Puea Thai failing red shirts I

28 04 2012

This post could have been titled “Puea Thai failing red shirts on justice III,” yet as the focus is moved away from justice and is more on the failure of the Puea Thai government, we have chosen a slightly reduced headline.

A report at The Nation alludes to the remarkable capitulation of the Puea Thai Party to the interests of the royalist elite.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said of her “non-political,” red shirt deserting visit to “pay homage” to the near-devaraja “elder statesman”:

We talked and exchanged views about the many projects under General Prem’s various foundations. There was no talk about politics. General Prem is not involved with politics….

This “talk” more or less guarantees that even more taxpayer money will go down a royalist rat hole.

Perhaps more significant was Deputy Premier Yutthasak Sasiprapha’s comment that “he thought Yingluck was likely to have discussed national reconciliation with Prem,” although he wasn’t privy to the personal talk the premier had with the privy councilor. He swore he didn’t even ask her afterwards. Because he didn’t ask, she didn’t tell, so he could not:

confirm speculation that Yingluck had apologised to Prem for her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who earlier had identified the elder statesman as his arch-rival and had accused him of political interference.

He could confirm that “the government would seek Prem’s advice on problems in running the country.”And he added that the “prime minister respects him in a way a young person does a senior person.”

Yutthasak could also affirm that the almost supine Puea Thai government had:

offered to revive Prem’s Love Thailand sport project. Yingluck also offered government support to Prem’s projects in the deep South, including one that provides scholarships to local students.

This capitulation to a person who planned a coup, backed it, and worked vigorously to have red shirts defeated, jailed and incessantly supported the overturning of pre-Puea Thai governments and parties, represents a remarkable insult to all of those who supported Puea Thai because they considered it was the alternative to the royalist version of Thai-style democracy.

If it is possible, party spokesman Prompong Nopparit makes matters worse by treating red shirts as fools when he “dismisse[s] media reports that many red-shirt supporters of Pheu Thai were unhappy about Yingluck meeting Prem.” He knows this is a huge lie and stating it is adding injury to insult. One thing that red shirts have wanted is an end to lies and double standards and Prompong’s party has betrayed them.

At least deputy premier Yongyuth Wichaidit was more truthful when he said “that it was normal for some red shirts to be dissatisfied.”

Even opposition leader and inveterate dissembler Abhisit Vejjajiva got it right when he observed that Puea Thai’s sudden embrace of Prem meant “red-shirt supporters [of the party] were confused…”. PPT would add that Abhisit and his lot are probably just as confused, seeing “their” royalists dealing with Thaksin, Yingluck and Puea Thai.

It is interesting to note that red shirt leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn was clear when she said the red shirts were still firm about “fighting against the ‘elitocracy’ to achieve a democracy in which the sovereignty really belongs to the people”. Her view is that:

her movement still adhered to its “two-leg strategy” – one leg being the Pheu Thai Party and the other the red-shirt group – with the two legs moving independently and not obstructing the other, in a bid to achieve the ultimate goal.

While Thida added that “a number of red shirts disagreed with government figures meeting Prem,” she might have also observed that one of the so-called legs was now withered and essentially useless.

At the Bangkok Post, there is more assessment of the “homage” paid to Prem, noting red shirt opposition and more. It begins with a comment by red shirt leader Chinawat Haboonpat who:

said that many of his cohorts had phoned him to complain about the Prem meeting. He said the red shirts were severely disappointed about the meeting because they had lost their jobs, their husbands and children during their past political battles and many of them remained in jail.

Political scientist Kasian Tejapira said “the visit represented a symbolic reconciliation among the two main rival groups in Thai politics of recent years, arguing that it was a:

culmination rather than the start of this process, which seemed to have begun late last year in the aftermath of the big flood. Each side has to yield somewhat and give up the non-essential parts of their interests….

If ditching and demobilizing red shirts is the “non-essential” part of Puea Thai’s interests, then the party is probably doomed to be just another elite party.

Kasian thinks that the “deal” bringing Thaksin Shinawatra/Puea Thai and the royalist elite back together is “a raw deal” for red shirts but that it is the “only feasible political deal at the moment, given the present balance of political forces…”. He argues that real justice will be achieved if the red shirts break from “the current Thaksin-directed Pheu Thai Party…”. That break, he says, will take time.

Another political scientist, Puangthong Rungswasdisab declared that “Yingluck was compelled to walk the reconciliation path with Gen Prem because of Thaksin’s need to return home.” She a split between Puea Thai and its “large support base especially from the red shirts.” She declared that:

since the red shirts have become politically aware, it will not be easy for a few individuals in leadership positions to strike a deal and impose peace on the people…. “The red shirts are no pawns. They exist in large numbers. They could topple a leader if they unite. People in leadership positions must consider this factor.”

Tellingly, it was the royalist Gothom Arya who “hailed the meeting between Gen Prem and Ms Yingluck and said the meeting could be seen as a political symbol of some kind.”

Of course, there are plenty of other rumors about what’s happening: the palace is split, Prem feels that he can still control succession even with Thaksin “reconciled,” it’s all about Thaksin’s return, it’s the deal that was made early in 2011, and so on.

In our next post, PPT turns to the meaning of the betrayal perpetrated by Thaksin and Puea Thai.




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