Further updated: Abhisit and the king maker

10 10 2010

The Bangkok Post has a piece drawn from Thai Rath, with the headline: “Abhisit can’t afford to alienate king-maker Newin.” PPT is tempted to think lese majeste associated with Newin Chidchob at such an exalted level, and in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand, it just might be possible!

More seriously, the article, recounting how Newin, supposedly banned from politics, is the real leader of the Phum Jai Thai Party, and “now commands wide influence, judging from his birthday celebration attended by high-ranking officials in the government, businessmen and ordinary folk who flocked to his house in Buri Ram province on Monday to wish him well…”.

The Oxford lad and the king maker

The story is right in stating that: “Even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cannot deny the fact that if it were not for Mr Newin, he would not be able to sit in Government House as the country’s leader.”

Newin’s influence is said to have been evident in arrest of 11 men “allegedly engaged in secret military training for covert operations. Even though several news sources gave conflicting accounts, Mr Newin dared to state outright that the 11 were part of a group of red shirt paratroopers who were trained to engage in assassinations against both the prime minister and deputy prime minister, the defence minister, the former army chief and himself…. Newin even pointed to the mastermind as his former boss in exile overseas…”.

What is Newin’s influence in this? It seems that it is the propaganda value of having as former Thaksin Shinawatra associate naming him.

Worth noting is the comment that Newin abandoned Thaksin and complained of a supposed “New State” movement “advocated by some elements in the red shirt movement, which he called unacceptable as it would mean the abolition of the monarchy…”. Interestingly, a “New State” CD was said to have been found in the wreckage of the Nonthaburi apartment explosion that the media and government attribute to a red shirt supporter.

The links between Newin and these events are notable.

The problem Abhisit faces with Newin is that “Bhumjaithai is constantly mired in corruption allegations involving several government projects under its ministers’ supervision.” This includes the recent 200 armed men in black  storming an airport car park.

Abhisit needs Newin and Newin needs money in order to make inroads against the Puea Thai Party. Abhisit’s Democrat Party can’t win without Newin, so the twinning goes on.

The issue for the Democrat Party and its elite backers is how to keep Newin leashed. That’s tough because he’s the kind of  provincial politician the elite does business with but find repulsive. It seems only Newin has the capacity for hands-on, never-ending dirty politics. Most of the Democrat Party leaders – Suthep Thaugsuban excepted – are simply too effete for the grubbiness required.

Update 1: One way to keep the king maker on the leash is to manage allegations against him, keeping the grubbiness to the fore. The Nation reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission “released the results of its panel meeting on Thursday regarding veteran politician Newin Chidchob, who was deputy agriculture and agricultural cooperatives minister at the time, and associates allegedly colluding over the construction and procurement of equipment for the Central Lab, which examines agricultural and food products. The investigation found that the NACC did have the authority to investigate cases involving state officials allegedly colluding with private companies.” The Nation had a story on Newin’s earlier exploits and “nine (political)  lives” some time ago.

Update 2: Interestingly, there is a story in The Nation that views Abhisit as leading a corrupt government and lacking leadership. The article lists a bunch of projects where Abhisit’s leadership has been missing. However, the idea that this problem is Abhisit’s alone and that he lacks a capacity for tactics is missing an important element. That is the observation made above: Abhisit is not the chief “player” but is rather a person called on to play a particular role. That role requires the kind of arrangements now in place and Abhisit is playing his part. He has little room for personal maneuver.


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9 10 2010
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