How will Puea Thai manage relations with the red shirts?
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How will Puea Thai manage relations with the red shirts?

Last week, BP blogged just before the announcement of the Cabinet:

The most likely red shirt leader to get a Cabinet position would be Nattuwat – most likely PM Office Minister – but then he would be basically in charge of the state media. Given his high profile role in the red shirt rallies and previous lead role in the Truth Today TV program, this would signify a return to those days. Just look at Kasit and what a problem he became for the government.** Nattuwat’s history as a red shirt leader and particularly things he said on the red shirt stage would continuously be an issue in any Cabinet position, given how fresh in the mind it is. Instead, you may see the current Puea Thai spokesman, Prompong, become the PM Office Minister and then the Puea Thai spokesman or a similar spokesman role given to Nattuwat. It is one thing to become a minister, but a role as spokesman would be more easily accepted.

Then, you have Col Apiwan, who was not viewed appropriate to be speaker, but as he is not a red shirt leader and is not facing the same charges that the red shirt leaders are facing to appoint him as a Cabinet minister would not be viewed as controversial. It is possible that 1-2 Cabinet positions will be given to reds who were not leaders. However, it is more likely that the positions that will became available for many red shirts are chairpersons of House committees, ministerial advisers and secretaries, and other political positions. We will have to wait and see how Puea Thai can accomodate the red shirts with various positions because that will be a further signal on how Yingluck will govern. Not rocking the boat except for implementing election campaign policies seems to be the main governing philosophy so far. Then, there is the further issue of how satisfied the reds are…

BP: Then, of course, the Cabinet was announced and the red shirts missed out completely. BP was a little surprised in regards to Col. Apiwan missing out. On this, Thai Rath‘s political analysis on August 10 was entitled ‘เจ๊แดง’ หัก ‘เสื้อแดง’ and refers to “[Thaksin’s sister] Yaowapha forcing out the red shirts”. Key excerpt

Col. Apiwan told the press that he telephoned Thaksin to say he didn’t want a position in order that all sides would be content and wants to just be an MP and that would be more beneficial (พ.อ.อภิวันท์ วิริยะชัย ส.ส.บัญชีรายชื่อ พรรคเพื่อไทย ในฐานะแกนนำคนเสื้อแดง นปช. ประกาศต่อหน้านักข่าว ได้โทรศัพท์ไปหา พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณ โดยยืนยันว่า ไม่ขอรับตำแหน่งใดๆ เพื่อทำให้ทุกฝ่ายเกิดความสบายใจ และจะขอทำหน้าที่ ส.ส.เพียงอย่างเดียว น่าจะมีประโยชน์มากกว่า). This was Apiwan holding his tongue (ในอารมณ์กัดฟัน “กลืนเลือด”) because it was known that Col. Apiwan had been lined up to be Education Minister after withdrawing from becoming House Speaker (เพราะตามโพยที่รู้กันไปทั้งบางแล้วว่า พ.อ.อภิวันท์ ถูกวางตัว เป็น รมว.ศึกษาธิการมาตลอด ภายหลังประกาศถอนตัวจากแคนดิเดต ชิงเก้าอี้ประธานสภาผู้แทนราษฎร), but in the end Col. Apiwan was moved to become a Deputy PM with Worawat Ua-apinyakul, a Pheu Thai MP from Phrae who is under Yaowapha replacing Apiwan as Education Minister (แต่สุดท้ายมีโพยหลุดออกมา โผ ครม.ที่จะนำขึ้นทูลเกล้าฯชื่อของ พ.อ.อภิวันท์ ถูกโยกไปดำรงตำแหน่งรองนายกฯ โดยมีชื่อของ “เสี่ยแมว” นายวรวัจน์ เอื้ออภิญญกุล ส.ส.แพร่ พรรคเพื่อไทย เด็กในคาถาของ “เจ๊แดง” เข้ามาเสียบเป็น รมว.ศึกษาธิการ แทน)

BP: The red shirts were not likely happy about this – and Nattuwat seeing the polls showing the low scores that the PM’s Office Ministers are getting wondering if he would be a better candidate – BUT it was not going to be possible for Puea Thai to ignore the red shirts. To show the red shirts they are on their side, they have turned to bailing them out of jail.  The Bangkok Post:

The Udon Thani Court on Tuesday ordered the release on bail of 22 members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship charged with inciting unrest in connection with UDD protests in Bangkok in 2010.

Karom Ponthaklang, a UDD lawyer, said the suspects were each released on one million baht bail. Five previous bail requests were rejected by the court.

The bail is guaranteed by nine constituency Pheu Thai MPs – Saravuth Phetphanom, Pol Lt-Col Surathin Pimanmekhin, Anan Sriphan, Kachit Chainikom, Thongdee Manissarn, Kiat-udom Menasawat, Chakrapat Chaiyasarn, Kriangsak Fai-seengam, and Thiapjutha Khaokham – and Wichien Khaokham, a party list MP.

Mr Karom said 110 red-shirt suspects remain in jail on similar charges at other prisons in places such as Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Maha Sarakham.

Following the “Udon Thani model”, other Pheu Thai MPs would be asked to help them obtain bail, he said.

In Bangkok, six Pheu Thai MPs declared they would use their parliamentary position as collateral to help other red shirts get bail.

BP: BP has heard of disquiet from red shirts in the Northeast that red leaders in Bangkok are more concerned about themselves – no doubt the periphery dislike of the center is part of this too – so obtaining bail for the red shirts is a more concrete way of helping them as some (all?) of these reds have been locked up for more than a year. It also comes after one Truth for Reconciliation Commission (TRC) commissioner is quoting by the Bangkok Post as stating:

But Mr Somchai said defendants in at least 53 cases face serious charges such as arson and terrorism which are punishable by death.

“The TRC hearings have found that blanket arrests and the issuance of warrants based only on photos of suspects have led to a sense of unfairness not only among the suspects but also their family members,” Mr Somchai said.

He said imposing serious charges such as lese majeste against many red shirts was politically motivated.

“The fact that only the protesters were on trial, but not the government officials [for their role in the clashes] has also aggravated the sense of injustice,” he said. Kittipong Kritayarak, permanent secretary of justice and a commissioner, said no one seemed to benefit from treating suspects harshly. Suspension of court cases should be reconsidered.

BP: You also have the second paraphrased statement by Kittipong, another TRC commissioner. This is an Abhisit-appointed committee providing cover for Yingluck’s government if prosecutions were suspended, but this hasn’t happened yet although after the statements by two TRC commissioners the courts seem to be more willing to look at granting bail after repeated refusals. There will always be repeated tensions between Puea Thai in government and many reds, but while there are no reds in Cabinet, many reds will be pleased that Puea Thai MPs are using their position as MPs to bail out reds. Enough to pacify? Unsure. Without the reds, Puea Thai wouldn’t been able to win a majority and won’t be able to win future elections so there is no chance of Puea Thai discarding the reds, but neither will the reds be able to get what everything they want as Puea Thai wouldn’t have won only with the reds. BP thinks it will take more work than some expect for Puea Thai be able to successful manage the relationship with the red shirts. For now, we haven’t seen any real tension….

btw, if Thaksin is not involved in selecting the Cabinet, why the need for Col. Apiwan to telephone Thaksin to say that he won’t accept position? (although for fairness should note that most publications also mention that he also told this to Yingluck too). Mixed messaging alert…..

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