Mr Clean targeted by dirty politicos

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am

Even by the most bizarre standards of Thai politics, today's no-confidence motion against the Government of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai looms as a classic.

Mr Chuan, considered the most honest politician of his generation, faces a censure motion from an opposition that includes some of the most disgraced.

The quiet-living lawyer has long stood for open and clean government, yet faces questioning from career politicos who stand for little more than money politics.

Leading the charge is expected to be his predecessor, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a retired general whose rule foundered on claims of mismanagement and cronyism and coincided with the worst economic collapse since World War II.

Along with other opposition chiefs, he has promised revelations of alleged government corruption, incompetence and abuses by the police.

The motion has arisen despite a strengthening of the baht in recent weeks and an unprecedented level of international support for Mr Chuan's steady if low-key rule.

Four senior figures - Mr Chuan, Finance Minister Tarrin Nimmanhaeminda, Interior Minister Sanan Kachonprasart and Industry Minister Somsak Thepsutin - would be targeted, an opposition official said yesterday.

Despite widespread government confidence and an atmosphere of parody surrounding the debate, some analysts and commentators were still cautious.

'There is no way it will go anywhere, but whatever happens in the debate, we know we must keep our coalition together,' one Democrat Party source said.

'It has never been as strong as we would have liked and some of our weaker members may be attacked.' Mr Chuan's coalition is the fourth Thai government in three years and contains several small parties from Mr Chavalit's old coalition, including several tainted by previous scandals.

Its majority could be reduced to just 10 seats if a rebel faction of the small Prachakorn Thai party is forced out.