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Thailand’s Prime Minister Gets Cold Welcome in Chiang Mai Province

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Thailand's Prime Minister Gets Cold Welcome in Chiang Mai Province

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai province on Friday, and was confronted by a woman complaining about economic hardship and saying she couldn’t wait for the premier to dissolve the House and call an election.

The prime minister was leaving the Khruba Sriwichai statue in Chiang Mai for his next stop on an official visit to the northern province when the woman, later identified as Ms. Wandee Ratduang, shouted that she had flowers for him.

Ms. Wandee drew his attention by presenting him with withered flowers, candles, and joss sticks, demanding to know when he would dissolve Parliament. Gen Prayut advised her to hold off until an official announcement was made.

She told the Bangkok Post reporter she had had enough of the current government while flashing an anti-government three-finger symbol. She stated it was time to replace the Prime Minister and asked when the elections would be held.

Ms. Wandee, a Phichit native, said the withered flowers represented the country’s state after eight years under Gen Prayut’s leadership. Security officers stood nearby but did not attempt to escort her away.

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Thailand Justice Minister Resigns

Somsak Thepsutin confirmed that he would rejoin the Pheu Thai Party as he announced his resignation as justice minister and refusal to serve as caretaker. He stated that he decided to leave the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) because it needs to fully oversee economic ministries, implying that it cannot properly solve the country’s economic struggles.

He attributed this to the rulingPalang Pracharath Party winning only 118 House seats in the 2019 general election, forcing it to form a coalition government and share economic portfolios with its partners. Mr. Somsak believes Pheu Thai, poised for a landslide victory in the upcoming election, is a good fit for him.

“I’ve decided to apply to join Pheu Thai, but I also want to make it clear that I’m stepping down as Thailand’s justice minister and will not take on the caretaker role,” he said.

Army commander Narongpan Jitkaewtae stated that the personnel guidelines are intended to remind soldiers of the dos and donts of political participation as political campaigns ramp up.

He stated that soldiers are expected to conduct themselves professionally during this time and must adhere to guidelines already reviewed by the Election Commission (EC).

Election posters are popping up nationwide

Political parties in Thailand can hold campaign rallies inside military bases, according to the army chief, but they must submit requests through the EC and follow the rules because some military-supervised areas are restricted.

Election campaign posters are popping up nationwide, many of which are critical of the military’s role in politics or call for the abolition of conscription for Thai citizens.

When asked about campaign materials perceived to be critical of the military, Gen Narongpan stated that he has no say over where election campaign materials are erected but that they should not obstruct vehicle traffic or pose security or safety concerns.

Mr. Chuvit Kamolvisit, who has declared war on the coalition Bhumjaithai Party, filed a petition with the EC on Friday, accusing the party of violating party donation rules.

Section 72 of the Political Parties Act prohibits political parties and political office holders from accepting illegal donations or other benefits from sources suspected of being illegitimate. A political party may be disbanded as a result of the offense.

Mr. Chuvit has asked the polling agency to investigate donations made to the second-largest coalition party by Burijarearn Construction Co and determine whether the party has broken the law.

Burijarearn Construction is at the heart of the current Constitutional Court case against Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, the secretary-general of Bhumjaithai.

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Mr. Chuvit claimed that Mr. Saksayam assisted the firm in obtaining concessions for 40 Transport Ministry projects from 2020 and 2022 and that Burijarearn Construction made several financial donations to the Bhumjaithai Party.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Friday that he had prepared a decree to dissolve Parliament before an election.

The decree would be subject to His Majesty the King’s approval and would take effect once published in the Royal Gazette. An election must be held 45-60 days after the dissolution of the Parliament.

Many online reports quickly concluded that the Parliament would be dissolved on Monday, but Gen Prayut was evasive.

“I have prepared (the decree). We have to wait. “We have to wait for the Royal Gazette announcement,” he told reporters during his visit to Chiang Mai Province.

He said: “We have to wait for the Election Commission, which has published a new election map of the country’s 400 constituencies, had previously scheduled voting for May 7, but a final date still needs to be set.

The Prime Minister, who has been in charge since a coup against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government in May 2014, will run under the banner of the new United Thai Nation (UTN) party.

While UTN is expected to win a few seats, Gen Prayut would again be a prime ministerial candidate if the party formed a government coalition.

According to the Constitutional Court, Gen. Prayut could only serve for 2 years before reaching the limit of 8 years from the date the current Constitution was proclaimed in 2017.

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Pheu Thai Party Highly Favored

In the upcoming election, the Pheu Thai Party is widely expected to win the majority seats in the Parliament. It claims to aim for a landslide — as many as 310 seats — to advance its populist policies.

The Palang Pracharath Party, which currently leads the coalition government, is the other leading contender. Their prime ministerial candidate is Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who is now being portrayed as a champion of democracy in the form of lengthy ghostwritten articles posted on Facebook in his name.

“This election will be a battle of ideologies, determining whether Thailand will remain conservative or sway more liberal,” Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political scientist at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, told Bloomberg.

“However, the military is so deeply embedded in Thai politics that bringing about military reform would require a super landslide, which is unlikely.”

There’s also the possibility of at least 3 million first-time voters, who account for more than 5% of those eligible to vote. This generation would have reached adulthood during the unprecedented youth protests in 2020 calling for Gen Prayut’s resignation and monarchy reforms.

Pre-election polls show opposition parties leading the ruling coalition, but the rules favor military-backed groups. That’s because the Constitution grants the 250-member Senate, mostly made up of establishment allies and includes more than 100 military and Royal Thai police appointees, the authority to vote on the next prime minister until early 2024.

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Gen Prayut is counting on this group’s support to keep him ahead in the race for Prime Minister. Much will depend on how his conservative party fared in the polls against Palang Pracharath and the opposition led by Pheu Thai.

Pheu Thai and its predecessors have won every election in the last two decades, but three of their administrations have been terminated due to judicial rulings or military takeovers.

“I strongly believe that we will form the next government, which is why we are going to campaign for a landslide,” said Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the party’s face and one of its three prime ministerial candidates.

Asked about the prospect that her opponents might try to block Pheu Thai from governing, she said, “of course, of course”.

Some senators have already stated they will not vote for a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate, even if it has the most seats in the next House.

The Election Commission announced the boundaries of 400 constituencies on Thursday, with Bangkok having the most at 33, Nakhon Ratchasima having 16, and Chiang Mai and Nakhon Si Thammarat having ten. Each of the five provinces, including Trat and Ranong, has only one seat.

Bangkok and 26 provinces in Central Thailand will have 122 MPs under the new boundaries, while 14 provinces in Southern Thailand will have 60 MPs.

Sixteen provinces in Northern Thailand will have 37 MPs, while the Northeast will have the most, with 133. The eastern region will have 29 representatives, while the western region will have 19.

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