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Political heat on Thaksin – too hot to handle?

Updated On: Feb 21, 2006

After what seems a never-ending spate of events against his mandate, Thaksin suffers another setback with the breakaway by his mentor, Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang.

The senators whose impeachment petition was tossed out by the Constitution Court have also decided to resubmit the application after revision to accommodate the concerns that the majority judges had. A recent Abac poll has also shown that only 36.6% feel the Thaksin government should stay put as compared to 75.1% in July last year.

Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Thaksin’s former mentor, has openly withdrawn his support from Thaksin. He also plans to attend the anti-government rally next Sunday at Sanam Luang. “The people have lost faith in Thaksin,” said Chamlong. “I'll join the protest on February 26 calling for his resignation.”Chamlong's move exerts tremendous stress on Thaksin as the former has great influence on many of the Buddhist faithful. He is one of the leaders of Santi Asoke, a Buddhist sect with a large following of a few hundred thousand people across Thailand. His pledges to bring some of followers to Sunday’s protest could prove a turning point in Thaksin’s leadership. “I and members of the Dharma Army [as Santi Asoke members call themselves] will join the gathering at Sanam Luang next Sunday,” Chamlong said. “We will gather with people coming from all parts of Thailand. If hundreds of thousands of people show up, I believe the prime minister will resign.” Chamlong was credited also also for helping to bring down the government in 1992.

Political watchers feel that Chamlong is doing this to rectify his mistake in bringing Thaksin into politics in the 1990s. Others feel that monetary concerns are at the heart of the matter. The Thai papers reported that Thaksin said Chamlong had always thought him inferior. Also, Chamlong had asked Thaksin for financial support on several occasions. “Sometimes Thaksin refused and that might be the reason why Chamlong got angry,” sources said.

It is uncertain what the outcome will be. Already Thaksin is scrambling to salvage the situation by calling for an extraordinary session of Parliament in response to Chamlong’s threat to bring a massive group of supporters to the next anti-Thaksin rally. Mr Thaksin had also called all cabinet members to his home for a meeting but denied the meeting would discuss a cabinet reshuffle. Government spokesman Prommin Lertsuridej refused to say what was on the agenda.

It would seem then that Thaksin’s order for national university rectors to come up with proposals for charter amendments by the end of April in a bid to appease popular sentiment is now futile. Moreover, the assembly of state universities’ rectors of resolved to stay neutral in the on-going political conflict.

Sources:

Update: Senators to drop Thaksin petition Bangkok Post, 18 February 2006

PM orders rectors to propose charter changes Bangkok Post, 18 February

Rectors of state universities resolve to take no side The Nation, 19 February 2006

PM and govt's popularity hit hard _ polls Bangkok Post, 18 February 2006

Thai students, academics in Germanytell Thaksin to step down The Nation, 18 February 2006

TRT MP to campaign to oust 27 anti-Thaksin senators The Nation, 18 February 2006

Thai students, academics in Germanytell Thaksin to step down The Nation, 18 February 2006

Action against court mooted The Nation, 18 February 2006

No reform if PM stays, says Abhisit The Nation, 19 February 2006

Chamlong breaks with Thaksin Bangkok Post, 19 February 2006

PM scurries to restore trust in joint session The Nation, 20 February 2006

Chamlong tightens noose on PM The Nation, 20 February 2006

Thai Rak Thai’s PDP alumni ‘disappointed’ The Nation, 20 February 2006

What is Chamlong really up to? The Nation, 20 February 2006