The general prime minister, aka the politician who used to be a soldier, is strolling into a battleground and exhibits no sign he is aware of it.
He is treating virtually every issue as if he were still a new coupmeister. That isn’t going to work.
Here are four of the biggest problems that if he doesn’t face square-on plus satisfy the country, he will be on a slippery slope.
The Watchman. No.1 Deputy Prime Minister wrote the excellent coup and post-coup manuals. He’s been P’Pom (big brother) to Gen Prayut’s Nong Tu for years-plus. He was the ballast of the Good Ship May 14 and now he’s the iceberg a fatal gash, visible above the waterline but also taking on water faster than it can be pumped.
He has gone, in literally one month, from Big Fort to Big Fault. He cannot survive the accumulated sneers and scoffs. Now politically and morally unacceptable to pretty well everyone, he and those heavy watches are capable of pulling down not only himself but little brothers.
Keeping a flawed friend in a position of trust is not loyalty. It is disrespect to 50 million voters.
Kiss of Death update: On Thursday, Gen Thanchaiyan Srisuwan, Supreme Commander, Royal Thai Armed Forces, gave one of “those” votes of confidence.
“The armed forces still trust Gen Prawit and believe he will get through this problem,” said Gen Thanchaiyan. File next to “I promise there will be no coup” and “We have every confidence in coach Zico”.
Nepotism. A direct follow-on to the Watchman trouble is the refusal to trust or approach anyone outside the tiny circle, let along seek advice.
His brother is documented with multiple financial irregularities and nothing happens. His old friend from Prachin Buri is connected to the hugely expensive dirigible scandal and nothing happens. Anyone of the anti-coup persuasion, and it’s off to military court. No names. Ah, why not? Pai Dao Din.
in the saddle: The PM got on the bike easily enough. Now, at full speed, he has to get down. (Photo courtesy Government House)
Last week, the general prime minister picked as “new” advisers eight people who he had just six weeks before declared officially unfit to be cabinet ministers.
Don’t ask details of their sinecure-secured salaries and perks. They’re his friends.
Section 44. A lot of people who liked the coup didn’t realise they were in for a spot of one-man rule in the style of Sarit Thanarat, and were shocked when the interim constitution revealed law without debate. A lot of people who liked and voted for the new constitution didn’t realise it still had Section 44.
Resurgent civil society has kept track, led by iLaw, now is calling on the general prime minister to be accountable for the more, shall we say, “controversial” Section 44 decisions. These include deputising every soldier in the country with police powers and effectively banning regional and local people from any part in their development planning like new coal-fired power plants, using designated farm land for commercial projects, and so on.
Political parties have joined. It is suddenly a rare day without a critical comment from Lt Abhisit (formerly Mr Abhisit) Vejjajiva of the Democrats. The Pheu Thai Party got woke last week and signed on to the campaign to protest to the Constitutional Court about some of the 42-month Section 44 gurgitation.
Gen Prayut says he’ll think about it. But that won’t fly and the issue will fester.
Election Day. The general prime minister had a pretty clear Choice A or Choice B here: Make a clear statement or wobble and play it for [Trumpword] and giggles. Choice B is the wrong choice.
Gen Prayut has run out of wriggle room here. He promised elections in 2015, 2016 and 2017, then came up with, let’s be honest, pretty lame excuses. And those old cocks won’t crow any more.
The Prime Minister announced that a general election will be held by November this year.
Last October, in Washington of all places, Gen Prayut wrote and then signed a promise to hold an election this year. By waffling, he loses support every day. But that’s nothing.
If he (and “he” is the junta and every appointed junta body) pushes the election out to 2019, that’s a potential tipping point. His predecessor in confident one-man rule, Gen Suchinda Krapayoon, sparked and got overthrown in a bloody people’s revolution in 1992 for even less than that.
It is vital to national development that the country loses its dread of the regime’s four corners offence. As the wise man (John Basil Barnhill) wrote, “Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”