Readers may have noticed that, in recent days, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, and some of its members have been back in the news.
The PDRC has a testy relationship with the leadership of the military junta it supported in coming to power. On the one hand, the junta appreciates that the PDRC was an important tool in bringing about a military dictatorship, laying the political ground for the 2014 military coup. On the other, the military is suspicious of “charismatic” leaders who can mobilize political “mobs.” The junta is careful to maintain political supremacy for itself and is wary of anyone attempting to claim political space for itself.
Following from the high-profile media appearances by Suthep in recent days, here and here, it remains unclear how the relationship between junta and PDRC is evolving. However, the recent appointment of an assistant government spokesman who hails from the PDRC might be a pointer.
While Colonel Atisith Chainuvati may play down his ties to the PDRC, it is clear that he participated in its rallies and celebrated the coup with its high-profile and hi-so leadership. as they partied in military attire. Atisith is a perfect anti-democrat. He is a soldier from an elite family and educated overseas.
Atisith says all this is “in the past,” but it is clear that his appointment represents a statement by the military regime about where its “Phase 2” is headed. The not-so-secret linkages between anti-democrats and the military junta look likely to have a higher and more public profile, emphasizing authoritarianism as Thailand’s present and future.