Pheu Thai wastes no opportunity
The Democrats are trying to limit the fallout from last week's floods, but Pheu Thai is playing tough - Songkhla Democrat MP Thaworn is contributing significantly to the South discussions - Retired parks chief can't see the forest for the trees as he weighs up his political future
Nothing escapes the sharp edges of politicisation, not even water, according to Democrat Party sources.
Kraisak: Performing damage control
The main opposition party is in hot water after being accused by its political rivals of failing to drain floodwater from the capital, brought on by torrential rain in the past weeks, fast enough.
If the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) takes a battering, the Democrats also will suffer since Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra is a party member.
As the Bangkok governor election is less than four months away, how the incumbent governor performs in office in the build-up to the contest will have a bearing on how he fares at the poll.
Right now the barometer of his performance rests primarily with the BMA's anti-flood measures as the rainy season is in full swing.
Democrat deputy spokesman Nat Bantadtan earlier claimed political subterfuge had been launched to discredit the BMA.
The ruling Pheu Thai Party may have an ulterior motive up its sleeve, he said.
Mr Nat claimed politicising the flood issue is part of an ill-intentioned attempt to pin the blame on the BMA.
Deputy government spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard demanded an explanation from the BMA last week as to how the city sewerage system became clogged.
About 100 sandbags, concrete slabs, plastic bottles and rocks were found in sewerage lines in Min Buri and Chatuchak districts.
The debris was found during a dredging project carried out recently by inmates supervised by the Corrections Department and the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
As bickering flared, Kraisak Choonhavan, advisory chairman to the Bangkok governor, came to MR Sukhumbhand's aid in soothing Bangkok residents' flood worries, said a Democrat source.
Mr Kraisak has employed a team of staff who receive complaints from city residents and provide immediate help to ease their grievances.
The team has also toured Bangkok communities affected by the floods. The Democrats figured it was vital to get across the word about potential politicising of some of the issues of the day.
Much to the main opposition party's relief, its survey found the ''political games'' had failed to dent the party's popularity. The party has managed to maintain a wide popularity margin t versus its rival party in Bangkok constituencies.
In addition to his complaint-response duties, Mr Kraisak also has been entrusted by the party to help bring together people torn by colour-coded political conflicts.
The party source said many of these people, a lot of them well-known thinkers and academics, are Mr Kraisak's party and drinking buddies.
Now, though, they hardly set eyes on each other. Mr Kraisak has confided in his close aides that the task of unity will be a tough call.
Thaworn fights hard for South
Songkhla MP Thaworn Senneam has been with the Democrat Party through its ups and downs and has served on the political front lines in matters of security.
He was deputy interior minister dealing with security matters under the previous Democrat-led government. That government may have been replaced but he appears to have carried over some of the responsibilities he took on as deputy minister.
Thaworn: Secret talks with military
At various forums on the southern border problems, Mr Thaworn is assigned as the Democrats' representative to speak on a subject close to his heart.
In August, he was among the Thai delegates joining a security discussion in the Philippines organised by the Asia Foundation.
Mr Thaworn thought Thailand could learn from Manila's establishment of the Office of the Presidential Adviser (OPAPP) on the Peace Process tasked with brokering a peace dialogue with armed rebels. The OPAPP answers directly to government offices.
At the same time, Manila has also embarked on an ambitious reform project to monitor the security agencies to ensure accountability.
In a recent meeting between opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to iron out southern security woes, Mr Thaworn was specifically asked by the army to participate in a closed-door meeting prior to the top-level meeting, a Democrat source said.
Mr Thaworn entered the session with the goal of sharing information with the army, which is eager to know what the party leader will present at the high-level meeting.
The information sharing would afford both the party and the army an overview of the meeting content. This would prevent duplication of information and bickering between the opposition and the army at the actual meeting.
The behind-the-scenes session paid off.
The meeting between the opposition and the government proceeded without a hitch as the opposition and the army spoke cohesively and amicably on the security subject during the meeting thanks to the preparations at the pre-session.
However, the source said Mr Thaworn feels he is the victim of an insinuation campaign to discredit him.
Mr Thaworn's picture emblazoned on a vehicle appeared in a news programme on oil smuggling in the South allegedly involving a politician's secretary.
Mr Thaworn said the depiction of him in the programme was grossly misleading and he is considered suing the station.
He also plans to petition the media ethics regulatory body over the station's programme. He insists he has never operated nor had anything to do with an oil smuggling network.
Damrong awaits political chance
A post-retirement career path for Damrong Pidech, the former chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation _ including a possible entry into the political arena _ appears to be anything but rosy.
It has been speculated he might vie for the seat of environment minister which has been drawing heavy interest within the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
But Mr Damrong's credentials of having worked in forest protection for 40 years make him a cut above other candidates.
Damrong: Uncertain support base
Above all, he is also closely tied to a prominent Pheu Thai member, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, the former House speaker and former environment minister.
Despite this perceived upper hand in the contest for the environment portfolio, Mr Damrong cannot afford to be complacent.
Wisan Thechateerawat, the Chiang Rai power broker for Pheu Thai, is also eyeing the post.
Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, the current environment minister, has worked hard to keep his post. He has attempted to cultivate a direct relationship with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra while he and Mr Yongyuth, whose patronage helped him to rise to the ministerial post, have grown apart, according to a source.
Mr Preecha knows his time in the ministry is running out.
He feels that maintaining links with Mr Yongyuth may not secure his position for very long as he does not think he is Mr Yongyuth's favourite protege.
Meanwhile, a source close to Mr Damrong said his reputation and past experience in the civil service may not work to his advantage when it comes to the question of how much money and power he has up his sleeve in strengthening his chances of entering the cabinet.
There is also the intriguing question of just how many people within the ruling party he has on his side and who will support him in the inevitable bargaining for the post.
And time is of the essence. If the cabinet reshuffle does not happen soon, the lustre of Mr Damrong's name as a potential candidate will likely dim.
Ms Yingluck has reiterated several times that she no plans to adjust the cabinet line-up any time soon.
A credible indicator of Mr Damrong's chances at the ministerial post is in the timing of the cabinet's endorsement of Reangchai Prayuravej as his successor to lead the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
There has been a two-week delay in the endorsement and observers believe that if Mr Reangchai, who has the full support of Mr Damrong as the new department chief, misses out on the appointment in the end, it could mean Mr Damrong has been overlooked and this may weaken his chance to become a cabinet minister.
Mr Reangchai is deputy chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
''That is one thing that we do need to watch. If Mr Damrong has any future in a ministerial post, his subordinate must be promoted,'' said the source.
Last week, Mr Reangchai visited Phu Kradeung National Park in Loei province with the environment minister. There was a report that he had been ignored by the national park's chief who reports directly to the minister.
Although the signs may not favour Mr Damrong, his prospects as a cabinet appointee cannot be written off.
Mr Damrong once told reporters that life would be so much fun if he became minister.
It is far from certain at this point whether he will make his dream come true.
To while away the days since his retirement on Oct 1, Mr Damrong has begun to ''cook up a storm'' _ he now runs an eatery called ''Damrong Noodle'' in Chiang Rai. He says it is something he might pursue during his retirement.