24 July 2023

Pita Limjaroenrat:
“If the boat is leaking, we are supposed to fix the boat together, not kick others off the boat...”

Democracy Monument

After a second vote for Move Forward’s prime ministerial candidate, Pita Limjaroenrat, was cancelled last week, the eight-party coalition that was formed after the election is looking increasingly fragile. Pheu Thai, Move Forward’s main coalition partner, is preparing to nominate its own PM candidate, and—taking no chances, given Pita’s misfortune—it has taken soundings from parties outside the coalition to gauge how much support its nominee might receive.

This weekend, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew held meetings with representatives from Bhumjaithai, United Thai Nation, and other pro-military parties—all of which are considered persona non grata by Move Forward. Yesterday, he even met with Thammanat Prompao, the convicted heroin smuggler who represents the Palang Pracharath Party. These meetings dismayed many Move Forward and Pheu Thai voters, as United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharath are the political wings of the junta that deposed Pheu Thai in 2014.

The message Cholnan received from the pro-military parties, loud and clear, was that they wouldn’t endorse a Pheu Thai prime minister while Move Forward remained in the coalition. Cholnan has denied that he is seeking to form a new alliance, or that he is putting pressure on Move Forward, though Pheu Thai now faces a clear choice: power or principles. If it honours its pledge to Move Forward, the premiership seems out of reach; if it throws Move Forward under the bus, it would return to government but lose its credibility.

Pita used a weekend rally in Pattaya to send a message to Cholnan, imploring him to do the right thing. “We are all in the same boat,” he said, referring to the eight coalition parties. “If the boat is leaking, we are supposed to fix the boat together, not kick others off the boat.” Now that Pheu Thai is at the tiller, it’s all hands on deck to secure the next prime ministerial vote, though Move Forward may be forced overboard.

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