As expected, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha survived the no-confidence vote on Saturday.
Prayut received 256 votes in support, 206 against, while nine abstained. The rest of the Cabinet members also survived. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnveerakul, who pushed for the decriminalization of marijuana “for medical purposes,” got 264 votes against 205.
This means Prayut and his administration will almost certainly be around until early 2023, when his term is completed, despite the dismay of many democracy supporters.
Even a foreign observer of Thai politics replied to me upon learning about the results that they were disappointing.
“So disappointing. Just shows how corrupt they ALL are. He set this country back at least a decade, deprived the Thai people of opportunity and security, admitted to the coup, rigged the last election, bungled the COVID pandemic, etc. … yet they still love him,” opined Twitter user @CraigStroud66 on Saturday.
Prayut’s lackluster economic performance aside, the man and his deputy, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, unabashedly reminded the public during the censure debate that Prayut was (originally) the coup maker, back in 2014 that is.
Essentially Prayut made a ‘successful’ transition from being a coup maker, junta leader, unelected PM, and PM after the 2019 ‘elections.’ Whether Thailand was a success over the past eight years under him is another story.
Prayut basically tweaked the rules even during the 2019 elections, which saw the junta-appointed senate voted to support him to become PM.
Those who believe Prayut should no longer be Prime Minister for one more day, but a prison inmate for having staged a coup must now come to term with the bitter reality of nearly another year of Prayut in power and possibly another term if the opposition parties fail to win enough votes in the next general elections.
The opposition parties must now focus on not just criticizing Prayut but winning more votes through better policy platforms.
Thai politics over the past decade and a half is so toxic that it is almost impossible for parties to win undecided voters as many have chosen to be part of the deeply polarized politics. It took people like Chadchart Sittipunt distancing himself from being politically partisan to win Bangkok gubernatorial elections this year.
To replicate bipartisan, or cross-partisan support during national elections is much more difficult, however. Nevertheless, to be able to certainly prevent Prayut and the conservative parties from forming a new government after next year’s elections would require some of that.
On the other hand, street protests will continue as some diehard demonstrators will most likely insist on their rights to continue to protest. Increasingly, the theatre is shifting to party politics and the preparations for the next general elections, however.
At this stage, calling for the ouster of the government will carry less and less weight as people and political parties are gearing for the next general elections. It is best that those against the regime put more efforts in selling key ideas to political parties, as well as voters, and not just the opposition parties.
Issues like equal marriage law, reform of the monarchy, the lese majeste law, decentralization through elected governors in all provinces, social welfare, what to do with the de facto use of cannabis for recreational purposes, and green energy are some of the key issues that can be deliberate more widely in public.
It would be time well spent if anti-government leaders and protesters press various political parties to declare their stance on these key issues instead of just focusing on wanting to oust the Prayut regime through small street protests in the months ahead.