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(June 12, 2020) Top brass, technocrats, politicos all same

When ostensible technocrats become ambitious politicians, supervised by army generals and beholden to patronage-driven elected politicians, the result is a power struggle, internal party turmoil, and a country being governed to nowhere. This is the current state of Thailand's ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), the head of a motley and fractious 19-member coalition of minor and micro parties, some represented by one single MP, propping up the government of former coup leader and current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Yet in the face of the opposition bloc that is weak because it has been weakened, after the third-largest winner the Future Forward Party from the last election was dissolved earlier this year, the PPRP is on course to be in office for the foreseeable future, as a new poll is not due for another three years. These dire dynamics suggest Thailand will continue to be rudderless, stuck in a quagmire of its own making, with headwinds that may lead to a reckoning tempest.

At issue in Thailand's main ruling party is the PPRP's internal squabbling for power and cabinet portfolios. The PPRP leader and finance minister Uttama Savanayana and party secretary-general and energy minister Sontirat Sontijirawong faced an insurrection from within when 18 of 34 the party's executive board members resigned earlier this month, forcing a new vote for a new leadership team. Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat, together with Prime Minister's Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakul and Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation Minister Suvit Maesincee, are known to owe their positions to Deputy Prime Minister and economic policy chief Somkid Jatusripitak, and the PPRP power plays were designed to kick out the Somkid-led team of would-be technocrats.