BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha suffered a boycott of his cabinet meeting by seven ministers on Tuesday, in another sign of discord growing in the former army chief’s troubled 18-party coalition.
The no-show by ministers from the Bhumjaithai Party, the second-largest coalition member, could be another embarrassment for Prayuth, whose Palang Pracharat party was last month forced to expel a faction that controlled 21 parliamentary seats, accusing it of causing disunity.
The boycott was over their opposition to a government plan to extend by 30 years BTS Group Holdings’ concession to operate the Green Line of Bangkok’s elevated rail system, arguing it would see fares hiked. The extension is backed by another party in Prayuth’s coalition.
It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, the no-show would have on the government and Prayuth declined to speak to reporters after the cabinet meeting.
The open snub of Prayuth, however, underlines increasing chaos in his coalition ahead of his final 12 months in office, said political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich.
“Power bargaining is becoming more public between government factions, each upping their stakes as the election approaches,” said Titipol, of Ubon Ratchathani University.
The government has also struggled to mobilise lawmakers to pass legislation, with house sessions called off four times so far this year over a lack of quorum, compared to eight times during 2021 and once in 2020.
Government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said cabinet on Tuesday resolved to send the rail proposal back to the interior ministry for consultation with other agencies opposed to it.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)