Thaksin Shinawatra has put off his plan to visit Cambodia. However, that could be too little too late to smooth the Yingluck government’s bumpy start.
As expected, the ousted PM has dominated perception that the local and international communities have of his sister’s administration. But Thaksin is not the only big problem Yingluck Shinawatra faces. Her government’s association with the red-shirt movement has also begun to spoil the honeymoon period that new leaders usually enjoy.
To sum it up, Yingluck’s assets are becoming liabilities. She came to power on the strength of her brother’s unwavering popularity, with the red shirts as her political base. But now she has power, both her brother and the red shirts are demanding their due.
A parade of red-shirt figures have taken up official political posts. Although Yingluck managed to keep them out of her Cabinet, there is no escaping them when it comes to other political positions such as ministers’ secretaries.
Aree Krainara, former head of the red-shirt guards, was appointed secretary to the interior minister. Yoswarit Chooklom, aka Jeng Dokjik, who was a red-shirt leader, was appointed assistant to the interior minister’s secretary. Chinnawat Haboonpad, host and founder of the red shirts’ community radio, was appointed an adviser to the deputy transport minister. Former MP Prasang Mongkolsiri was appointed an adviser to the education minister. Somwang Asrasi, a sponsor of red-shirt rallies, was appointed an adviser to the commerce minister.
Meanwhile, Paijit Aksornnarong, Thanakrit Cha-emnoi (also known as Wanchana Kerddee), Weera Choosathan, Chavarat Urasayanan, Rangsee Serichaijaimoong, Pol Colonel Sa-ngiem Samranrat, Pipatchai (aka Somchai) Paiboon, Worawut Wichaidit and Atthachai Anantamek were appointed as officers attached to the Secretariat of the prime minister.
The rise of the red shirts has dominated weekend news, whereas front pages and commentaries should have been focused on cheaper petrol prices. The Oil Fund measures of the Yingluck government are controversial, but undoubtedly appealing to motorists who want cheaper petrol. Negative news about Thaksin and the red shirts has taken much of the gloss off the government’s first bold economic step.
Red-shirt leader Kokaew Pikulthong, now a Pheu Thai party-list MP, said Yingluck’s decision to appoint the red shirts for political positions was already expected as the red shirt movement had helped Pheu Thai. The appointments were thus Yingluck’s thanks to red shirt leaders, in a way.
Kokaew said he believed Yingluck wanted to appoint some red shirt leaders as ministers. But she baulked because of the tense political situation and moves to help the country achieve reconciliation.
Yingluck endured the policy declaration to Parliament last week. Thaksin essentially gave ammunition to the opposition and made life unnecessarily difficult by flying to Japan to talk about democracy and his economic vision.
To make matters worse, some red-shirts generated bad publicity by intimidating activists and journalists who don’t share their political views.
It’s difficult to say if Thaksin realises that he was pushing too hard. His decision to stay away from Cambodia now is good news. The bad news is it’s now rumoured that he wants to visit the United Kingdom. Such a trip would require further help from his sister’s government.
The red shirts, meanwhile, have yet to demonstrate any understanding that things have changed. In their actions and comments, the red shirts are still resentful political victims. Whether that is true or not, a change of strategy may be required. Like Thaksin, the red shirts may be pushing Yingluck too hard and doing her more harm than good.