Atiya Achakulwisut at the Bangkok Post reports on the latest political accommodation. She begins:
It must have taken an exceptionally strong force to make a feisty character like Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha flinch.
What is more remarkable is the strong-minded prime minister did not just recoil but that he apologised, deeply, three times in a row.
The words he chose to use, krab khor aphai, conveyed not just regret but expressing it in a most respectful way, as if he would prostrate himself in front of the person to show how sorry he was.
That is quite a remarkable step down. Atiya states that “Gen Prayut took people by surprise when he made a U-turn and told the remaining board members of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to get back to work.”
Prayuth’s about turn followed the “strongest reproach” from “senior doctor Prawase Wasi, considered the brains behind ThaiHealth.” Readers may recall PPT’s comments about Thai Health and Prawase in earlier posts, here and here.
Prawase declared that “the military government’s move to dismiss Thai Health’s seven board members and accuse them of corruption was a ‘strategic mistake’ that will dissatisfy a wide range of people.” That’s a warning of a potential loss of important supporters and friends of the military dictatorship.
Another reproach came from “former health minister Mongkol na Songkhla who said he had made a grave mistake in joining protests to oust the Yingluck government.” He declared: “The situation now is much worse but we do not have an opportunity to go out and protest because of fear of military power…”. That’s a warning of a political ally.
Atiya makes a point we tried to make:
the ThaiHealth fiasco has exposed the military regime’s weakness. Right-wing conservatism may be the only force prevailing in the country right now. But under the same ideal, there are still shades of difference.
The military regime may have based its power on a coalition of conservative forces that seeks to maintain certain social orders that suit their interests. The truth, however, remains that this is a coalition of expediency.
The … ThaiHealth saga has shown the united front of right-wing conservatism will last only as long as their interests remain aligned….
The bickering at ThaiHealth has shown the only force that can make Gen Prayut flinch, that will stand any chance to rock the regime that has kept such a tight grip on the country, is the coalition of right-wing conservative groups that set conditions for the coup to happen and has served as its support base.
Atiya makes an final observation:
It is ironic, and deeply sad, that there is no real force in the country, be they political parties, leading figures or organisations, that can mount a serious challenge to the military dictatorship which at the end of the day may be curbed only by its own undoing. The lack of spirit to fight totalitarianism does not bode well for Thailand after the military regime, if such a scenario ever happens.
She’s not entirely wrong, although we need to point out the relentless acts of opposition. We can point to the brave members and supporters of the Neo-Democracy Movement and some academics.