Saturday, August 22, 2009

Abhisit, Suthep: Are they still partners in crisis?

Are PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thuagsuban at loggerheads?

If you ask them point-blank, the answers would be No, no, no.

But if you consider what has happened in the past few days, especially with the PM's aborted attempt to name his new police chief, you begin to doubt that their working relations are as smooth as before.

Suthep was said to have ganged up with Newin Chidchod, the two "kingmakers" of this coalition, to oppose Police Gen Pateep Tanprasert, the PM's choice, and to back the other candidate, Police Gen Jumpon Manmai, resulting in the 5-4 vote in the National Police Policy Commission on Thursday, to reject the premier's nomination.

That's a huge snub for the PM who rushed to the house of his secretary general, Nibhon Prompand, yesterday afternoon for a talk that lasted over an hour. Nibhon was also said to have been on Suthep's side in this case.

If there is a severe crack between the Abhisit and Suthep, they haven't made it public. Suthep has tried to cover up the rift by telling reporters that the rejection wasn't such a big deal. The PM can still continue to run the country and the choosing of a new police chief will continue.

Newin, on his part, told reporters when asked about this hot issue: "You will have to ask Khun Suthep about that." Note that he didn't even try to deny rumours of a break-up between the two.

Abhisit and Suthep have been placed in two opposing political situations: The PM wants to demonstrate how independent he is from the military and police forces. So, his public stance on issues related to those in uniform has been seen to be "too blunt" for Suthep who has to calm any anxiety from the military officers with whom he had approached for assistance in forming the current coalition.

That's why even the best of friends and partners in the Democrat Party could face the challenge of keeping the government afloat while portraying the image of acting independently of undesirabe pressure groups.

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