Thaksin's real war
Suthep Thaugsuban could give up, move back to Surat Thani and become a rubber farmer. He could tell his supporters to go home and let there be a general election come the month of June. There could be peace by tomorrow.
But that’s not realistic, is it? He’s winning, so of course he’s not going to give up.
However there’s another scenario on how this political crisis could end, based on the reality of how situations have developed. Mind you, we’re talking about ending the current battle, not the war.
The war will continue to rage on because the grand prize is still up for grabs. It’s not the prime ministerial seat and it won’t be available for another three to five years, maybe even longer.
It took some six months, but Mr Suthep has managed to instigate the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra from the post of prime minister. This is an important step towards his goal of “eradicating the Thaksin Shinawatra regime”.
The removal would not have been possible without support from powerful forces and relevant agencies. The result should send a strong signal to Thaksin and give him a reason to pause. Circling the wagon, tightening the noose, call it what you will. Politically and judicially, Thaksin’s political machine is battered and bruised.
The most visible card Thaksin has left to play is the threat of legions of red shirt supporters descending upon the capital. But this is a high-risk move, with the potential for physical confrontation.
It is likely Thaksin won’t put the red shirts into play if the powerful forces behind Mr Suthep grab him by the collar and show him that he’s encircled and that any such move would be met with the full force of the military.
In addition, Thaksin’s political and economic allies will not want to risk full-blown violence. They have to protect their bottom-line. The business world is pragmatic above all things, except for greed. Without their support, Thaksin would not take that risk. This could lead to him accepting battle defeat.
Thaksin or a representative could make a statement about sacrificing for the good of the nation, while mentioning the King in reverence at least 10 times, ending with the Shinawatra clan bowing out of Thai politics … for now.
In return, he might receive a consolation prize as it were. Perhaps seized assets may be returned, which would have to be done in a hush-hush manner, so as to avoid public scandal. This battle could be finished, but the war won’t be over. If this political conflict is a game of golf, then it would be a very long and winding par 10, not the artificial putting mat one keeps in the office. A single battle is not the war.
Thaksin still has a key player that would make Tiger Woods look like a plastic kitty cat. Call them convenient allies, two people with a common enemy, or the benefactor and the beneficiary, whatever you like. This player can change the entire game, but can’t tee off at the moment. It wouldn’t be prudent.
Although because of this player, events over the next three to five years may yet see the return of Thaksin, a triumphal return even.
One thing to keep in mind is that everyone is finite. Without Thaksin, there would be no Shinawatra political machine. There isn’t a worthy heir to take his place. This paragraph rings true for more than one man, one family and one political machine.
In this war, the largest mass of wealth and assets in the Kingdom is at stake, and one of the largest in the world. By virtue of geo-politics, Thailand plays a key role in a region that has the highest economic growth potential in the world, the Eastern Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia. To control Thailand is to hold a shovel over this potential gold mine.
The people in the streets and on the internet speak of fighting for good governance and against corruption, for democracy and against tyranny.
The game players know the fight is about the same thing it has always been about in any country and at any time in the human history: Control of power and wealth.
In the short term, Mr Suthep and those behind him must have the army firmly on their side. In the long term, they have to figure out how to sideline the one who would make Tiger look like a kitty. Then, Mr Suthep’s ultimate goal of “eradicating the Thaksin regime” would be achieved.
For Thaksin, he has to prevent those two things from happening. In the short term, he’s battered and bruised. In the long term, he still holds a trump card.
It’s brutal, sinister and downright malevolent. This is politics in its purest form.
Email Voranai Vanijaka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bangkok Post columnist
Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.