EDITORIAL: Thaksin's shadow looms large over Yingluck's govt

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - With the Thai government under fire over its attempt to raise 2.2 trillion baht (US$74 billion) for infrastructure mega-projects, anything that has the potential to divert public attention from the issue is viewed with great suspicion.

The revival of the amnesty controversy might be one such distraction. But what about the latest high-profile Skype address to the Pheu Thai Party by fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra?

Apart from "advising" his party about current affairs, there is not much new. Thaksin is the party's real boss and he doesn't even try to hide it.

The Skype contact emphasised the two key issues - the long-delayed amnesty plan and the borrowing for mega-projects. Both have generated heated debate and, in their own ways, affected the credibility of his sister's government.

Obviously Thaksin wants the two grand plans to go ahead. And as always, he focused on benefits and papered over flaws and shortcomings. It's debatable whether he can manage to dress up the two controversial agendas, but the much-publicised Skype communication has its own consequences affecting the Yingluck administration, regardless of whether a general amnesty is underway or whether the state is broke or not.

The biggest effect, of course, is that the overseas call confirms Thaksin's status as the ruling party's patriarch, but he has done this countless times before. Whenever his sister tells the international media about her "independence", he will pop up to disprove her words.

We wonder if Yingluck cares, because she has never denied listening to Thaksin's advice. Only she knows whether what her brother does has crossed the advisory line into the realm of taking actual command.

Supporters of Pheu Thai or Thaksin might shrug it off. This is the way the "injustice" that befell them should be corrected, they say. But Thaksin pulling the strings from afar is witnessed by unsympathetic eyes as well. There are investors who are turned off by freak politics.

There are those who don't like the government's amnesty plan, and Thaksin's conference calls simply galvanise them. There are foreign diplomats who are wondering what to do if "the other side" comes to power.

Everyone knows that Yingluck is not a seasoned politician. But if Thaksin thinks he is helping, he should think again. For one thing, Yingluck should be given a chance to serve as the elected prime minister, not a puppet premier. On non-Thaksin issues, she has not done too badly. What undermines her authority are the suspicious agenda items that have his shadow looming all over them.

The government is promoting "reconciliation". If the scheme really "has nothing to do with Thaksin", as the ruling party claims, he is absolutely not helping by popping up on Skype to ask Pheu Thai MPs to keep pushing for it. If the scheme really has something to do with Thaksin, the Skype thing is a negative and unwise political move.

As for the 2.2-trillion baht borrowing plan, economists and financial experts will continue to debate its pros and cons. It is already a highly controversial issue without Thaksin telling Pheu Thai, "You have to do it". When he touches upon an issue worth 2.2 trillion baht, tough economic aspects are further complicated by political ones.

Thaksin can help Yingluck - by staying away and keeping his mouth shut. It's already enough for her without him demonstrating that he is the real boss. If he thinks his Skype appearances will help her command respect in a massive political party, it could be rather short-sighted thinking. Yingluck's problem is not winning over Pheu Thai. As prime minister, she must be seen to be evolving positively because, like it or not, there are other parts of Thailand she has to serve, too. It's a mammoth task for her to win hearts beyond the "red" zones, but among the factors confining her is her own brother.

*US$1=29.5 baht

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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