THE coalition government started showing cracks yesterday after vote results against the six Cabinet members being censured by the opposition were revealed.
Key figures from the Bhum Jai Thai Party, the coalition's second largest partner, expressed anger at the smaller partner Puea Pandin Party for its "lack of political etiquette" and failing to ensure its MPs supported the Bhum Jai Thai Cabinet members grilled in the two-day censure debate.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters yesterday that he had discussed the issue with Bhum Jai Thai leader, Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul. Abhisit also said he had given Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban the job of talking to the smaller coalition parties and settling differences. He said he expected the problem to be solved in a few days.
Chaovarat expressed his dissatisfaction about the censure debate's vote results.
"I consider this a lack of political etiquette. They are a coalition partner, and should work with us. If they don't want to stay, they don't need to do. The prime minister should make a decision about this," the Bhum Jai Thai leader said, in reference to the coalition Puea Pandin Party.
Transport Minister Sophon Saram, another leading Bhum Jai Thai figure who got the fewest votes of confidence, said he believed this was a political game and Puea Pandin had made the move to discredit Bhum Jai Thai.
"We may still be able to work together, but I think we will have to wear masks," he said, implying that politicians would need to hide their real feelings.
Chaovarat and Sophon obtained the most no-confidence votes among the six targeted ministers. The four others were from the Democrat Party, including the prime minister, who got the most votes of confidence. The extra no-confidence votes against Chaovarat and Sophon, as well as abstentions, were believed to come from some Puea Pandin MPs.
Deputy Transport Minister Suchart Chokchaiwattanakorn, who is also from Bhum Jai Thai, said it was "unacceptable" that Puea Pandin MPs had voted against fellow coalition partners.
"Just abstaining your vote can hurt people, not to mention voting against people. The prime minister and the Democrat Party may need to choose between Bhum Jai Thai and Puea Pandin," he said.
Puea Pandin leader Charnchai Chairungrueng, who is also the industry minister, said yesterday that the party's MPs had the right to vote as they saw fit.
"We have no problems with any other coalition party. I see no need to explain ourselves to anyone. This is an internal matter," he said.
Bhum Jai Thai's key figures met the prime minister for about half an hour after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, and told him about their "frustration and unease" in continuing to work with Puea Pandin, Bhum Jai Thai spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said. However, he added, it was really 14 "wayward" Puea Pandin MPs who had caused this problem.
Banned veteran politician Newin Chidchob, a de-facto Bhum Jai Thai leader, was "really angry" at how Puea Pandin voted in the censure motion, according to a source close to him.
Suthep, who lunched with Chaovarat and other Bhum Jai Thai leaders yesterday, appeared tense.
A Puea Pandin source said de-facto leaders of the party, Pinij Jarusombat and Preecha Laohapongchana, told Suthep that the problem had been caused by Charnchai's failure to control party MPs.
-The Nation/Asia News Network