Voranai: Friends of General Prayuth

Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha is the aorta nourishing a heart comprised of faces from across the red-yellow political divide in T-shirts worn by members of the newly registered Phure Chart Thai Party, which extols national reconciliation as its main objective.
Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha is the aorta nourishing a heart comprised of faces from across the red-yellow political divide in T-shirts worn by members of the newly registered Phure Chart Thai Party, which extols national reconciliation as its main objective.

Voranai Vanijaka

Key members of the Pheu Thai Party visited Thaksin Shinawatra in Singapore, and perhaps also elsewhere. These weren’t just friendly calls by old-time pals; there was a political motive behind it. The general election is coming – later rather than sooner – but it’s coming.

Suthep Thaugsuban may be setting up a political party to support General Prayuth Chan-ocha, or perhaps he’s not. Speculation is still up in the air, and the former leader of the protest – which brought in the tanks to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government in the 2014 military coup d’etat – is playing coy.

But rest assured, there’s nothing the junta leader – who recently told the kingdom he was no longer a military man but now a politician – would love more than to win the election. Not even a couple more Chinese submarines could match this appetite.

The game has begun and team leaders are picking their players. Sweet talk. Promises of cabinet posts. Appeals to loyalty. Downright coercion. Whatever it takes. Get the key political players on your side.

Thaksin has to keep what Gen. Prayuth aims to take, namely; the game-changing political players under his patronage. Unlike his initial ascent to power, the general doesn’t want to use tanks but members of parliament. If the general election is pushed back, then it’s only because the general has yet to secure enough MPs.

Again, even though the new constitution almost guarantees the prime minister will be handpicked, it’s so much better to actually win votes. Democratic legitimacy, even if ill-gotten, is still something everyone wants. Even North Korea calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It’s a game that has been played before.

Crucial to ushering the Democrat Party of Abhisit Vejjajiva into power in December 2008 was a group called Friends of Newin. Newin Chidchob was a powerful politician with over 30 members of the House of Representatives under his patronage. Formerly, he was one of Thaksin’s main political allies.

Following the dissolution of Thaksin’s People’s Power Party in 2008, which saw many of its executives banned from politics, Newin’s group broke ranks and threw their lot in with the Democrats. In doing so, high-ranking group members won ministerial positions within the Democrat-led coalition government. As well, other smaller factions also splintered off, giving the Democrats the numbers needed to form a government.

Just setting up a political party to support Gen. Prayuth isn’t going to win an election, not unless tanks are parked at the voting booths. To win any election, one must first and foremost win the favor of key political players. To win the Thai election, one must win the loyalty of regional strongmen in the north and northeast of the country. To win these bigwigs over, one must take them from Thaksin.

There are three reasons to enter politics, in no particular order. First is the sincere desire to serve the country and its people. Second is pride and the third is greed, two of man’s three favorite deadly sins, the fourth being lust, but this is also in no particular order. Now, if you dear readers have managed to stop laughing at the first reason for entering politics, we shall lock it in a drawer. Perhaps there are such politicians, but they are too few and far in between.

That leaves us with pride and greed. Neither of which can be satisfied without becoming part of the ruling government. To wear that white uniform, styled after 19th century European military fashion, in this tropical, global-warming frying pan where the sun feels like a whip on bare skin.

To have people kowtowing all around, calling you “your excellency.” To have your chauffeured super car led by a police motorcade. To put your signature to public sector projects and grant concessions to families, friends and business partners.

It’s an offer most difficult to refuse. The question for political players then becomes, who’s most likely to make dreams come true in February 2019 (or maybe later), Thaksin or Gen. Prayuth?

Whose friend would you want to be?