So Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont has decided to postpone the third reading of the charter change bill.
The Constitution Court has earlier issued an injunction on further parliamentary actions on the said bill, but the Pheau Thai Party questioned the Court’s jurisdiction, pointing out that the Constitution and jurisprudence dictate that judicial review of parliamentary actions must be prompted by the Attorney-General first. An association of law professors, Red Shirt activists, and several Pheau Thai lawmakers had been calling on Parliament to defy the Court. A constitutional crisis would have ensued had Speaker Somsak heeded them.
Some friends in Bangkok are saying that averting a constitutional crisis was in fact a tactical victory for Prime Minister Yingluck. The idea is that the anti-Thaksin royalist elite had been pushing for a constitutional crisis to lure the army into intervening. Supposedly, this would have justified a coup in His Majesty’s name, which in turn would have paved the way to an end to Yingluck’s government. By preventing such a crisis, the Pheau Thai has effectively deprived the elite of an excuse to mount a coup.
Some, however, think that a coup is out of the question in the first place, since the military has already been co-opten by the Yingluck government. No less than media mogul and Yellow Shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul has accused the powerful army chief, General Prayuth Chanocha, of being in cahoots with the Thaksin crowd. Moreover, the military is reportedly wary of a major counter-coup movement– the Red Shirts has been indoctrinated to fight to the death any coup attempt. Indeed, some say the coup rumor is merely being floated by Thaksin as a means to keep the Red Shirts intact.
But as I said in previous posts, this understanding between the Thaksin clique and General Chanocha and the other heavyweight, General Prem Tinsunalonda of His Majesty’s Privy Council, is merely a temporary truce dictated by pragmatic considerations. If given the right opportunity, the royalist generals would be very happy to break this truce, if only to take part in writing the rules of the post-Bhumibol dispensation. The threat of a coup is real.
Firstly, the Pheau Thai Party’s major concession to the high court has widened the rift between the Thaksinites and the Red Shirts. Pheau Thai interlocutors would have to work double time to mend the fences. Secondly– and this should be the biggest concern for Prime Minister Yingluck– for the elite, the importance of using the Judiciary and other independent political entities to undermine the Yingluck government has been validated. That the National Anti-Corruption Commission, as if on cue, has promptly filed malfeasance charges against Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit is quite telling, for instance.
Will the elite, emboldened by the Parliament’s defeat, attack the Thaksinite government through a new font? A judicial coup, perhaps? I guess we’ll see soon enough.