The political future of Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, who is also interior minister, hangs in the balance with pressure being applied both inside the party and outside for him to resign from political office.
The clearest sign of his political instability emerged on Tuesday when he did not chair the cabinet meeting in Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's absence, as it was earlier announced he would. The meeting was instead chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and lasted only about half an hour.
Mr Yongyuth instead went on a flood inspection trip to Prachin Buri, reportedly on the orders of the prime minister who phoned from New York where she is attending the UN General Assembly. The opposition had warned that if Mr Yongyuth chaired the meeting and is later found to be not qualified the meeting would be illegal and it could have dire consequences for the government.
It was rumoured that the prime minister also asked Mr Yongyuth to step down. So far, there has been no response from Mr Yongyuth to the rumour.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) found MrYongyuth guilty of malfeasance in office for endorsing the illegal sale of a large block of monastic land to the Alpine golf course and real estate companies while he was deputy interior permanent secretary a decade ago.
The Interior Ministry’s civil service subcommittee earlier this month voted to expel him from the service, with the expulsion order retroactively enforcible. Mr Yongyuth retired from the service many years ago.
However, the Council of State issued an opinion that Mr Yongyuth was absolved of his offence by the Exoneration Act and was qualified to retain his MP's seat and his cabinet posts.
Election Commission (EC) member Puchong Nutrawong disclosed that his commission had received three petitions -- from the Green Group, the Anti-Corruption Network Group and a faction of red-shirts from Surin province challenging Mr Yongyuth's. qualifications.
He said that the three petitions would grouped together and considered after which a ruling would be forwarded to the Constitution Court for finalisation.And on Wednesday Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit also handed the EC a written request that it rule on Mr Yongyuth's eligibility, explaining that Mr Yongyuth was showing his sincerity in wanting a ruling.
The move by the Surin red-shirts led by Theppanom Namlee annoyed the leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The government’s controversial rice pledging scheme came under renewed pressure when a group of 146 academics and students led by Adis Israngkun na Ayutthyaya, dean of the economic development faculty at the National Institute Development Administration (Nida) petitioned the Constitution Court for a ruling on the legality of the populist scheme, accusing the government of monopolising the rice trade and competing illegally with the private sector.
The group also issued three demands: that the government revise the pledging prices to reflect real market prices; that the rice pledged with the government can be redeemed; and that each household be allowed to pledge a maximum of only 25 tonnes of rice worth about 350,000 baht.
Under the scheme, the government promises to buy every grain of rice in unlimited amounts from farmers at 15,000 baht a tonne for ordinary white rice and 20,000 a tonne for Hom Mali (Jasmin) grain.
Mr Adis said that the scheme would benefit farmers for only a year or two, and in the long term it would cause serious problems for the farming sector.
The group’s constitutional challenge has the backing of the Thailand Development Research Institute, Thailand’s top think-thank.
Despite the growing criticism, the government is unfazed and determined to persist with the scheme. The government’s position was enforced by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who told Bloomberg news agency in a Singapore interview that "we" would extend the programme for several more years.
He rebuffed criticism that the policy has increased public debt, encouraged corruption, distorted the market and eroded Thailand’s position as the world’s number one rice exporter.
In the restive far South, many shops and stalls in the municipality of Yala’s Muang district closed for the day on Friday as the owners took precautions for their own safety.
Their caution followed the car bomb attack in Sai Buri district of Pattani last Friday, in which six people were killed and over 40 injured. It was rumoured the attack was intended to send a strong message to both Muslim and Buddhist entrepreneurs to observe the Muslim holiday on Fridays, when they pray five times and also go to the mosque for prayers.
However, some daring people defied the militants and opened for business as usual. A roti vendor at Rodfai fresh market, Pipat Wandin, said he was not worried because it was just a rumour.
On Thursday in Narathiwat's Yi-ngor district, two students were injured when a bomb exploded near their bus at the entrance to their school. It was believed the militants hiding nearby had intended to target soldiers riding escort in pick-up truck, but hit the school bus instead.
Last year, the headmaster of the Romklao school was wounded and his assistant killed by militants. Flooding in parts of Bangkok as a result of torrential rain this week sparked a political turf fight between the Democrat and the Pheu Thai parties ahead of the gubernatorial election in February.
The deluge submerged several low-lying areas in the city and caused travel nightmares for both motorists and commuters using public transport. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra set up yet another “war room”, this time to address the twin problems of flooding and traffic woes. The team is headed by Transport Minister Chatchart Sitthipant.
The Corrections Department and the police force have been asked to solve the problem, with hundreds of prison inmates drafted to unclog the city’s drains and sewers. Clogged drains and canals were blamed for the flooding and, as such, City Hall which is controlled by the Democrats was seen as being inefficient in dealing with the problem.
The city bosses claimed that the drainage system could not cope with the unusually heavy rainfall and, therefore, some low-lying areas were flooded - but just for a couple of hours only.
But the Pheu Thai Party thought otherwise. They said City Hall did not do a proper job and did not clean out the sewers in advance.
The verbal squabbling between the two parties is likely to drag on until the next governor is elected in February.