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A Week in Review: March 19-25, 2011

Who's coming out of the dictator closet?

After years of pretending to support democracy, a leading figure in Thailand finally came clean and demanded a dictatorship last week. Who was it?

While the Thai coalition government not only survived the recent censure debate but actually came out of it stronger, the same can not be said for Phuea Thai. Having instigated the debate without managing to inflict any real damage, Phuea Thai now appears to be suffering the fall-out.

After either voting for coalition government MPs or at least abstaining from voting against them during the debate, a number of Phuea Thai politicians are now rumoured to be ready to defect to Bhum Jai Thai or other parties.

And while it had seemed that the Phuea Thai leadership issue had at least been resolved, the party in fact remains a ship drifting under remote control.

Official stopgap leader Yongyut Vichaidit is still as reluctant as he is anonymous and although it appeared that the party’s de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra had chosen Minkwan Saengsuwan as his designated hitter, new doubts have been cast after Phuea Thai’s poor showing in the censure debate under his leadership.

Having already used his brother-in-law as a subservient proxy, Thaksin is now considering keeping it closer to home by using his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to carry out his orders.

One thing is for certain, Chalerm Yubamrung will definitely not be Phuea Thai’s next nominated head. Having been consistently overlooked as a leadership candidate, the veteran politician quit his position as a Phuea Thai MP last week.

Many feel that the final straw for Chalerm was when the experienced and aggressive debater was first not allowed to lead the censure debate and then had his time reduced so that Minkwan would have more time to speak.

However, a party insider told the Bangkok Post that Chalerm resigned because Phuea Thai refused to allow his three sons to stand as election candidates under the Phuea Thai banner.

In fact many would argue that it could well be Chalerm’s paternal shortcomings that have stunted his political career. After his three rowdy sons are reported to have earned a reputation as brawling brats, the youngest, Duangchalerm, is alleged to have shot and killed Suvichai Rodwimud, a decorated police officer, in front of dozens of witnesses in a Bangkok nightclub ten years ago.

Popular belief has it that Chalerm played a leading role in hiding his son until the dust had settled and then seeing to it that he avoided prosecution. While many Thai friends that I have spoken to see this as Chalerm being a good and protective father, a few contest that (if the alleged chain of events is correct) he has failed in his paternal duties of raising his son to know right from wrong and act responsibly. How could such a father be considered as a leader of Thailand?

So if not Chalerm, who will lead Phuea Thai? Chalerm, who is known to be against the choice of Minkwan, has said that he favours Yingluck because she, like Abhisit, was educated abroad – a damning verdict on the Thai education system from the former deputy minister of education.

In fact, it seems now that we will not learn who Thaksin chooses to lead Phuea Thai into the election and beyond until after the government dissolves the lower house. A Phuea Thai source told the Bangkok Post that Phuea Thai would not announce its new leader until then because it didn’t want him or her to become the target of criticism. Ah, bless!

Meanwhile, army chief General Prayuth said last week that the army will stay out of the election. He was not alone it seems.

People’s Alliance for Dictatorship (PAD) co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul dictated to members of his doomsday cult that they must boycott the upcoming elections because he was worried that some politicians might win and form a government. "If the election is allowed to go ahead, we will see a return of beasts from hell," he was reported by the Nation as saying. (I’m not making that bit up – he actually said that)

He also stated that he didn’t want the New Politics Party (NPP) – the political party that the PAD founded – to stand in the election and got upset when some of its members defied his democratic orders.

Referring to the democratic principles that were (alleged) to have been the motivating factor behind the formation of the PAD and NPP, Somsak Kosaisuk, the NPP leader and a key PAD figure, was reported by the Nation to have said: "The New Politics Party was set up in accordance with a resolution by PAD members from all over the country, as well as some 6,000 PAD members in the United States – not just from the five PAD leaders.

"The principle is that a political party needs to be independent and nobody should be able to dominate it. Whether there is an order for us to go forward or backward, we have to follow the party's resolutions, which are made collectively by many people."

Sondhi countered by saying: "We have repeatedly said that the New Politics Party serves as an instrument of the PAD. How can the party become more prominent than the alliance?"

And just in case anyone had any lingering doubts about Sondhi’s commitment to democracy, the would-be dictator announced that an unelected prime minister and unelected cabinet should be appointed to run Thailand.

Of course, some people may say that Sondhi’s ordering the NPP not to stand is a face-saving exercise because they have been so badly humiliated at every election they have so far contended.

The one point where Sondhi talks sense in when he claims that all politicians are corrupt. So are there any alternatives?

Last week saw a two-day “Social Summit” organised by the National Reform Assembley to debate the underlying structural problems of Thai society. The summit also looked at decentralising power and fostering people-based decision making.

I hope to have a follow-up on that summit in next week’s This is Thailand.

Paul Snowdon – March 26, 2011

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Have your say...

Bangkok Dave
26 Mar 2011, 04:02
Love the reference to Chalerm son's "alleged" point-blank shooting of a cop ;)) But why would his protection of his evil brood (while setting off the despicable "social order" campaign in the process) be considered a bad thing among PT?
Bangkok Dave
26 Mar 2011, 04:09
Indeed, Sondhi has finally come out against democracy in general, and upcoming elections in particular. I still wonder whether he always opposed democracy or his current position is the result of a realization that PAD can never gain power democratically. As I and so many others have pointed out, the problem with both yellow and red politics is that neither group actually understands democracy - i.e., that not only you BUT OTHERS have the right to power. To both Sondhi and many reds, if THEY don't grab & hold on to power, it's NOT democracy and therefore, they neither want it nor respect it.
26 Mar 2011, 08:04
I guessed you were talking about Sondhi,eh; however on the the first part 'pretending to support democracy' there are multiple answers, Pridi, Plaek, Leekpai, Thaksin, Sondhi, Suthep, Jatuporn, and the list is looonnggg.
On the 2nd part, Suthep's repudiation of fair elections, to keep the robber Baron's in control ranks as a possible enough.
As for Sondhi, from someone who has been shining a flashlight on him for 3 years, believe it or not, I agree with everything he said, recently. It even makes me wonder if his two friends I have been been in Email discussion with for 2 years showed him The Joseph Solution.
There is hardly a word he said I have not been professing for years. Now, if he will only give back the millions of dollars of Thai peoples' monies Thaksin gave him, I would think he has found the light.
[[[My answer to the question, most accurately, Suthep, no foreign observers, keep the dictators in power!]
26 Mar 2011, 08:16
given, Sondhi is a convicted slanderer. given, he aided Thaksin into power and was the recipient of millions in grease money. given he has been charged with lese majeste and ordered by the Institution to stop using the King's name for his causes. given, by Intntl definition, NOT Thai, he committed terrorism... <<< putting all that aside, temporarily, of course, please detail what part of his most 'recent' vent in untrue!? His 'recent' news release is only sign of real democracy I have ever seen uttered by a Thai of Influence.!
Naked Farang
26 Mar 2011, 22:58
@Joseph: I don't disagree with his claim that whichever side wins, corruption will reign. I hope the Dems get back in simply because I think they are less corrupt and I believe Abhisit could help slowly reduce corruption.

However, to take the vote away from the people is a dangerous step. It could well be that a benevolent dictator/autocrat could help Thailand develop politically in the short-term, but I thought that after the coup in 2006 and we made no progress.

Yes, taking the vote away from the people is very dangerous. While in the current situation, we are likely to see the reds on the streets if the yellows win or vice versa. Imagine if both sides lost.
David Donald
27 Mar 2011, 01:32
"The summit also looked at decentralising power and fostering people-based decision making."
Rather than let all the soi-dogs make the decisions?
David Donald
27 Mar 2011, 01:33
And more rational political thinking. : "If the election is allowed to go ahead, we will see a return of beasts from hell,"
David Donald
27 Mar 2011, 01:35
Ah yes, let's not let influential people control our political parties..... Sondhi countered by saying: "We have repeatedly said that the New Politics Party serves as an instrument of the PAD. How can the party become more prominent than the alliance?"
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