Thamanat saga allows peek into the PM’s mind

Thamanat saga allows peek into the PM’s mind

Is the game over? The three Big Ps — Gen Prayut, Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong aka Big Pok — seem to have secured power as they vowed to be brothers till death do they part while the deposed former deputy agriculture minister Thamanat Prompow appears to have faded away.

On the surface, the situation looks like a decisive win for Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Capt Thamanat, who has been embroiled in scandal about his past jail sentence in Australia for heroin trafficking, was alleged to be the mastermind behind a move to oust Gen Prayut in the censure debate earlier this month.

Although there was reportedly an attempt to clear the air between the PM and Capt Thamanat, known as the “bananas giver” for his role as the most powerful MP broker in the coalition party, the atmosphere between the two former soldiers reportedly remains thick with animosity.

The bad blood seems to have been confirmed after PM Gen Prayut sacked Capt Thamanat earlier this month citing appropriate behaviour.

Speculation was rife that the sacking of Capt Thamanat together with former deputy labour minister Narumon Pinyosinwat would drive a wedge between the two Ps, Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit, as both deposed ministers are seen as the latter’s close aides.

The PM and DPM reacted swiftly, however. With courtesy calls and amiable gestures, both seemed to have gone out of their way to show the public they are indeed two peas in the same pod.

Even though Gen Prawit managed to keep Capt Thamanat as secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, which serves as Gen Prayut’s power base, he insisted there are no bad feelings between him and the PM.

Both men also maintained that they are brothers forever. Nothing and no-one will drive them apart.

But whether the antics have become a test of their characters is another story.

It’s true Capt Thamanat is not a popular figure considering his Australian background files or his seemingly absurd excuse that it was just plain flour he was carrying which was somehow identified as heroin by the police there.

If Gen Prayut were to have sacked him on these grounds, many would have cheered him for adhering to ethics and principles.

But the PM did not. He apparently condoned the perceived shortfall.

His tolerance, however, was only broken when the supposedly flawed minister who had also been his henchman allegedly turned the sword towards his own master and became a threat to his power.

Apparently, it is not the public interest that prompted the self-righteous PM to take decisive action. It was his own interest, his survival, that powered his move.

In this light, Capt Thamanat’s downfall or how will it affect future politics is not as notable as the insight the incident has given into what lies in Gen Prayut’s mind.

The PM seems to have been lukewarm on many issues that troubled the public.

Why are antigen test kits (ATK) available at over 300 baht per kit when they retail at some 30 baht overseas?

Why did the government continue to procure Sinovac vaccines even when it became clear the jab was less effective against the Delta variant?

Why were anti-government protesters severely injured when crowd control police vowed they followed safety standards in their operations?

The PM has never provided clear answers to any of these concerns. He has not been seen to take any decisive action to address them either.

Is it raining too much in the lower North? Let the people pray then that no more storms will be coming, the PM recently suggested.

Yet when a threat emerged against against his own position, when he felt that his hold on power was being challenged, he took action swiftly and decisively. He did not seem to care whether the aggressive move would affect anyone or anything, which alas does not seem to apply when it comes to his public policies.

It would be ironic if Gen Prayut were to be remembered as being boldest and most ruthless only when it comes to protecting his own premiership. Should such an impression belong mores to an unscrupulous politician, a demagogue who cares about nothing but his own power and survival?

In the end, it does not matter if it is game-over for Capt Thamanat. It does not even matter if his dismissal causes a rift between the Big Ps allegedly at the helm of Thai politics at the moment and destabilises their nearly decade-long grip on power.

What matters is the sacking of Capt Thamanat has given us a peek into Gen Prayut’s mind. It may not be as big, or generous, as claimed.