TRT figures urge Thaksin to step down
Sources say PM prefers dissolving the House; Chaturon, Bhokin seen as possible successors
Pressure is growing for the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to stand down – even from inside the ruling party.
Certain figures in the Thai Rak Thai Party have advised the premier to step down as a way out of the ongoing political crisis, a source in the TRT said yesterday.
The TRT figures believe that with the premier resigning, the governing party would be able to maintain most of the status quo, while placating the anti-Thaksin campaigners focused on bringing him down because of the Shin Corp sell-off scandal, according to a source.
These figures agreed that with the ruling party remaining in power, it would play an important role in efforts to amend the Constitution, the source said.
Earlier, the premier ruled out resigning, arguing that he would not upset people who voted for his party and wanted him to serve a full four-year term. He also made it clear he wanted to keep the top job by offering compromise deals to critics and opponents.
Public pressure is growing for Thaksin to resign in the wake of the Shin scandal and wealth concealment allegations against him, and the decision by the Constitution Court to reject a petition by 27 senators to investigate the charges. The anti-Thaksin campaign has gained momentum with the participation of many groups.
The TRT source said that if forced to choose, Thaksin would favour House dissolution rather than resignation.
That Rak Thai MP Chalermchai Ulankul said yesterday that dissolving the House without first amending the charter would leave many problematic issues unsettled.
“If the TRT returns to power, the same problems will exist and the same disputes won’t go away,” he said.
The government MP called on Thaksin to give clear explanations about allegations against him at the general parliamentary debate, expected to take place from Monday week (March 6). “If he fails to answer the questions, discontent will grow,” he said.
Gothom Arya, chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, suggested yesterday that Thaksin should step down to make way for amending certain “problematic clauses” in the Constitution.
“This way, the government can do the caretaker job while Parliament can continue with its work,” he said.
Student leaders yesterday echoed the calls for Thaksin to resign.
Kotchawan Chaiyabutr, secretary general of the Students Federation of Thailand, said it was time for the prime minister to go.
“He should not dissolve the House. The problem involves his personal matters. If he does so, Thai politics will remain in the same old cycle. If he resigns, he will let the political reform process to begin, which will benefit the country more,” she said.
Student leaders from five universities in Nakhon Ratchasima agreed at their meeting yesterday they no longer trust Thaksin to lead the country, said Samak Sopha, from Suranaree University of Technology.
If Thaksin opts to resign, there is a limited list of possible successors. The Constitution requires that the prime minister must be an elected member of Parliament, so one of TRT’s top 10 party-list MPs is likely to replace Thaksin.
Political pundits said possible candidates were Deputy PM and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, who is No 2 on the list, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, fourth on the list, and House Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula, ninth on the list.
They said while Suriya is the first candidate, he is the worse possible choice. Suriya leads the Wang Nam Yom faction, which has more than 100 MPs, making it the second biggest faction in the ruling party. Thaksin has realised that Suriya’s faction is too big to control.
Thaksin knows that once Suriya tastes life as premier it would hard to bring him down, one of the pundits said.
Moreover, Suriya is still scarred by the CTX scanner scandal. It was unlikely the public believed the government investigation, which found no evidence of corruption at the new airport.
Chaturon seems to be the most likely choice, they said. With his character of compromise they thought Chaturon would receive support from TRT MPs. They also pointed out that with Chaturon’s clean image – he is seen as one of the good politicians – the public might easily accept him.
A few years ago, Asiaweek magazine hailed Chaturon as an up-and-coming young politician with the potential to become prime minister. However, his weak point is he lacks leadership experience, so the public would be uncertain whether he could be really free from Thaksin or might be considered his puppet.
Bhokin is the second likely choice. He is now House Speaker and senior enough to replace Thaksin, they said. Moreover, Thaksin trusts Bhokin and he could serve Thaksin in every way. But the weakness for Bhokin is that he has no political clout, so TRT MPs are hardly likely to accept him.
Unfortunately, two of Thaksin’s close aides, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan cannot occupy the post because they are not MPs.