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Turbulent Thailand

Thai ruling coalition on shaky ground after party defection

Prayuth government hangs onto slim majority with loss of Thai Civilized Party

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is under pressure as his coalition begins to fracture.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Thailand's pro-military ruling coalition lost a minority partner Tuesday, putting the Prayuth government's slim majority at risk less than a month after the cabinet was sworn in.

The Thai Civilized Party holds just one of the 500 seats in the lower house. But even that loss is a blow to the coalition's narrow majority, and there are indications other dissatisfied parties could follow suit and leave Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's bloc.

"There is no freedom within the coalition, and we have limited opportunities to speak," said Mongkolkit Suksintaranont, leader of the Thai Civilized Party.

He said the party would remain independent and denied it had plans to join the opposition coalition led by supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile.

The move leaves the coalition with 253 seats. Mongkolkit said other minority parties will also be leaving, meaning the coalition may fall below the necessary threshold to pass legislation. The opposition coalition holds 246 seats.

Debate over the next fiscal year's budget is expected to start soon in Thailand's first parliament since the military coup in 2014. The Prayuth government would face a critical challenge if the draft budget is rejected.

The prime minister's Palang Pracharath Party is scrambling to keep junior partners in line by granting them top roles in government and parliament. Thirteen of the coalition's 19 members did not receive cabinet roles in the new government, which some observers say has upset coalition members.

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