Thai King's rebuke of Thaksin 'points to a pro-military party govt'

BANGKOK • Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a rare rebuke of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra about a week after an inconclusive national election, making it more likely that a pro-military party would form a government.

The monarch revoked royal decorations given to Thaksin because he fled Thailand after being sentenced to prison, which is "an extremely inappropriate behaviour", according to a statement posted on the Royal Gazette's website last Saturday.

Thaksin has not set foot in the country since 2008, after being accused of corruption in a case he has called politically motivated.

Provisional results show the Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai party emerged with the most seats after the March 24 general election, which followed almost five years of military rule. Together with his allies, Pheu Thai has won the most seats in every election held since 2001, only to be unseated from government by coups or the courts.

Pheu Thai said it has built an alliance of anti-junta parties that would have a majority in the Lower House of Parliament. That claim is disputed by a pro-military party, Palang Pracharath, which said it will seek to form a coalition government after winning the most votes of any single party.

"It's a significant signal that one side is viewed as more favourable than the other," said Associate Professor Punchada Sirivunnabood, from Mahidol University, who often writes about politics.

"Everything points to a favourable outcome for the pro-military party and its allies. They'll be successful in forming a government, but it will be difficult for them to maintain its power and last a full term," Prof Punchada said.

The shape of the next government may not emerge for many weeks, following a messy election dogged by opposition claims of rigging. The authorities must certify official results by May 9, which comes a few days after the King's coronation ceremony, scheduled to be held from May 4 to 6.

The King, who serves as head of state and is traditionally considered above politics, has been vocal over the election.

In February, he denied an attempt by a Thaksin-linked party to name his older sister Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya as its candidate for prime minister, saying it was highly inappropriate and violated the spirit of the Constitution.

Then on the eve of last Sunday's vote, he released a statement that in effect asked citizens to back good people to govern the nation.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'Thai King's rebuke of Thaksin 'points to a pro-military party govt''. Print Edition | Subscribe