Late last year, Deputy PM Chalerm was appointed to oversee security operations in Thailand’s Deep South, but until a few days ago he had not visited the south. It comes after he called off a previous visit in March. The Bangkok Post on March 19:
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung “postponed” his first trip ever to the deep South, saying he was needed in Bangkok to help the government push through its bill to borrow two trillion baht for infrastructure projects.
He said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered him to call off the trips and remain in Bangkok to attend parliament sessions, where he is considered a lead debater. …
Mr Chalerm said he has been assigned to clarify and answer legal issues arising from the government’s position.
Then once he did finally visit, Chalerm is quoted by the Bangkok Post as stating:
“The opposition has been nagging me for five months [for not visiting]. The Democrats have no idea how much of a burden is added to the authorities any time a deputy prime minister visits the region,” said Mr Chalerm, who spent the night in Pattani.
First, postponing the March trip for attending a parliamentary session on the infrastructure project, which is a major part of the government’s platform,* seems reasonable.
Second, it is also true that it is a big burden for the authorities to organize such trips given the precarious security situation – trips to the region should not be excessive and there is a need to find the right balance in the number of trips – see this post looking at criticism of Thaksin for not visiting the Deep South enough. Also, particularly after there is a major visit there is usually a surge in violence.**
Third, the problem is not that Chalerm postponed the March trip, but why didn’t he go before this? More importantly, it just seems embarrassing that after the parliamentary session considering the infrastructure project, after Yingluck had told him to visit the Deep South, and after Yingluck made another trip to the Deep South to attend the funeral of the Yala deputy governor who was killed by insurgents, he finally visited. That is too many “afters” in BP’s view. Politically, it makes no sense that it took him so long to visit. His visit only happened after coming under increasing pressure to do so as outlined in this criticism of Chalerm by fellow MP, Chuwit (as translated by Veera of the Bangkok Post):
“I do not understand why Pol Cpt Chalerm Yubamrung has persistently refused to go to the three southernmost provinces and has put off a visit so many times with so many excuses.
“And now, again. When the deputy governor of Yala was killed by a road bomb, the prime minister again reminded Khun Chalerm to visit the region. Like every time before, Khun Chalerm pretended not to hear, took no heed and boasted on about other issues.
“I do not expect that a visit by Khun Chalerm would help resolve the problems but, at the least, Khun Chalerm should show some spirit and accept the fact that he was given the assignment to resolve the southern unrest problem.”
Why did it take Chalerm so long to visit?
* Yingluck is criticised from the opposite point that she is not attending parliamentary sessions and should be cancelling trips instead, but then again the government probably won’t want to counter with this point as well it may be suggested Yingluck should follow her advice to Chalerm and attend parliament….
** After Yingluck’s recent trip, the Bangkok Post noted, “Hours after she left Yala, the militants launched another bombing wave.” Such slight surges after a major visit has been consistent over time.