Coronation before talks to form govt, says pro-army Thai party

BANGKOK • Talks to form Thailand's next government will have to wait until after the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May, a party linked to the ruling military junta said, as the ballot count from the election remained inconclusive.

The chaotic count and charges of vote-buying have marred Thailand's first election since a military coup five years ago.

Amid mounting confusion, both the pro-army Palang Pracharath and an opposition alliance have claimed victory.

Official results from Sunday's vote will not be released until May 9, a few days after King Vajiralongkorn is scheduled to be crowned.

Palang Pracharath said yesterday it would not seek to negotiate with other parties to forge a coalition government, as it wants to focus on the coronation.

"We're waiting. Forming a government this time is entirely different from in the past," said party secretary-general Sonthirat Sontijirawong. "This time, we have a time frame: the coronation ceremony, the most important ceremony for all Thais... We're prioritising that first."

King Vajiralongkorn's coronation will be a first for most Thais after the 70-year reign of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

Public preparations for the coronation - a mix of Buddhist religious ceremonies and Hindu Brahmin rituals - are due to begin on April 6, with monks gathering holy waters for the king to bathe in.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a message yesterday, saying post-election coalition-building should involve "banding together to do good for the country and the people, and removing bad people or those who damage the country".

In unofficial election results on Thursday, Palang Pracharath won the popular vote. A seven-party "democratic front", led by a faction linked to ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, estimated that it has won 255 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, and said it has the right to try to form a coalition government.

The Election Commission has so far only announced results for 350 directly elected seats in the House of Representatives.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'Coronation before talks to form govt, says pro-army Thai party'. Print Edition | Subscribe