Later today is supposed to be the climax of the more than 2-months of speculation that the 2014 coup leader, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, would join the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party in what would be the 1st official launch of the newly formed vehicle for the coup leader to remain in power.
The Ruam Thai Saang Chart, a party that was recently formed by the organizers of the 2013/2014 street protest of the so-called ‘Shutdown Bangkok’, is set to reveal General Prayut as its candidate for the Prime Minister at the gathering that is set to take place at 17:00 today.
The 17:00 time is to avoid General Prayut breaking the law as he remains a government official because of his position as the Prime Minister and therefore cannot use working time (until at least 16:30 hrs.) for personal issues.
The event is set to take place at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre and the organizers are saying that as many as 10,000 people are to attend although the hall can reportedly accommodate half the number of people that the organizers claim.
Kick-off of Election Campaign
The move by Prayut to join the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party would officially kick off the party’s election campaign and would cement the break away from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which was the vehicle that the 2014 coup leader used to return to power in what Prayut called as democratically elected Prime Minister.
The 2019 elections saw PPRP gain less than 97 seats against 136 MPs won by the Pheu Thai party, but with the help of the handpicked 250 senators who came into power under the 2016 junta-drafted constitution, the PPRP managed to put Prayut back in the premier seat.
The aim this time around for the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party is to get a least 25 MPs that would assure that General Prayut’s name can be nominated to be the Prime Minister because as per the constitution, a political party needs to have at least 25 MPs to be able to nominate the name in the parliament to the Prime Minister’s position.
The move by Prayut to join the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party would also show that the conflicts between himself and the PPRP’s party leader and one of the key masterminds of the 2014 coup, General Prawit Wongsuwon, would be set in stone.
The conflicts that the media has been reporting for months would see the 2 “brothers from different mothers” go separate ways and maybe after the elections join hands but that looks unlikely, at least for now.
Prawit, who is famous for his ultra-expensive watch borrowed from dead friends, has reportedly already made a deal with the self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is the brain behind the Pheu Thai party.
It is for this reason that Prawit told his PPRP party members that no matter what happens, his party would be at the core of the next government.
The backers of the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party on the other hand are the leaders of the 2013/2014 street protest with Akanat Promphan, being the stepson of Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the ‘Bangkok Shutdown’.
This group of staunch supporters of Prayut and anti-Thaksin is unlikely to be willing to join hands with the Pheu Thai Party and it is therefore in their best interest to parachute out of PPRP, which is a more opportunistic party as the PPRP is willing to join hands with the enemy when the time comes.
40 MPs Set to Join
The move to join the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party by the coup leader today is set to see at least 30 more MPs joining with the likes of Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin taking the lead to showcase his power and backing.
Suchart, who was sidelined by Prawit of PPRP after Prawit favored the Australian drug dealing convict – Thammanat Prompao, is set to bring with him as many as 30 MPs who would join the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party today and another 10 MPs may join “at the right time”.
Thammanat on the other hand has reportedly gone back to Prawit and back to PPRP while abandoning his Thai Setakij party (Thai Economic party).
As many as 40 MPs from various parties are to join and these are the MPs who reportedly had a meal with Prayut before Prayut’s visit to Belgium in December 2022. The meeting was attended by MPs from PPRP, the Democrat Party and a host of other parties that are mostly on the coalition’s side.
The move of 40 MPs would help ensure that the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party would be able to at least get 25 MPs in its bag in order to be able to nominate Prayut back to power but the party has yet to make a clear statement about what it wants to do after April 2025.
Prayut’s Endgame in April 2025
The Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party’s plans to nominate Prayut to the position of Prime Minister is all good but the top court – Constitutional Court, on September 30th, 2022, ruled that Prayut’s 8-year term limit would be reached in April 2025 and that as per the self-drafted constitution by Prayut, the coup leader would not be able to remain in power.
The endgame of Prayut’s role as Prime Minister cannot (as per the constitution) go beyond April 2025 and the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party would need to address this issue when it nominates ‘only’ Prayut as its candidate for the Prime Minister.
Prayut himself has not come out to say what his plans are after April 2025 and this inability to clarify the issue could be a drawback for the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party and its possible allies.
By April 2025 the power of the 250 hand-picked senators of Prayut and Prawit would also be out of their power, which would leave the political party with the highest number of seats in the parliament to be able to nominate their candidate for Prime Minister.
With the date of April 2025 in sight and the power of the senators still in Prayut’s favor, the likelihood of an election happening earlier than expected looks more likely than ever.
It is in the best interest of Prayut and the Ruam Thai Saang Chart Party to hold elections as early as possible in order to get back in power because currently, Prayut is more like a lame duck Prime Minister as his backer PPRP is now going to be a competitor, not a compatriot.
Talks of possible house dissolution by the end of this month or no later than February 15th look more likely scenario and elections would take place sometime in late March or early April.