Sondhi case could be a Pandora’s box


When Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power, we expected that if he was to lose office, it would be in the same manner he got in. He was elevated to national leadership by the unexpected hands of defectors. So, there has been speculation that he may fall in the same way – if those same “unexpected hands” go missing in Parliament.

And for a while that seemed right. Coalition instability, aggravated by the “buses from hell” conflict with the Newin Chidchob faction, was the prime minister’s biggest problem for many weeks. But then, we know that we should have known better.

Our review of the situation concluded that Newin is no longer Abhisit’s biggest threat. That seems obvious now, not least because the allies who are supposed to be his main worry appear sincerely sympathetic as Abhisit grapples with the explosive police probe into the bid to kill Sondhi Limthongkul.

So, here is our re-arranged list of Abhisit’s problems, in order of severity:

1. The Sondhi case. Getting police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan out of the way, temporarily or not, is just Abhisit’s first little step into a minefield. Alleged accomplices yet to be revealed reportedly include military generals and at least one senior police officer. With Patcharawat less able to influence the investigation, now everyone will be asking for arrest warrants and the real thriller will begin.

Abhisit does not have much time. If the can of worms is fully opened, he will have no choice but to try to get to the other side of a dangerous stretch in one piece.

2. His coalition allies. Behind their best wishes and decent conduct of late is an animal instinct that could come to the fore whenever they smell blood. And none is a true friend of the Democrats to begin with.

3. The red-yellow divide and Thaksin Shinawatra. The petition campaign has been making headlines and causing anxiety. But this problem is less likely to serve as a “tipping point” than the first one.

4. It’s the economy, stupid! Yes, up to a point, Abhisit can hide behind the ongoing political crisis and global financial turmoil. But beyond that point – I guess it’s when executives start opening coffee shops or selling sandwiches again – the economy will loom over everything and could create a perfect storm for the PM’s small tugboat.

5. The swine flu. Atlhough it’s at the bottom of the list, Abhisit must keep in mind that if this unpredictable threat somewhat materialises in a big way, all of the above may seem like heaven.


The Nation
Published on August 7, 2009


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