Pheu Thai’s top party-list candidate Yingluck Shinawatra before voting at a polling station in the compound of Khlong Lamjiad School in Bung Kum district, Bangkok on July 3.
Kamol Hengkietisak
Bangkok Post

Let the infighting begin

Even though Pheu Thai won a landslide victory on July 3, garnering 265 MPs out of the total 500 MPs in the House of Representatives, the honeymoon period may be short as there are impending problems within and outside the party waiting for Yingluck Shinawatra's coalition government, notes Post Today.

Though Pheu Thai can form a single-party government, Ms Yingluck is opting to form a coalition government with five other small parties to reach a total of 300 MPs for political stability.

However, the political situation is still very divisive as Pheu Thai has won the hearts of the poor people in the North and Northeast but has failed to convince the middle classes that the party is good for them.

Countrywide the Pheu Thai Party won 265 seats but lost 10-23 to the Democrats in Bangkok.

This is a bad omen that if Ms Yingluck administers the country and fails to solve economic problems as promised, the frugal acceptance of Bangkok's middle classes of the election result could turn hostile quickly.
To rule the country for a long time, every government must cater to all classes, not only the grass roots but the middle classes and the elite as well. On this point, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has already had an expensive lesson. The main challenge for the next government is Ms Yingluck herself. Having no political experience is a huge handicap in trying to steer the government through its four-year term. Let's take a look at two nominee premiers: Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat. Both had extensive experience in dealing with the Thai bureaucracy. The late Samak was a political veteran with unmatched oratorical skill. Yet after administering the country for only nine months, he was stripped of his post by the Constitution Court for hosting a cooking show and earning an income while still being Thailand's prime minister. Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai fared worse. After only three months in office, he was stripped of his post along with the dissolution of People Power Party by the Constitution Court, prompting the switch of political alliances and the Democrats coming to power.

With no political experience, can Ms Yingluck withstand all the political pressure? She may have used her female charm of being modest and compromising to win a landslide election. But these seemingly strong traits may become her weakness if she is perceived as being indecisive and wishy-washy when she leads the next government.

It is true that the present political situation is unlike the times of Thaksin, Samak and Somchai, but opposition figures including the People's Alliance for Democracy and the armed forces are still there. The most important issue that can ignite the divisiveness again is a political amnesty, even though Ms Yingluck has insisted all along that it is not for Thaksin alone. This is true and the proposed amnesty law should cover all political offences on both sides since the coup of Sept 19, 2006. It is possible that a constitution drafting council can be established to draw up a new constitution and that the amnesty law is an appendix to the new constitution.

Apart from the hot issue of a political amnesty, Ms Yingluck has to face competing interests within the Pheu Thai Party itself. Over the past few years, Thaksin used so many core leaders of Pheu Thai and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to try to seize back power, resulting in several red shirt leaders being incarcerated and facing criminal/terrorism charges. Now that Pheu Thai has won, it is payback time.

After giving a few ministerial posts to coalition partners, there will be 27-28 ministerial posts left, and it is an axiom in Thai politics that factional fights result when the cake is not divided satisfactorily. It was the case with Samak's regime and the Somchai administration. This is one of the reasons that we see version II of Cobra politics when Newin Chidchob led a faction to defect from Pheu Thai to form a new party Bhumjaithai and allied it with the Democrat Party to form a new coalition government.

If Thaksin grants UDD or Pheu Thai leaders who are charged with criminal offences cabinet posts in the new government, it will shake the goodwill the party gained in the landslide. People who voted for the Pheu Thai Party expect it to place capable people in the cabinet and that the party should avoid re-igniting the social division between the people in Bangkok and the provinces.

Another thorny point is the relationship between Pheu Thai and strongman Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who stands opposite Yingluck and Thaksin politically. If Yingluck and Thaksin rush to seize control of the army, the opposition will intensify.

Meanwhile Thaksin and Pheu Thai's core leaders are trying to salvage his sullied image about loyalty to the monarchy. If Ms Yingluck does what she promises to organise the 84th birthday celebration of His Majesty the King in a very grand manner, this may create conflicts within the UDD and Pheu Thai. Some leaders criticised Bhumjaithai as being spendthrift in organising HM the King's birthday celebrations in the past, saying the festivities wasted money.

Another issue that might be a time bomb is the insistence of UDD leaders not to compromise with the elite (amataya), which is not the position of the official Pheu Thai Party which wants to move forward on this issue. If Pheu Thai succeeds in pushing for political amnesty for all including army leaders who suppress the red shirts, it may incur the wrath of red shirt leaders who insist all along that those who killed the people must be punished.

So Ms Yingluck's administration may not have a long honeymoon period, judging from conflicts within and outside Pheu Thai. This does not count how the new government implements several populist policies promised during the election campaign which likely will rattle the country's fiscal stability. If Pheu Thai fails to implement all of the promises, the party may not last long, come the next general election.

The first female prime minister of Thailand does not have it easy. She must be wary and tread carefully if she wants to survive the full term.

Time for an overhaul

The overwhelming victory of Pheu Thai gladdened the party's supporters while the defeat of the Democrat Party has saddened its loyalists, notes Thai Rath.

It is a new phenomenon that the victors are not ridiculing the losers in various social media, while the losers are not expressing so much anger and frustration. No one can guarantee such a tone of reconciliation can last forever.

The Democrat Party leaders may wonder why it lost so much. Thai Rath does not think that the party's 159 seats in the House of Representatives is too bad because the party has still been successful in Bangkok and the South.

The trouble is the party did not gain a single seat from the new constituencies at all, but lost quite a few in some provinces including Chon Buri where the party won eight seats four years ago, but only a single seat this time.

Nonthaburi, Phathum Thani and Samut Prakan used to have Democrat MPs, but not even a single seat was won this time.

Though the Democrats won in Bangkok with 23 seats, they conceded 10 seats to Pheu Thai.

With such a dismal display, the party could only have hoped to come back if its partner Bhumjaithai was able to win big. But Bhumjaithai managed to score only 34 out of an expected 70 seats.

Some core leaders of the Democrats and Bhumjaithai are trying to blame the money factor but in reality the two parties know full well that money did not play a decisive role this time because of the popularity tide and the constant mass mobilising by Pheu Thai, especially its red shirt wing.

The Democrats must learn a lesson if they want to come back and win in the next general election. The party should not wait for Pheu Thai to commit political suicide as was the case with Thai Rak Thai and People Power Party in the past. The Democrats must overhaul its political organisation.

It is not enough to use the same old strategy of stumping and meeting the electorate only when a general election is due.

As the core leader in the government, the Democrats knew full well how Pheu Thai, especially its red shirt network, operates in Isan and the North to drum up support for Thaksin and Ms Yingluck.

With more than 11 million votes cast for its party-list candidates, the Democrats should be able to pin-point its strengths and weakness in various constituencies and adjust its campaigning style to build support.

This is possible when the party does not have to be worried about administering the country and has much free time to engage in boosting mass support for the party.

This the Democrats must do along with the strict monitoring of the Pheu Thai-led coalition government and that it must be carried out constructively as stated by the party's caretaker leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

If the Democrats do not reform, the party's popularity will continue to wane. It is not enough to depend on its reputation as being the most established and oldest political institution in Thailand. It is also not enough to wait for Pheu Thai to stumble as Thaksin should have learned his lessons well.

Doctors in a quandary

If a terminally ill patient exercises his right to refuse treatment to prolong his life as allowed by the Public Health Ministry's regulation in compliance with Section 12 of National Health Act 2007, what should doctors do?

On this point Dr Phornthep Sirivanarangsan, deputy permanent secretary and chairman of a working committee to implement the regulation, states that after receiving such a letter, the team of doctors must verify that the letter is genuine and expresses the wish of the terminally ill patient.

Secondly, the team of doctors must verify that the concerned patient is terminally ill.

Third, the team of doctors must verify whether the patient's wish is in accord with his relatives.

If these three steps are followed, the health professionals should be relieved that they will not face malpractice suits in the future, reports Thai Rath.

Dr Prateep Thanakitcharoen, deputy secretary general of National Health Security Office, debunks the misconception that those patients who renounce the right to treatment to prolong their lives under Section 12 will not be entitled to basic monetary compensation in case of medical error according to Section 41 of the National Health Act.

He says that Section 12 and Section 41 are two different issues, not related. Section 41 is aimed at helping those who hold universal health cards (gold cards) who suffer from medical error with no need to prove who is at fault. The basic monetary compensation does help in reducing the law suits, good for both patients and medical personnel.

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