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Thailand: Samak’s gone, who’s next?

Updated On: Sep 16, 2008

With former PM Samak deciding to give up his power despite being nominated by his own party after being sacked for contravening the constitution by accepting payments for a cooking show, Thailand's acting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat lifted the state of emergency in Bangkok on Sunday 14 September 2008.

The question on everyone’s minds is who is going to be the next Prime Minister after Samak. Co-deputy PPP leader Somchai Wongsawat is a favourite with having a low profile and relatively clean record to his credit. His greatest liability, however, is being the brother-in-law of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin remains unpopular with the Bangkok elites who are aware that even Samak’s renomination was consulted with Thaksin.

Secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee is another popular candidate and his association with an affordable universal health plan for Thai augments his chances. He is also known to have a pleasant personality, one that goes well with the Thai media and fellow politicians. 

But the eventual chosen successor will still have to face the tough job of dealing with People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demonstrators surrounding the Government House with protest leader Chamlong Srimuang already declaring that he would not accept the leading PPP candidates. He accused them of being fronts for the exiled Thaksin who was the original target for the demonstrators in 2006.

The PAD are trying hard to reduce the political influence of the poor and rural voters who gave Thaksin and Samak strong support for instituting universal health care and low-interest loans. By doing so, however, they risk alienating the majority of rural Thai voters. For example, PAD protest leader Sonthi Limthongkul’s choice for PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was born in the UK and educated at elite Eton and Oxford and is perceived as being out of touch with the ordinary people.

Sources:

Channelnewsasia, "Thailand lifts state of emergency" dated 14 September 2008 in the Channelnewasia webiste [downloaded on 14 September 2008], available athttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/375799/1/.ht...

Ghosh, Nirmal, “Thailand hits impasse on choice of next PM” dated 14 September 2008 in the Sunday Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings), p. 16.







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