Arun Saronchai.
“He basically rebelled against the party and they can’t even get rid of him, they need him going into the next election and he may leverage his power into a more senior ministerial position,” Arun said.