On Wednesday night (5 June), as MPs and senators were called up one by one to cast their vote to choose a Prime Minister, Bhumjaithai’s Sisaket MP Siripong Angkasakulkiat went up to the microphone and announced: “I abstain from voting.”
Siripong in tears after casting his vote
The Bhumjaithai Party announced ahead of the vote that it had entered into a coalition with the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party and therefore supported NCPO leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as candidate for Prime Minister. By refusing to vote with the party whip, Siripong defied his party. After the vote, Future Forward leader and candidate for Prime Minister Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said that Siripong was “the bravest MP in parliament tonight.”
The hashtag #savesiripong also trended briefly on Twitter, as netizens shower him with praise and express their concerns over the consequences he might be facing for his action.
“I could not find another way out apart from acting according to what I said,” Siripong said. “I respect my people. I respect myself.”
Siripong said that he will do his job and that he will do what is right. He is going to keep his word to the people and will do what he said he would. Despite voting against his party, Siripong said he has no intention of leaving Bhumjaithai, and that so far no one has asked him to do so.
Siripong’s abstention came as a surprise for party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who said that it could have been an impulsive decision on Siripong’s part, and that it could be because Siripong is worried about what he would say to the people in his constituency. He said that he does not consider their votes to be broken, and that it is the MP’s right. He said that Siripong has apologized and that they would later be talking about it.
“I can’t expect 50 people to think the same way,” said Anutin, who said that Siripong’s action is a kind of beauty, and that everyone can use their own discretion.
Two others also abstained from voting. As per tradition, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai and Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai had to abstain. Thanathorn was unable to attend parliament and cast his vote due to a Constitutional Court ruling to suspend his MP status. Former Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also resigned from his position as MP on the morning of the PM vote. After 12 hours of parliamentary debate, the combined House of Representatives and Senate elected Gen Prayut as Prime Minister.