The past week, the outspoken conservative academic Seri Wongmontha, wrote a Facebook post on how he had once predicted that several MPs will resign from parliament in order to join a new party near the end of the term. He had been proven right, he noted, given that 31 MPs have just quit their posts.
But, Seri said, he was wrong on an important matter. He had thought the MPs would quit to join the Ruam Thai Saang Chat Party, which is being set up as the next electoral vehicle for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Instead, those MPs went on to join the Bhumjai Thai Party, led by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
“How is Anutin better than Prayut?” he queried. “I’m asking because I really don’t know, and I can’t think of any answers.”
It is a revealing post. For one, the fact that Seri could not think of a single reason why MPs might choose Anutin over Prayut shows that the ideological conservatives are still underestimating Bhumjai Thai’s appeal.
It also demonstrates that Prayut, for a long time the undisputed leader of the conservative camp, now has a clear challenger in the form of a man who in some ways represents his attitudinal opposite: an ideologically flexible politician clearly enthralled by dealmaking and who relishes the political arena.