Cracks appear on both sides of the divide


Is there really a rift in the leadership of the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship?

It all started with a critical opinion piece written by Jakrapob Penkair, one of the former leaders of the UDD, which appeared on the Prachathai website. The article was supposed to be published in the Aug 14-21 edition of the UDD’s Naew Ruam Red weekly magazine. However, the edition in question did not go to print for “technical reasons” and “for the sake of unity among the red shirt people” as later clarified by the magazine’s editor.

Jakrapob Penkair

Jakrapob Penkair

In the article, Mr Jakrapob implied that the incumbent UDD leaders were obsessed with the success of the democratic force used to overthrow the military dictatorship in “Black May” in 1992 and thus were misreading the current political struggle which pits the democratic system against the aristocracy. He believes the current struggle will be prolonged..

He criticised the UDD leaders for pretending to be stupid and for enjoying a stupid game without giving thorough thought about how the people’s victory can be attained and which may lead them to short-term satisfaction but long-term defeat.

Mr Jakrapob said the fact was that the red shirts were allowing themselves to be led by the UDD incumbents because they knew ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra would phone in to address their public gatherings. “People going to see a monkey show doesn’t mean they believe in the monkeys.”

The former PM’s Office minister in the government of Samak Sundaravej believes the current struggle between what he called the ammart (aristocracy) and the masses will be prolonged.

In another article which appeared in the magazine, Mr Jakrapob voiced opposition to the UDD’s petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin. He urged the UDD to stop believing that Thaksin will return home soon, warning the fugitive former prime minister would surely be assassinated.

Surachai Darnwattananusorn

Surachai Darnwattananusorn

Joining Mr Jakrapob’s bandwagon is Surachai Darnwattananusorn, another communist and a core UDD leader. Mr Surachai disagrees with the royal pardon petition and shares the common view with Mr Jakrapob that the ammart can only be overthrown through a revolution.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Jakrapob’s harsh words about his colleagues in the UDD leadership have drawn flak from Jatuporn Prompan. “Remember who were by his side the day he [Mr Jakrapob] faced lese majeste charges. There were me, Natthawut [Saikua] and Samak. But today he [Mr Jakrapob] is gone,” said the outspoken UDD core leader.

“Why was it necessary to burn down the house. Why run away while others stay behind? Why run away if you are a real fighter?”

Mr Jatuporn also hit back at Mr Surachai, calling him an old-fashioned conservative with an extremist ideology.

Whether the exchange of rhetoric between these two groups of UDD leaders are symptomatic of a rift in the UDD leadership remains to be seen. But even if the split is real, the two still share the same common enemy, which is the ammart that they both want to eliminate, although they may differ in the means to achieve the goal. However, the UDD wants to preserve the monarchical system. But then how can the system function if its helping hands and feet are crippled?

While the split in the UDD leadership remains a question mark, the relationship between the Democrat Party and its coalition partner, Bhumjaithai, appears to have gone downhill.

Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Bhumjaithai leader and interior minister

Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Bhumjaithai leader and interior minister

There is a general feeling among the Bhumjaithai people that the Democrats are out to block almost every project or proposal of the party. The latest one was Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai’s proposed nomination of Yanyong Puangrach, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, as the new commerce permanent secretary. It was vetoed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the cabinet meeting last Tuesday. Not to mention the controversial city bus rental project which has been deep-frozen by the Democrats. Or the Bhumjaithai Party’s amnesty bill which was rejected outright by the Democrats. Also, the conflict over the next national police chief.

The mutual distrust between the two coalition parties was clearly reflected in the recent statements by Mr Abhisit and Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Bhumjaithai leader and interior minister. “The Democrats love Bhumjaithai but don’t know whether Bhumjaithai loves the Democrats or not,” the prime minister said half-jokingly. In response, Mr Chavarat said: “Love the Democrats 100%”

By: Veera Prateepchaikul

Bangkok Post/ Opinion, Published: 31/08/2009


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