Two days before scheduled elections in Thailand, a news report has emerged that Pheu Thai party MP Wattana Muangsuk made a deal with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon that would allow Pheu Thai to form the next coalition government unopposed by the military. The report states that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra asked Mr Wattana to hold secret talks with General Prawit in Brunei last February, seeking to avoid new confrontations between Thaksin’s “red shirt” supporters and the military.
In return for the military’s support, Thaksin and Pheu Thai would not seek revenge or legal action against military leaders who were involved in last year’s crackdown on protestors, which led to the death of 92 people. They would also not interfere in military affairs, and would attempt to clamp down on anti-monarchy elements in the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (the leaders of the “red shirt” protestors).
Still, the reported deal has been denied by all parties involved; Mr Wattana said he never met General Prawit in Brunei and had not reached a deal, General Prawit claimed the two had never discussed politics, and Yingluck Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s candidate for Premier, dismissed the whole report as a rumour.
Report & Analysis: Wattana rejects secret Pheu Thai-military deal [Bangkok Post, 1 Jul 2011]
The Pheu Thai party has pulled ahead in pre-election polls of late, rallying around Yingluck Shinawatra, who has little political experience, but who has dwelled on the need for national reconciliation. To further these efforts, Pheu Thai has discussed the formation of a new independent commission that would make recommendations to be submitted to voters for a national referendum. Potential recommendations include amnesty for Thaksin, Abhisit and the military.
The Democrats have campaigned on a “no amnesty” policy, for Thaksin or other political figures, while Pheu Thai went so far as to campaign on the motto “Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts.” This slogan may be cause for alarm in the event of a Pheu Thai victory, seeing as the Democrats have suggested that they may make the case that the election isn't legal considering Thaksin served as a party’s leader although he is a banned politician.
Still, despite the controversy, it appears unlikely that the army will once again intervene; top military officers view another coup as impossible due to the potential for a popular uprising and more violence.
Report & Analysis: The deal behind Thailand’s polls [Asia Times, 29 Jun 2011]
That said, many worry that the elections will bring out the deep divisions that plague Thai society, and that unless the political rivals agree to respect the verdict of the polls, more violence and bloodshed could result.
Report & Analysis: Violence feared after key Thai elections [Straits Times, 28 Jun 2011]