Yingluck’s options are narrowed down to one: resign
The Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) director Chalerm Yubamrung was jubilant when he learned that the Civil Court had refused to lift the state of emergency as requested by former Democrat MP Thavorn Senniam on the grounds that enforcing the special law was the prerogative of the government. He even thanked the court for the ruling.
But his mood instantly turned sour minutes afterward when he was told of the second half of the ruling which dealt with the CMPO’s restrictions on the enforcement of the emergency decree. For example, the CMPO could not order the dispersal of protesters or their eviction from occupied premises, or place a ban on the sale of food, drinks and other items at protest sites.
The CMPO director is confused about the powers of his office and says he will seek clarification from the Civil Court about what actions it could take to deal with the protesters. The CMPO will also take the ruling to the Appeals Court.
The court’s ruling has rendered the CMPO dysfunctional to the extent that it resembles a toothless tiger. But Mr Chalerm’s setback was not over yet. One day after the court’s ruling, Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew, the national police chief, issued an order instructing his men to obey the court’s ruling and to stop taking any actions as ordered by the CMPO. This constitutes a knock-out blow for Mr Chalerm.
Without the police support, the CMPO is just a paper tiger and Mr Chalerm a laughing stock for the protesters.
Then all of a sudden, the CMPO appears to have a saviour by the name of Gen Panlop Pinmanee, infamous for ordering the storming of Krue Se mosque in Pattani over a decade ago in which more than 30 ethnic Malay Muslims taking refuge inside were killed. The incident left a dark spot in the hearts of many Malay Muslims in the deep South. It also serves as a rallying cry for many young Malay Muslims to join the ranks of the insurgents fighting against the government.
Gen Panlop admits he was approached by someone he declined to name to work for the CMPO. But National Security Council chief Paradorn Patanatabut said Gen Panlop’s joining the CMPO was only a rumour. Because of the retired general’s penchant for violent means, he said the CMPO must be careful about enlisting his services.
Anyone who thinks that Gen Panlop would be able to turn the tide in the government’s favour is indeed desperate and thoughtless. Without the army or police backup, the retired general will be just a Ja Choey, a dummy traffic police officer put up at street corners to scare motorists.
Mr Chalerm must realise that police who clashed with protesters at Phan Fah Bridge last week confronted a formidable, unidentified force popularly known as the “popcorn warriors” out to protect the protesters. Gen Panlop’s recruitment will not be of any help to the CMPO, but rather a huge disadvantage.
If Mr Chalerm is smart enough to spare his own skin he should better drop the idea of bringing in Gen Panlop and obey the court’s ruling.
With the CMPO rendered powerless, the government appears to be left with very limited options. One would be to push for an early election re-run so it can claim some legitimacy to stage a political comeback in a democratic way as the government and its supporters always claim.
But the election option is strewn with obstacles, with the Election Commission the stumbling block. The EC has rejected Pheu Thai’s demand to hold early elections in the 28 constituencies in the southern provinces where polls could not be staged due to the absence of any candidates.
The EC has called a meeting in Songkhla with coalition parties to discuss the election re-run in the 28 constituencies. In Songkhla, which is the bastion of anti-government protesters, I wonder whether the meeting can be held.
Then there are court cases challenging the constitutionality of the election which are yet to be determined.
In desperation, the government may rely on the red-shirt movement or the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) for help. The UDD staged a rally in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday in what was called the beating of the war drums meeting.
The UDD was a formidable political force during the protests in 2010 partly because the police applied a neutral gear and were reluctant to deal with them strongly.
But today it is a different story. The movement has declined in number and influence. There is no way the UDD can match the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in mobilising support.
During the violent protests in May 2010, the red shirt protesters were supported by armed “men in black” mingling among them. But this time around, there are “popcorn” shooters among the anti-government protesters that the red shirts should be worried about.
So, the war-drum beating option of the red shirts is too risky and has little chance of success.
The government is like a lame duck and caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck has to constantly play hide and seek with the protesters and cannot do anything. That leaves one last sensible option, which is for her to step aside — as increasingly echoed by more and more people — to spare the country from descending deeper into a failed state.
Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.