The return of Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to Pheau Thai Party was said to have taken place after the two had talked directly through a web-cam facility.
Thaksin badly needed a “head” at his party. Chavalit was looking for a political role to play. It didn’t take them long to come to an agreement that Chavalit would become “chairman” of the party while officially Yongyuth Vichaidit remains the official party leader. Chairman of the Party’s Advisory Board is former Army Chief Gen Chetta Thanajaro.
During their discussions, Chavalit offered Thaksin to set the stage for reconciliation, having told the ex-premier that the “old way” of trying to win at all cost wouldn’t improve things.On the contrary, the situation will only get worse.
Chavalit was said to have told Thaksin that he would reach out to the military leaders, with whom he still holds close ties, at least at certain level, so that some sort of reconciliation between Thaksin and the army brass could take place.
The possibility of direct patching-up talks between Thaksin and Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the Privy Council’s president, is remote.
Thaksin was told that Chavalit couldn’t promise to make things happen overnight. But if Thaksin tones down his aggressive approach, perhaps a gradual process of reconciliation with both the political and military establishments could get started.
Thaksin, who has been “headhunting” for a “real party leader” to head Pheau Thai in the new election, more or less accepted Chavalit’s proposed formula without any preconditions.
But then they both know that things could get worse before they get better. Despite Thaksin’s confident rhetoric, he realizes that his bargaining power could dwindle with the passage of time. Even a Pheau Thai’s victory in the next election can’t guarantee that he can come home as a free man any time soon.
Chavalit knows he can’t produce magical results either. But then, he also knows that Thaksin is clutching at straws politically. At least, he can expect some reasons reward for services rendered. This isn’t a political underwriting deal. He can only offer a “best-effort” pledge.
Grand Old Soldier’s return means we are in deep trouble
WHETHER you are a doubter, a fence-sitter or a sceptic, the return of General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to mainstream politics should offer you a chance to start screaming … “The more things change.…”
Is he just another of Thaksin Shinawatra’s nominees? Or has he really found a way to be the middleman to bring about national reconciliation?
Big Jiew’s record isn’t so convincing. But Thaksin is apparently running out of candidates to help him lead his Pheu Thai Party. Even the Democrats seem to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude instead of their usual cynical take against the old soldier who refuses to fade away.
PM Abhisit Vejjajiva didn’t brush it aside when asked about Chavalit being named chairman of Pheu Thai. His response – “General Chavalit is a seasoned politician” – indicates that, despite all the scepticism about a political truce between the rival groupings, the Democrats are ready to hear what “Big Jiew” has to offer as the new “mediator.”
What, then, does the grand old strategist have to offer? You have to read between the lines of his answers to reporters’ questions on the day he made the comeback announcement:
Q: What has former PM Thaksin Shinawatra asked you to do for his Pheu Thai Party?
A: I haven’t talked to him yet.
Q: Pheu Thai is very closely linked to Thaksin. What’s your direction for the party?
A: This party will try to be a party for the masses. Everything will be in accordance with the Thai people’s aims and wishes. Wait a while and you will see (what I mean).
Q: Thaksin only wants to negotiate with real power. Who do you think should be talking to whom, then?
A: There are protagonists (on both sides). Who’s quarrelling with whom? We should find that out in due course.
Q: Perhaps, the dispute may be between Thaksin and General Prem (Tinsulanonda), president of the Privy Council.
A: You are getting him involved again. If my memory serves me right, today he is no longer in Bangkok. General Prem is not in Bangkok.
Q: How can there be reconciliation when Pheu Thai Party members are still severely attacking General Prem?
A: They might have been attacked by General Prem’s people, too. How can we fight those in power? These days, we have to look behind our shoulders all the time.
Q: Will you follow your policy of being the “middle link”?
A: Today, I am no longer the “middle link”. I have joined a party to the conflict. I will therefore try to solve the issue from my position here. That should be easier than being the “middle link”.
Q: Are you ready to be prime minister again?
A: There is still time, isn’t there? Why are you so impatient?
Q: Does the movement to overthrow “state, capitalists and royalty” (that you raised recently) still exist?
A: It’s difficult to abandon ideology and thinking. But it isn’t a difficult issue anymore today. People know that the way to make sure this country survives is through democratic means.
Can one really become a better “arbitrator” by abandoning a neutral position and jumping onto one side of the conflict?
First, Chavalit said he wanted to bring the country back from the abyss by appointing himself the “go-between” between the reds and the yellows – and even the greens. Then, he made a sudden U-turn – and said that by siding with Thaksin he could be in a better position to bring about national reconciliation.
Does he expect anyone to take him seriously this time? I doubt it.
But then, things have become so hopelessly gloomy, and the bar has been lowered to such a level that the grand old master may think he can get away with it without delivering anything concrete.
Yes, the country’s political standards have fallen to such a low point that we are just clutching at straws.