Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has called on coalition parties to honour their original “gentleman’s agreement”, after the Thai government suffered a shock defeat in its bid to prevent formation of a panel to scrutinise Section 44.
The defeat was the result of six Democrat Party MPs refusing to toe the coalition line and voting to support the opposition motion, proposed by Future Forward Party Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, to set up a panel to study the impact of orders issued under Section 44.
The legislation gave Gen Prayut special executive powers as leader of the post-coup National Council for Peace and Order regime.
On Wednesday, the opposition edged the ruling coalition camp by four votes – 234-230 – on the motion, with two abstentions and one absence.
Gen Prayut said that defeat in a parliamentary vote was normal, adding that several MPs from coalition parties were too busy to attend the meeting.
However, the prime minister insisted the coalition remained solid, adding he had not given any thought to a cabinet reshuffle.
Cabinet ministers would be given time before an assessment of their work is made, he said.
“I am still confident about [coalition] stability. I am a former soldier who knows the importance of gentleman’s agreements. When you join a government, you must be serious and work with the government to do the right things, rather than merely engage in political battles,” Gen Prayut said.
Addressing the coalition’s defeat in the vote, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is also chief strategist of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), said it all came down to the spirit of each coalition MP, though he insisted there was no disagreement among coalition parties.
A source at the Democrat Party said the rebellion by the six Democrat MPs was in retaliation for the PPRP’s refusal to back former Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to head a House committee to study constitutional amendments.
The PPRP wants instead to nominate its party-list MP Paiboon Nititawan, who has the backing of Gen Prawit, as committee chairman, the source said.
The PPRP’s move prompted Mr Abhisit to withdraw from the race for the chairmanship. As a result, a meeting of Democrat MPs on Tuesday decided to omit Mr Abhisit from the list of its nominees for the House committee, the source said.
The source said some of the Democrat MPs who supported the motion have close ties with Mr Abhisit, such as Thepthai Senpong, an MP for Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Chaiwuti Bannawat, a Tak MP, and party-list MP Panich Vikitsreth.
Deputy Democrat leader Nipit Intarasombat told the Bangkok Post that Mr Abhisit wanted to stay out of the conflict. If the PPRP did not support his bid to head the committee, it would be pointless to take the post, Mr Nipit said.
However, Mr Nipit felt that Banyat Bantadtan, a former Democrat leader nominated for the House committee, would make a suitable chairman, given his political experience and ability to compromise.
Mr Thepthai on Thursday insisted that the six Democrat MPs were not “cobras”, or renegades, adding they had also initiated their own motion for a panel to scrutinise Section 44.
The House of Representatives was thrown into turmoil after both sides were locked in conflict over voting for a panel to study the effects of orders issued under Section 44.