The Nation
Published on June 10, 2009


Despite sending his siblings to rescue the sinking ship, ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra seems to be finding it difficult to keep his Pheu Thai Party afloat.

Since it hasn't had a real leader, problems within the party are only getting too difficult to solve, especially since its faction of Isaan MPs - the biggest in the party - is ready to jump ship any minute now.

Thaksin had his younger brother Payap and sister Yingluk to step in and take charge of the party, but the cracks only seemed to get deeper.

The real problem came when Payap, acting as Thaksin's "frontman," decided to back MPs from the Isaan Pattana Group - turning these "not-so-important" people into "big" guys.

This in turn angered other members of the party, so they decided to step back.

As the conflict started getting serious, many MPs who were formerly part of the Friends of Newin faction started threatening to leave Pheu Thai for Newin Chidchob's Bhum Jai Thai Party.

Things came to a head when a battle broke out between Kalasin MP and former Friend of Newin Prasert Boonrueng and Chaiyaphum MP and Isaan Pattana member Charoen Jankomol. Matters only got worse when Payap dared Prasert to leave the party, which upset other MPs.

That's when Yingluk decided step in and stop the situation from getting out of hand. After all, she couldn't have members of her party jumping ship. So, two weeks ago, she decided to meet with 40 Isaan MPs - all former Friends of Newin - at Bangkok's SC Park Hotel.

At the meeting, the MPs begged for fair treatment and asked Yingluck to unify the party once again, advising her to pay no heed to MPs telling tales about the faction jumping ship. She accepted the suggestions and promised to stop any future conflicts.

"If the big boss continued letting his brother run things, Pheu Thai would have broken up by now. He [Payap] is a control freak and lacks leadership," said an Isaan MP, who asked not to be named.

He added that many MPs were staying with the party because they did not have a choice, while some were waiting for by-election results in Sakon Nakhon and Si Sa Ket before deciding whether to stay or go, he said.

Another former Friend of Newin said some members of his group would be joining Bhum Jai Thai for the next general elections.

"Bhum Jai Thai is rising in the Northeast, but some MPs can't go because they don't like Newin. They will have to wait and see if there are any other alternatives," he said.

With all this going on, if Pheu Thai remains "headless" and the big boss can't find any strategies to keep it afloat, this ship is bound to sink.