Mr. Nice Guy Plays Tough


Throughout his past eight months in office, one of the most prominent criticism of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was that he’s too much of a nice guy to survive in the shark-infested world of Thai politics.

He didn’t do much when he was targeted by red-shirt protestors, once in Pattaya and another time at the Interior Ministry in Bangkok. Both times protestors were able to get past what was seen as lax security to inflict damage on the car the PM was in.

Nothing was done after repeated technical problems to his weekly television show. A small station like TAN Network, with about a third of the equipment and personnel Channel 11 has, have carried out live broadcasts without a glitch so it doesn’t really take Einstein to figure out the show’s being sabotaged. And, we had the ultimate embarrassment of the Police Commission meeting in which members refused to take Abhisit’s lead and vote for his proposed police chief. That led to doubts about his power and authority to as far as speculation he may dissolve the House of Representatives.

But that all changed this past week as we see Abhisit ‘toughen up.’ First came the transfer of the Channel 11 director. Granted it was done by PM’s Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey, but it looked good for the PM that his minister is not afraid to play hardball when it’s needed and when there’s cause for it.

Then, we had the issue of the fake audio clip of Abhisit ordering law enforcement officers to stage violence to justify the announcement of the state of emergency during the red-shirt riots back in April. Abhisit is usually a smooth talker and forever the diplomat but the image of him being forceful about the clip got a cheer from me. The police’s quick result on the issue really put a stamp on the image of the PM being the boss.

The invoking of the Internal Security Act in anticipation of chaos during the red-shirts’ major rally is an uncharacteristic act of the PM and came quite as a surprise. Here’s a man who on issues related to politics is usually put on the defensive because of his nice guy demeanor. But this time, rumors of Government House closure and more has prompted him to act offensively and it’s proven to be a success with the red-shirts postponing their rally. There are also reports that the police chief selection has fallen nicely in place with the next meeting-yet to be scheduled-merely a formality of endorsing the PM’s choice.

I don’t want to venture into guessing what prompted our Mr. Nice Guy prime minister to toughen up but now that it’s proven to be effective, we can certainly expect more action from this former wait-and-see kind of guy. I’ve always felt that Abhisit is too nice to be able to last as Thailand’s prime minister but I’m glad he’s proving me wrong.

Perhaps he needed time to develop his strength and flex his muscles but now he has flown and I hope he’ll soar to greater heights. With the lethal combination of honesty and decisiveness, Abhisit Vejjajiva can go down in history as one of the country’s finest leaders.

Story by: Chadaporn Lin
TAN/ Analysis


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