Yesterday, former Thai prime minister and current opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met to discuss the flood relief per the below picture:
She welcomed Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, whom she had sent into the opposition, as he led a visit to the government centre with some Democrat politicians including Korn Chatikavanij, Alongkorn Ponlaboot and Deputy Bangkok Governor Pornthep Techapaiboon.
Yingluck told Abhisit that she appreciated advice from all parties and wanted the flood crisis to be treated as a national agenda item. Abhisit offered to help the government in every way he could.
The prime minister took the opposition leader and his entourage to a meeting room where they were updated by officials from various agencies.
Abhisit said later that he offered the government three suggestions – closely coordinate the work of its many flood centres to ensure unity, clearly designate areas of responsibility and quickly evacuate victims from heavily flooded areas, and issue an order to allow special powers for the government.
Politicians from both the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties will have to work together and forget about their political affiliations, he [Abhisit] said.
BP has some comments below:
1. This is not the first time that Abhisit and Yingluck have met and talked in friendly circumstances. Last month, at an anti-corruption walk, The Nation reports:
Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday personally handed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra a letter asking that the government help flood-hit farmers who registered for a proposed income-guarantee scheme that was shelved when the Democrat Party lost the election in July.
Abhisit encountered Yingluck during their first official public appearance together at an anti-corruption event in Lumpini Park.
Abhisit said that during his visits to flood victims in several provinces, many farmers told him they had either lost their crops entirely or been forced to harvest and sell them early to escape imminent flooding. So, they would not be entitled to participate in the Pheu Thai government’s rice-pledging scheme, which will kick off on October 7.
Yingluck agreed to look into the problem, instructing Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Kittirat na Ranong to consider Abhisit’s proposal.
Yingluck and Abhisit were asked by the organiser of the anti-corruption campaign to sit together on the same bench. While initially cool towards each other, Yingluck broke the ice by wai-ing the more senior Abhisit. Then they briefly talked and took a walk as part of the anti-corruption campaign from Lumpini Park to Silom Road. They did not talk during the walk and Yingluck concluded her walk before the rally ended.
BP: In the context of Thai politics and particularly how divisive things have been the last few years that both parties had the meeting is a sign bipartisanship which has often been lacking. Tried a few Google searches to check, but don’t remember Thaksin meeting former Democrat party leader Banyat post-2004 tsunami or Samak would have met Abhisit in 2008. Despite Thaksin saying Yingluck is his clone, it is simply not true and Thaksin admitted as much after the election as BP mentioned in this post:
On Yingluck, Thaksin said, she likes to set up a system and see others do it (i.e delegate) and not repeat things over and over. This is different from me where I like to do everything myself. She also gradually rose in different positions in management and learnt, which is different from me as I started as an owner.
Thaksin said that Yingluck was different in that she didn’t speak that much.
BP: BP doesn’t think that Thaksin could stand to share the spotlight – need one expand on Thaksin liking the spotlight? – and if he was the Prime Minister now he would be taking a more hands-on approach. Yingluck is more about delegating. This hurts her as government responses to a natural disaster is about perceptions. They can shine (like Thaksin did post-2004 tsunami) or come out looking bad (think Bush post-Katrina).
2. Why did Abhisit and Yingluck meet? BP doesn’t doubt their sincerity in wanting to help people, but in regards to the timing one could also view it cynically. The Democrats have the Bangkok governorship and have had since 2004 so if Bangkok floods the Governor and to some extent the Democrats will take some blame whereas for Puea Thai and Yingluck, in particular, they are the central government although do have the advantage that they only just come into government. Hence, for both sides, there is something to gain from the meeting. They need to be seen as working with each other to do their upmost to help. Needless to say photos of the meeting were splashed over the front pages of newspapers yesterday and made both of them look good.