Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has made the right decision to eagerly see his friend in exile Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser. In fact, Thaksin has more than just economic nous on offer for the Cambodian leader.
With six years in power as the government leader before being unseated by the military coup, Thaksin has lots of experience under his belt to help him advise the Cambodian strongman. Hun Sen has held power longer than Thaksin. But his Thai friend could impress him with the way he and his now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party administered Thailand.
If appointed as adviser, Thaksin can show Hun Sen how to zigzag around government budgets to make sure the prime minister keeps full control of government coffers.
The former prime minister is well versed in that already. His government at the time juggled most of the taxpayer money so it stayed in the central budget, leaving pocket change for the ministries and other government agencies. By doing so, he put himself in direct command of the budget to serve his policies and popularity.
Thaksin can give Hun Sen tips on how a government leader can reduce cabinet members to mere good listeners.
The ministers under the Thaksin premiership were known for turning his orders into practice. In cabinet meetings, they were told what to do. Debate and arguments were rare and those who dared to do that opened themselves up to trouble. The same situation was applied to government officials in all agencies. If they wanted to survive, they had to keep their arguments to themselves or air their frustrations with colleagues only.
Is Hun Sen worried about the role of independent organisations to annoy him? No problem. Thaksin can easily help him out there. The solution to make them inactive is not that difficult. Simply putting your own men in neutral bodies is the answer.
Thaksin is also an expert on land deals. If Hun Sen wants tips on this issue, he will be ready. Just look at the Ratchadaphisek case. He knew how to make sure that the deal for that prime land would go to his wife at the time, Khunying Potjaman.
But this issue has to be carefully handled. Thaksin learned his lesson as he was sentenced to two years in jail for abuse of authority by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.
Once Thaksin is appointed adviser to Hun Sen, other countries can expect Cambodia to be the centre stage of Asia. One thing Thaksin failed to get going when he was at Government House was the Asia Cooperation Dialogue.
The forum was to bring together Asian countries to join hands for prosperity for Asia. Buoyed by pressmen calling him a new leader in Asia, Thaksin overestimated Thailand’s clout to do that. It turned out only a few countries were keen on the idea.
Thaksin can convince Hun Sen to follow up on it.
The most precious advice Thaksin can give to Hun Sen is not to trust the military top brass even though they were handpicked in each arm of the forces. Another thing is, don’t leave the country if it’s not necessary.
Military leaders always guarantee their loyalty to you when they meet you and even ensure that staging a coup against you is impossible. But once you are away from the country, they can act quite differently.
Thaksin knows this lesson well. He left for the United Nations in September 2006 as prime minister to address the UN General Assembly. The address in New York never happened. Instead, he had to redirect his route from Bangkok to London and return to Bangkok later as an ousted premier.
And ”as a friend from afar” Hun Sen should have some suggestions to Thaksin, too, if he decides to take the Cambodian leader’s offer of a temporary house in Cambodia and a new job as an economic adviser.
The Cambodian leader should strongly recommend to Thaksin that on his way from Dubai to Phnom Penh not to forget to make a two-year stopover in Thailand first.
Saritdet Marukatat / News Editor, Bangkok Post