It is just as well that Thailand’s interim prime minister Surayud Chulanont has announced his decision to quit politics after the elections this year.
The most recent poll by Abac of Thailand’s Assumption University saw his popularity falling about 5 percentage points and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s rating rising by the same margin.
In an exclusive interview with Bernama over the weekend, PM Surayud said, “I will take a rest… For me, I am not going to get involved in politics.” This is unlikely to quell the vicious criticism of his leadership which has seen many broken promises such as the failure to bring graft charges against Thaksin, as well as many policy flip-flops –the most recent being the debacle over the short-lived appointment of Thaksin’s former aide, Somkid Jatusripitak, as a key advisor for economic restructuring. Violence is also becoming fiercer in the South and security in Bangkok is now also under threat.
Now that PM Surayud doubts that elections will be held according to schedule, he is certain to face further castigation. In the interview with Bernama, PM Surayud said, “I cannot say at the moment… It still depends a lot on the drafting committee, like when it is able to provide the first draft for a referendum (on a new constitution). ... After the referendum, we will proceed with the general elections.” Thailand's government spokesman, Yongyuth Maiyalarb, has promptly pointed out that “Surayud's comments did not rule out an October election”, the Bangkok Post reported.
Prominent social critic and academic Thirayuth Boonmi has called the government “a hermit raising turtles” and that the Council for National Security (CNS) has seized some powers due to PM Surayud’s reticence, the Bangkok Post noted. This was evidenced in its role in anti-corruption though it had no such legal competence, inciting “patriotic fervour in the satellite ownership spat with Singapore”, its inclination “to embrace authoritarianism by assigning the military to control national security, and resorting to a ‘divide and rule’ strategy evident in its attempt to befriend former Thai Rak Thai party members”.
Further incompetence regarding the South looks set to follow. CNS chairman Sonthi Boonyaratglin has confessed that political priorities have caused neglect to reconciliation efforts. As it stands, the Thai authorities are not sure as to who the perpetrators of the Bangkok bombings over the Lunar New Year weekend are, but are trying to play down the likelihood of them being Southern insurgents. It is unclear why the government is so secretive about its investigations when public safety is risk. Two Russian female tourists have just been killed and several embassies have issued precautions.
Thirayuth has come out to suggest that instead of cover-ups, “the government should launch campaigns for the public to be aware of threats from terrorism and how to protect themselves from violence in the South, Bangkok and other key economic centres… before it is too late”. The Bangkok Post also noted him as saying “an efficient sabotage prevention center should be established and people should closely monitor reports regarding threats”.
Further complications look set to ensue as Former Fourth Army commander Kitti Rattanachaya “has warned the government to watch its step in asking Malaysia to mediate peace talks with rmed separatist groups”. According to the Bangkok Post, Gen. Kitti felt that while “discussion [with Malaysia] is a commendable effort; it must be backed by a detailed action plan. Most importantly, it must be held in secret… The government should not jump the gun and act too soon. It should keep its cards close to its chest” so as to prevent igniting sensitivities.
On the business front, PM Surayud has a tough time assuring business investors. To date, investment and other economic policies are in a state of confusion, and judging by the low business confidence statistics, nobody really believes him that “investor confidence is still strong” in Thailand. The furore over the Temasek-Shin Corp deal and Kularb Kraew remains unresolved –telecommunications investors are only watching to see what the government’s next move is and whether their assets are in jeopardy. (26 February 2006)
Surayud approval rating plunges again (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Thirayuth suggests anti-terror centre (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Southern command works on tactics (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Thirayuth slams govt for inertia (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Caution urged over talks with rebels (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Moves toward peace talks 'should be secret' (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
PM: investor confidence still strong (Bangkok Post, 26 February 2007)
Thai PM casts doubt on October election (Nation, 26 February 2007)
Report: Thailand's military-backed prime minister wants to exit politics after elections (AP, 25 February 2007)
Two Russian women killed in Pattaya (Bangkok Post, 24 February 2007)
Police alert continues for second day (Bangkok Post, 24 February 2007)
Three foreign warnings - but no bombs (Bangkok Post, 24 February 2007)
Thai business confidence down on Bangkok bombs, south violence (Nation, 24 February 2007)
Government might be undertaking mission impossible (Nation, 24 February 2007)
Thai Flip-flop? How about just a flop? (Today/ Nation, 23 February 2007)
No replacement for Somkid: PM (Nation, 22 February 2007)
Sonthi: South not given top priority Army chief blames political distractions (Bangkok Post, 24 February 2007)
PM vows government 'hands off' on Shin Satellite (Bangkok Post, 24 February 2007)
Temasek's purchase of Shin Corp stake is a commercial transaction: George Yeo (Channel News Asia, 24 February 2007)
THAILAND: ICT minister says Temasek might sell all of Shin (Bangkok Post, 23 February 2007)
Shin Satellite Is Thailand's Low-Hanging Fruit: Andy Mukherjee (Bloomberg, 22 February 2007)
Bangkok attack alert 'not linked to South' (Bangkok Post, 22 February 2007)