Prime Minister Somchai Wongswat may no longer see eye to eye with Thaksin Shinawatra – though it is hardly a surprise.
It is no secret that the PM’s wife, Yaowapa – who is also Thaksin’s younger sister – does not get along with the former first lady Khunying Pojaman. Yaowapa, or Je Daeng as she is known among friends, worked really hard to build her own business. No wonder there’s always been a distance between the Wongsawats and the Shinawatras.
Somchai took the top job more or less by default after former prime minister Samak Sundaravej’s forced departure.
Yongyuth Tiyapairat, one of Thaksin’s top aides, was good friends with Yaowapa because they both hail from the North – she from Chiang Mai and he from Chiang Rai. The Yongyuth-Yaowapa combination – with extra support from Thaksin, who was then in London – outmanoeuvred Newin Chidchob’s gang within the ruling People Power Party and placed Somchai on the top jobs of party leader and PM.
The rivalry between Newin and Yongyuth – and Thaksin by extension – almost tore the ruling party apart. There was talk that Newin nearly took some 70 to 80 PPP members with him to the opposing side, the Democrats. However, some say Newin only had 30 MPs at the most in his pocket.
Now that he’s been placed in power, much to Thaksin’s frustration, Somchai is acting like Samak. Plus he is listening more to his dear wife, Je Daeng, than paying attention to what Thaksin has to say. Obviously, Je Daeng does not want Pojaman to return to Bangkok and take the limelight away from her.
In the meantime, Thaksin has declared that he is ready to come back and prove himself in court. In February, he landed in Suvarnabhumi Airport, kissed the ground and vowed to return to power again – this time bigger than ever.
The military usually comes forward when there is political instability in the country. Yet, Samak had military chief Anupong Paochinda following him around all the time, though the military man would get very angry when he was accused of being a “follower”. After all, Samak – as defence and prime minister – was his boss.
Sadly though, the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy always thought that Anupong was on their side. They rallied to oust Thaksin in 2006 and became a catalyst in the military takeover. Then they regrouped again after sensing that the 111 former executives of the Thai Rak Thai might try to make a political comeback through amendments to the Constitution – something Samak never wanted as it might put his power in jeopardy.
Like Samak, Somchai too wants protection from Anupong, who did some fancy footwork and set in place the security. During Samak’s time, Anupong refused to use force against protesters and is doing the same thing under Somchai.
The PAD tried really hard to get Anupong on their side, but realising that it was in vain they had their key leader Sondhi Limthongkul take to the stage and attack the military chief. No wonder Anupong hates the protesters so much, and now, with him in the government’s pocket, it is only a matter of time when the PAD gets mowed down and rid of its revolutionary zeal, unless of course a miracle saves them.
Meanwhile, Thaksin is upset with the British government for denying him a visa, claiming that the Brits had pushed him too far. Actually, the decision on the visa had nothing to do with the state of things in Thailand at all – Thaksin was only using the issue to vent his frustration. After all, he is looking to get back into Thailand, and in order to do this he needs to get amnesty one way or another.
Still, PAD continues trying to drum up support to topple the Somchai government and uproot all signs of Thaksin, while Thaksin is calling on his supporters to rally for Constitutional amendments so the Supreme Court’s verdict against him can be dropped.
Apparently, there’s no sign of kreng jai – the one protocol Thais are so famous for.
Thaksin has decided he wants the House dissolved in January so his Puea Thai Party can take over, which would also mean that the PPP would have to be disbanded. Then Thaksin’s cousin General Chaisith Shinawatra, or his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, could take over as leader of the Puea Thai Party. Though Thaksin would ideally prefer the job go to his actual heir – Chaturon Chaisaeng – the former left-winger waiting patiently in the sidelines.
Thaksin has decided he wants to come back with a bang and get rid of anybody who may want to stop him from amending the Constitution, which will only give him a new lease of life.
With all this going on, it’s easy to see why Somchai and Je Daeng are digging their heels in – after all, once all this is over, they will never get the chance to bask in glory again.
No wonder the distance between the Shinawatras and the Wongsawats is getting wider.