Yingluck’s balancing act after 5 months

4 01 2012

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, writes incessantly on Thailand’s politics and most readers will see his scripts in various places. This piece, however, is in a local Singapore paper, so we give it attention here.

Pavin (a Nation photo)

Pavin says that in its first five months Yingluck Shinawatra’s government “has encountered a number of difficult issues, from the devastating floods and the controversial amnesty for her brother Thaksin, to the increasing number of cases of lese majeste.”

He argues that the “key to her government’s survival is to build a working relationship with the military and the palace, the two main institutions that have been influencing Thai politics for decades.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as well as being an “anti-Thaksin figure,” is a “staunch supporter of the palace.” He “aggressively intervened in politics during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to protect the interests of the monarchy and the military.” Prayuth has not ruled out a coup, says Pavin.

Yingluck, recognizing the power of the palace-military alliance, declared: “I will not meddle in the military’s affairs.”

Meanwhile, royalists have demanded that Yingluck “prove her allegiance to the monarchy. Pavin says that having the palace on-side is critical:

This is because the monarchy has played a quintessential role in politics. The King sits on top of the political structure and continues to be regarded as the ultimate moral authority. Unfortunately, defenders of the monarchy have incessantly exploited the much revered institution for their political purposes.

This is an revealing characterization by Pavin as it reproduces the royalist perspective on the monarchy. Reproducing royalist guff doesn’t make it an accurate characterization, but Pavin probably fears a lese majeste charge; can’t blame him for that.

However, he notes that the Yingluck government “will not escape the ferocious game in which its loyalty to the monarchy will be constantly challenged. This explains why her government has been reluctant to push for a reform of the lese majeste law.”

Pavin concludes:

Ms Yingluck is at a difficult crossroads. If she comes across as a weak leader, her enemies will shred her to pieces. If she becomes too strong and popular, perhaps taking the spotlight from the centuries-old monarchy, she could also be in serious trouble. A prudent balancing act is needed for her to see out a full four-year term.


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