Thailand’s government party the People’s Power Party (PPP) today nominated a brother-in-law of exiled Premier Thaksin Shinawatra as the country’s Prime Minister, a move which could send the country spiralling into further chaos.
The PPP’s choice of Somchai Wongsawat is certain to antagonise the protesters who have occupied Government House for three weeks, accusing the government of being a puppet of the ousted premier.
Mr Somchai has been acting prime minister since last week, when Premier Samak Sundaravej was forced to step down by the Constitution Court, for breaking parliamentary rules by hosting a cookery programme on commercial television while P.M.
The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), whose protests have disrupted travel across the country, describing Mr Somchai, a former Minister of Education, as ‘Thaksin Number Three’ vowed to continue in its bid to unseat the PPP.
Sathien Viriyapanpongsa, co-ordinator for the protesters in the People’s Alliance for Democracy said: ‘In 2006, we fought only to free the country from the grip of Thaksin [Shinawatra] without laying out long-term measures. Eventually, we got Thaksin episode 2 in the form of a proxy government led by Samak Sundaravej.
‘Now we are being presented with Thaskin Episode 3. Our protests will continue. We cannot stop now. We can win.’
‘We all know who Somchai is. Samak was just a nominee but Somchai is the real actor linked to Thaksin’s family,’ PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk told reporters. ‘We will not give him the benefit of the doubt or give him a honeymoon period.’
Mr Somchai’s ties to Mr Thaksin – his wife is Mr Thaksin’s younger sister – led to frequent cries of nepotism during his time as the top civil servant at the Justice Ministry. He denies the accusation, noting he got the job before Mr Thaksin came to power.
Somsak Kosaisook had already publicly stated that none of the PPP cabinet would be suitable as a Prime Minister.
The Thai Army is closely monitoring the situation and the end of the State of Emergency which was declared yesterday – even though the government are now planning to meet, not in government house, but at Bangkok’s old international airport at Don Muang.
But senior generals have repeatedly been quoted as saying they would not initiate a military coup.
Mr Samak had hoped to be voted back to power but last week Parliament could not find a quorum to vote him back in.
Mr Somchai is a barrister by profession and a former Chief Justice of Phang-Nga province in South Thailand. He also served in the Ministries of Labour and Justice.
The other possible contenders, Finance Minister Somporn Amornvivat and PPP Secretary Genereal Surapong Suebwonglee were also staunch allies of Mr Thaksin, who fled to London with his wife Pojaman, while on corruption charges. But they were not related to him by blood.
MR Somchai still has to be confirmed by Parliamentary vote on Wednesday, and with a large faction of the PPP now split, his appointment is by no means a forgone conclusion.