Thai PM Surayud is teetering precariously on his premiership seat even if he is adamant about seeing the new constitution through. However, can Surayud ignore the public dissent and even the waning support of his “appointer” – coup leader and head of the Council for National Security (CNS) Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin?
For one, the most recent Suan Dusit Poll of 3,173 respondents “showed that 16.5 per cent of respondents were quite reluctant to have Gen Surayud stays on in his post while 12 per cent wanted him to leave”. Moreover, “only 33 per cent of people nationwide surveyed in a recent poll want Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to complete his term of service”, the Bangkok Post noted.
The Nation has also come out with a scathing commentary on Surayud’s Cabinet. It said “the spicy ‘old-ginger’ Cabinet, has instead given way to the strong impression that what we are watching now is just plain dead wood. The PM's insistence on staying on does not come with the firm assurance that the performance of his Cabinet ministers will improve and satisfy the public. That kind of pledge was heard recently but the old ginger has yet to show its pungency”. It even questioned the worth of keeping the Cabinet, saying that “by staying on with aloofness amid serious political and economic problems, particularly the prolonged crisis over terrorism in the three southernmost provinces, the remaining months of the PM's term may not produce anything close to the desired results”.
Sonthi’s recent announcement adds to the uncertainty of Surayud’s fate. Sonthi said while the CNS and government still had strong ties and that Surayud was “capable of tackling the nation's issues”, Sonthi refrained from “making a full statement of support for Surayud”. It seems that Surayud’s position hangs in the balance as rumours about replacing him as prime minister rage on in Bangkok.
In fact, the Nation writes off Thailand’s whole political decade. It commented that “key political forces have to be persuaded to work within a set of rules, however uncomfortable, rather than resorting to force and high-handedness. The dismal failure of this coup-installed government should serve as education”.
Over in the South where Surayud made a visit over the weekend, the prime minister spoke of “positive feedback” regarding talks with former separatists. The Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) foreign-affairs chief Kasturi Mahkota said that Surayud had made a “positive gesture” and that “all sides are moving in the right direction and conditions for dialogue appear to be positive”. However, Surayud was circumspect and warned that “more work was needed before there could be lasting peace in the South”, the Nation reported.
For the moment, talks with militants have not begun despite many exhortations in the past, including meetings scheduled by the former Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamed. At a “news conference after meeting security and provincial officials, Surayud said Malaysia had helped open communication links with militant groups”; however, “he refused to say if Kuala Lumpur would mediate”.
According to the Nation, “military analysts believe there was a loose link between the new generation of militants on the ground and established groups such as Pulo and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional. They said the groups may not share the same command as the insurgents but believed they could influence younger militants”. Adding to the complexity of dealing with the different groups of militants, a recent report from Reuters / Associated Press quoting Colonel Acra Tiproch suggested that Indonesian militants may have been training southern Thai militants. This was inferred from the recent grisly tactics such as decapitation used by the southern Thai militants.
For the moment, Surayud continues to proclaim using “peaceful measures” to reconcile the South with the rest of the kingdom. It is uncertain whether Surayud’s visit and proclamations will amount to anything this time around, as those peace overtures made during the preceding months have not yielded any results. (15 May 2007)
Indonesian militants may be helping Thais (Straits Times, 15 May 2007)
Poll: Surayud support down to 33 pct (Bangkok Post, 14 May 2007)
Surayud still on top: poll (Nation, 14 May 2007)
Junta chief faintly praises PM (Bangkok Post, 14 May 2007)
Thailand's lost decade (Nation, 14 May 2007)
Positive signals in the South, says Surayud (Nation, 14 May 2007)
Proposed talk with insurgent receives positive feedback (Nation, 14 May 2007)
PM travels to Thailand's troubled South (TNA, 13 May 2007)
Two killed as Surayud vists the South (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2007)
Surayud defends anti-mob action (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2007)
Europe, US strengthen radicals' watch (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2007)
Surayud vows to stay on and see the constitution through (Nation, 13 May 2007)
When old ginger looks more like dead wood (Nation, 13 May 2007)
'I will not resign' (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2007)
Rally to seek removal of PM (Nation, 13 May 2007)
No Need to Change PM – Sonthi (Bernama, 11 May 2007)