Tuesday, December 13, 2011

As the floods end, the focus shifts back to Thaksin

After the floods receded in many areas and the King's birthday on Dec 5 passed, the weather cooled down, but politics did not given the number of recent flare-ups.
According to Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit, the ruling party will hold its MPs meeting today to push forward several controversial issues. They include the 2007 Charter amendment, an amnesty bill, and amending the Defence Ministry administrative act.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made her government's intentions clear on her weekly radio programme on Saturday. She said that the "constitution is an assurance of people's freedom and the country's constitutional monarchy administration. So having a good constitution is an important factor in bringing about peace and reconciliation in the nation."
On the same day, the red shirts held a rally calling for replacing the 2007 charter with the 1997 charter.

Critics say the Yingluck administration's planned amendments to the charter, particularly that of Section 309 which insulates the 2006 coup maker from prosecution and legitimises all of their actions, would nullify the results of investigations into any alleged corrupt practices during the Thaksin Shinawatra regime _ clearing the path for him to return home.
Also, some consider the planned amnesty bill merely a tool to help ousted prime minister Thaksin. And the planned changes to the Defence Ministry administrative act would pave the way for the government to intervene in military reshuffles to ensure stability, pundits say.
This three-pronged drive reflects Pheu Thai's gearing up in pursuit of its ultimate goal _ which critics say is to help get Thaksin back as it promised voters during the election campaign. They are going for the prize at a time that society remains exhausted from the severe floods. Such rapid moves come with a high risk, but the prospect of high return.
"If the government can asses the situation well and know what issues will ignite conflict, it can stay longer in office," academic Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said. "But if it is just using its advantage from winning a majority of votes and financial power, it will face problems eventually."
Mr Somchai, also secretary-general of the People's Network for Elections in Thailand (P-Net), said the ruling party's internal management lacks unity. Despite having the same objectives, some groups are impatient and move in their own direction. Meanwhile, leading members of the party cannot control them. This type of internal disarray can cause conflicts in society.
Pongthep Thepkanchana, one of the 111 former Thai Rak Thai executives suspended for five years, echoed the academic's sentiments, saying that the government's priority seems to be to restore its popularity, which was affected by its handling of the flood crisis. The government should accelerate implementation of its urgent policies.
"If your popularity declines, it's easy to be attacked by opponents and it even opens opportunities for them to do it again," he said, referring to the 2006 coup.
"Anything connected to Thaksin instantly touches off resistance. The government should be wary about trivial issues like trying to return Thaksin his passport," he said.
Pheu Thai is seemingly relying on three strategic pillars to reach its goal _ pushing efforts for post-flood rehabilitation to restore its popularity, driving its efforts via controllable bureaucratic mechanisms, and utilising its majority votes in parliament.
"We still need at least 300 seats in the House so coalition partners will be kept despite a cabinet reshuffle," party spokesman Mr Prompong said.
Several recent political incidents tell us Pheu Thai seems to be following the strategy.
On Dec 7, fugitive red shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong surprisingly surrendered to Pattaya police _ after 18 months on the run _ and then to the Department of Special Investigation the following day to hear terrorism charges.
Then the Corrections Department announced that it would relocate a large number of red shirts currently detained at Khlong Prem Prison to the old Bang Khen police private school, seen as more comfortable.
In a related move, the Metropolitan Police Bureau summoned former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for questioning.
On Dec 6, police found a home-made bomb planted near the Government Lottery Office and then Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung came up with a conspiracy theory that the plot was masterminded by an old power clique linked to the 2006 coup maker. The separate incidents seem to lead in the same destination _ social conflict.
"If it were a boxing match, the government would be opening its face too much to its rivals, because it believes in its advantages. Now it can be patient, but if it fails to change tactics, it may be knocked out one day," Mr Somchai said.