Saturday, August 1, 2009

Looming face-off between the PM and the Wongsuwan Brothers

It's not a joke when the "Wongsuwan Family" declared that they could take it no more.

The elder brother, Gen Pravit, is the defence minister. The younger one, Police Gen Patcharwas, happens to be the national police chief.

"We would retaliate through legal, and if necessary illegal, means to protect our integrity," was the shocking statement from the minister's secretary earlier this week.

Illegal means too? Wow, that's more than just an ordinary threat.

You can, of course, trace the conflict to Sondhi Limthongkul, who had indicated quite clerly that he thought the national police chief was the "obstacle" to the investigations into his attempted assassination.

"What has my brother done wrong?" asked the elder one.

The national police chief then filed a defamation charge against ASTV Manager newspaper,Sondhi's media arm.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva had to do something about the confrontation. He didn't want to appear to be under Sondhi's pressure. But then, he couldn't afford to be seen to be under the influence of the military and police officers either.

So, he tried to strike a compromise. He was seen meeting Patcharawas at Baan Pitsanuloke Friday morning.

A few hours later, the premier told reporters: Patcharawas will take a leave of absence lasting about one month. He wouldn't be removed or transferred. During his absence, an acting police chief would take charge "so that the probe into Sondhi's assassinatin attempt could proceed without obstacles."

Did he mean Patcharawas was the "obstacle?" The premier said: "No, there is no evidence to suggest that."

The mystery deepened when, late last evening, Patcharawas emerged to tell reporters that he wasn't applying for a leave of absence. Yes, he is going to China for ten days but that's part of a routine annual exchange.

"I still don't know when I am going though. And I will be working as usual on Monday, Aug 3..."

A slap in the face for the premier? A mutual misunderstanding of some sort? A sign of a looming confrontation between the defence minister-police chief and the prime minister?

All of the above?

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