Political inferno: Move Forward Party risks dissolution

Photo courtesy of The Nation

In a fiery political clash spanning over 36 hours, the fate of Thailand’s Move Forward Party (MFP) hangs by a thread, as the government mulls over dissolution. Amidst gripping revelations and bold declarations, former leader Pita Limjaroenrat takes a stand, challenging the very essence of democracy.

Former MFP chief Pita Limjaroenrat delivered a resounding message, affirming his unwavering stance against governmental power play. Despite his party clinching victory with 312 votes in the election, Pita expressed no remorse for his seven-month stint in opposition.

“Being in opposition is the lifeblood of democracy.”

With the shadow of dissolution looming large over MFP, Pita remained undeterred, viewing it as a catalyst for change.

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“Even if dissolved, our path towards reform remains unhindered.”

Expressing remorse over Thailand’s squandered prospects and eroding trust in governance, Pita admonished the government for its perceived lack of direction. As the MFP teeters on the brink, accused of attempting to undermine the constitutional monarchy, Pita issued a trio of recommendations to the incumbent government, advocating for a recalibration of the Cabinet, a roadmap for progress, and a culture of attentive leadership, reported The Nation.

Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin extended gratitude to the House, acknowledging the debate’s instrumental role in governmental scrutiny. Promising earnest consideration of suggestions, he pledged to steer the nation towards sustainable prosperity and unity.

ORIGINAL STORY: MFP alleges govt embezzlement in RTN frigate procurement

Thailand’s leading opposition group the Move Forward Party (MFP) has levelled charges at the government for alleged embezzlement about the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) planned acquisition of a new frigate.

The controversy, now infamously dubbed as the “change money” scandal, was brought into the limelight by Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, an MP from the MFP, on the final day of a general debate in Parliament that did not culminate in a censure vote. His allegations ignited a fiery exchange between the opposing factions of the government.

The “change money” scandal typically involves a buyer procuring a product at a pre-arranged inflated price, with the seller returning the difference between the actual and inflated price to the buyer. In the present scenario, this act is being interpreted as a purported attempt at state funds embezzlement.

Wiroj alleged that an RTN insider informed him about a government representative attempting to solicit the “change money” from the RTN’s frigate procurement funds, an offer that was refused by the navy. He claimed that a special House committee responsible for scrutinising the 2024 budget subsequently turned down the RTN’s budget request for the new frigate in the 2024 fiscal year and dismissed the RTN’s appeal against the decision.

According to Wiroj, the new frigate, which is planned to be locally assembled, is paramount to the RTN’s central mission as HTMS Rattanakosin is due for decommissioning in two years. He highlighted the impact of this on the country’s naval strength, claiming that only three frigates will remain in service, potentially insufficient for maritime defence missions.

Wiroj also emphasised the significance of the new frigate as the first of its kind to be assembled in Thailand. He claimed the assembly process would create jobs and income for local workers, facilitate the transfer of technical expertise in shipbuilding, and utilise locally sourced construction materials.

Frigate procurement

Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang affirmed that the frigate procurement project would continue as per schedule, despite the House committee rejecting the budget request. He suggested that the project would proceed in subsequent fiscal years, excluding the current 2024 fiscal year.

The RTN had earlier requested 17 billion baht from the 2024 budget to support its frigate procurement plans, with an estimated 1.7 billion baht earmarked for the first year. The new frigate is intended for deployment along the Andaman coast.

Shipyards from various countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and South Korea, in addition to local firms, have shown interest in constructing a frigate for the navy.

Responding to Wiroj’s allegations, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin urged him to present evidence to substantiate his accusations.

“In principle, the procurement of a new frigate that will be locally assembled is a good idea. But several issues, such as international relations, must also be taken into account. Talks are being held to ensure the navy gets the best deal.”

He further expressed surprise at the MFP’s support for the frigate purchase project, given their previous suggestion to replace the navy’s warships with fishing trawlers. Defence Minister Sutin echoed this sentiment, noting the MFP’s annual opposition to military procurement projects, and expressing surprise at their support for the frigate purchase.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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