Umesh Pandey is editor of Asia Focus at the Bangkok Post. We don’t think we’ve mentioned one of his stories in the past, yet his recent account of The Dictator’s speech to his so-called five rivers deserves attention.
The five rivers has resonances of Chinese designations of institutions and includes the cabinet, the National Council for Peace and Order (the military junta), the junta-appointed appointed National Legislative Assembly, the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee and the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly.
It seems that having all of his people in front of his as a captured audience gave General Prayuth Chan-ocha the opportunity to run on, a bit like a river, with a two hour and 15 minute rant.
As Umesh points out, this meeting was said to be “a venue for the exchange of information between the parties that are running the country and will instigate reforms that will have implications for years, if not decades, to come.” But because of Prayuth’s “outburst,” Umesh says that, “at the end of it there was no debate.”
This rant was all about Prayuth’s view of:
… how wrong things are in the country and how hard he has been trying to overcome these obstacles though it has not been an easy task.
In a flurry of anger at people opposed to him, the coup leader used some demeaning words in parliament for which he later apologised saying those words were not appropriate for that venue.
To make matters worse, he ended up saying things that not many would have wanted to hear, especially not foreign investors, the expatriate community or even the international community.
In his frenzy to rein in those who oppose his rule, Gen Prayut said he would isolate the country from the world if that is what is required to get Thailand back on track.
Umesh spends most of the rest of his article explaining the negative impressions this creates for business people, local and foreign. Prayuth’s acerbic and undisciplined rant is a true reflection of not just his personal failings but, more importantly, shows that a dictatorship dominated by an erratic personality is threatening and dangerous for individuals and the nation.
The article ends with “advice” to The Dictator:
… rather than letting anger and emotions overtake oneself, a leader should learn to keep calm and not embark on emotional outbursts — especially not in parliament where nobody has the guts to question his authority.
Prayuth doesn’t take advice.