Working hard in the South
One man who is doing some good in easing separatist violence is being constantly overlookedSita Divari quietly sat out a five-year political ban, but his hiatus is well and truly overRural doctors refuse to be wined and dined by the government over the P4P dispute
The separatist violence in the southernmost provinces shows no sign of easing and anxious observers are piling the blame for the high level of unrest on parties in direct charge of security affairs in the deep South.
Thawee: Close to residents
However, one person with authority appears to have been spared the broadsides _ Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC).
As Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut, the secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), struggles to produce results from the peace talks with the Barisan Resolusi Nasional, some political watchers are being less than forgiving for what they claim is his soft attitude towards the insurgent representatives.
Lt Gen Paradorn is also being attacked for being ''too open'' in the talks.
His seat at the NSC is also far from secure after the Central Administrative Court overruled a prime ministerial order and reinstated Thawil Pliensri as NSC secretary-general. The government is now deciding whether to appeal against the court order.
Also being heavily attacked is Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung who oversees security in the far South. He has drawn a barrage of flak for not spending enough time in the region.
He is frequently rebuked by critics for supervising security ''remotely'' and being uncommitted to the job as the country's top security supervisor.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is also among those criticised for paying lip service to the insurgent problems in the southernmost provinces.
Most critics, however, have overlooked Pol Col Thawee.
He has let it be known how disappointed he is that Mr Chalerm did not invite him to some key meetings on the southern situation.
Pol Col Thawee has been working on campaigns to forge community relations with residents in the deep South. As he is reaching out to the communities, the budget to finance his campaigns is being stretched.
Those with in-depth knowledge of southern issues say some budget-intensive projects being undertaken are proving valuable because they deal with fostering a ''feel-good'' attitude among southern residents.
A lot of non-government organisations, academics and activists are aware that Pol Col Thawee is more adept in allocating funds to the southernmost provinces than other security authorities. A source said Pol Col Thawee may not be content with being SBPAC secretary-general and could have his eyes on something bigger.
Pol Col Thawee is said to be confident of getting to the top and one day rising to the post of justice permanent secretary.
Today, senior officials with close ties to him hold important seats in many agencies under the Justice Ministry, including the Department of Special Investigation, the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office.
Pol Col Thawee also gets on well with Prime Minister Yingluck.
That could be his ticket to a bright career, notwithstanding his success or failure in getting the southern security situation in order.
Back to the grind of politics
Sita Divari has stayed out of the public eye since he was slapped with a five-year political ban. When he returned to the political scene as chairman of the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) board, he still managed to stay under the radar.
However, the former MP is back in the spotlight and back in the political game in a big way after his classmate, Yuranunt Pamornmontri, at the Capital Market Academy stepped into the June 16 by-election in Don Muang district.
Sita: Helping a ‘classmate’
It is believed that had Mr Yuranunt not stepped down as a Pheu Thai list-MP to contest the by-election, Sqn Ldr Sita might have been forced to quit as head of one of the country's largest and most profitable state enterprises to run instead.
Both Sqn Ldr Sita and Mr Yuranunt enrolled in the Capital Market Academy's Class 16 early this year. Mr Sita is the class president. Their classmates include former deputy commerce minister Songkhram Kijlertpairoj and a few Democrat MPs including Alongkorn Ponlaboot.
According to a source, Sqn Ldr Sita is lobbying his classmates to help in the canvassing for Mr Yuranunt against the Democrats' Tankhun Jit-itsara. He is making use of group chat, especially set up for the classmates using the Line app on mobile phones, as a lobbying tool.
If he succeeds, Mr Yuranunt's chances will get a boost. The Capital Market Academy is considered one of the country's top three institutes and is attended by politicians, senior government officials and executives from state enterprises and corporations.
Unlike Mr Tankhun, whose party colleagues are vigorously helping him woo votes, the actor-turned-politician seems to be fighting the by-election on his own.
Mr Yuranunt has been touring the constituency, mostly without Pheu Thai bigwigs. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has rarely shown up in the campaign so far.
There are theories that might explain Mr Yuranunt's going it alone _ he is a celebrity with an already solid political background as a former city governor candidate, and that he is under the wing of former MP Karun Hosakul, a veteran politician in the constituency.
However, there is no word on whether Class 16 president Sita's efforts have irked his Democrat classmates.
According to the source, even though the Pheu Thai and Democrat MPs seem to be getting to know each other better through the class, they still maintain a distance.
The Democrats are apparently aware that they cannot seek help from their classmates in the way Sqn Ldr Sita can.
According to a source, Sqn Ldr Sita also takes pleasure in charming his classmates with his generosity. During a recent field trip overseas, he reportedly bought some of them Versace suits.
''His generosity is noted,'' said a classmate from the private sector.
The question is, will Sqn Ldr Sita's generosity pay off in terms getting the classmates to join in on the campaign on Mr Yuranunt's side?
A sour taste over dinner
When members of the Rural Doctors Society (RDS) and their allies sat down to a dinner with the government this week, it caught many observers off guard.
Despite the bitter feud between them over the pay-for-performance (P4P) fiasco, the meeting was held with the expectation that it would be smooth sailing and produce favourable results.
Kriangsak: Challenged Pradit
But as it turned out, the opposite happened.
The RDS members and their allies were taken by surprise when they arrived at a Bangkok hotel for a lavish dinner.
The meeting would have been unthinkable weeks ago when the group was bitterly pitted against Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong over the pay dispute.
The Tuesday dinner, however, saw the RDS key figures sitting down at the same table as Dr Pradit, who announced only a day earlier that he would not join the meeting.
The other surprises for the RDS were the relaxed atmosphere in the early stages of the meeting and the offerings of a sumptuous buffet complemented by free-flowing wine and liquor in the comfort of a conference room. The dinner meeting was also attended by the prime minister's secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva. He was also the mediator between the two feuding parties.
Mr Suranand made it known he trusted the meeting would go smoothly and amicably.
RDS president Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat admitted the initial atmosphere was relaxed which he had never expected. He had anticipated a possible quarrel between the RDS and the government.
The catering was obviously provided by the hotel. But it was a mystery for some time as to who brought the wine.
The RDS found out later the wine was offered courtesy of another meeting mediator, Lt Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrachang, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
Thought to be far-removed from the pay conflict, the senior officer, however, had in fact arranged to have the RDS and the government meet at the dinner table to talk.
The dinner venue was booked in the name of the Royal Thai Police Office, clearly shown by the sign hung outside the conference room.
While the alcohol was supposed to make people cosy up, no RDS member took so much as a sip of wine.
The atmosphere that began on an upbeat note was to turn abruptly tense as the meeting wore on.
A casual talk over dinner between the two sides soon intensified into a debate after the RDS pushed its demand for Dr Pradit not to send politicians to intervene in the National Health Security Office (NHSO) board.
Though Dr Pradit denied even contemplating political interference, the RDS strongly believes that the ministry ordered the recruitment of two new NHSO deputy secretary-generals.
The fierce debate reached a point where Dr Kriangsak pulled a Buddha amulet out of his pocket and asked Dr Pradit to swear before the amulet that he did not think about political interference.
From that point, the mood at the meeting went on a roller coaster ride. Momentary tension was offset by a period of calm before the participants become uptight again.
The meeting ended with no resolution to the pay conflict.
Warm food got cold and wine-filled glasses were left untouched on the waitresses' trays.
The tension may have had a lot to do with the participants' ebbing appetite for dinner.
But the visible lack of interest in the wine could simply have been explained by the doctors' support for anti-alcohol campaigns.