Surachai Liangboonlertchai, 61, is the newly elected speaker of Thailand’s Senate. Surachai was appointed to the Senate in 2008 and was elected to the post of deputy speaker in 2012. He has long been critical of the Pheu Thai-led government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Why is he in the news?
Surachai was elected to serve as new speaker on May 9, shortly after the ouster of Yingluck and part of her cabinet for abuse of power by Thailand’s Constitutional Court. Anti-government factions have been placing pressure on the Senate to help settle the ongoing political crisis. In response, Surachai on May 12 held informal talks with 86 senators and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on the possible appointment of an interim government to replace the Pheu Thai-led caretaker government currently run by Niwatthamrong Boonsonpaisan. Four days later, Surachai announced that that the Senate was considering such a move.
Surachai’s role has pitted him against populist factions linked to Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister and billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra. The ruling Pheu Thai party on May 14 filed charges against Surachai for taking part in an “insurrection” to illegally remove Yingluck’s government. Jatuporn Promphan and other leaders of the pro-Thaksin “redshirt” movement have denounced Surachai’s recent decisions and maintain that the Senate has no legal power to appoint a prime minister.
What can we expect?
Surachai is one of the key players that will determine the next steps in Thailand’s political deadlock. The Senate is due to conduct an impeachment trial against Yingluck for her mismanagement of Thailand’s controversial rice-subsidy scheme in the coming months. Most importantly, in light of Election Commission statements indicating that the planned July 20 elections will likely be postponed again due to clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in Bangkok, it remains to be seen whether Surachai will decide to push the Senate toward appointing a new interim government.