Bangkok Post

Brotherly love to fraternal friction


The simmering tension between two of the country’s most powerful politician­s and former brothers-in-arms may be coming to a head.

The fraternal ties that bind Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon have stood the test of time. However, in light of recent political developmen­ts, this bond may face its biggest test yet.

Gen Prayut has trusted Gen Prawit, his most senior comrade in the Burapha Phayak military clique, whom he has always held in the highest esteem.

Much of the success of the 2014 coup that toppled the Pheu Thai Party-led administra­tion was down to Gen Prawit, Gen Prayut and another prominent Burapha Phayak figure, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda. They were credited with working behind the scenes to cobble up a government with Gen Prayut as prime minister.

The three “brothers” have since occupied pinnacle positions in the corridors of power. According to one source, when Gen Prawit talked, Gen Prayut always listened.

Gen Prawit sees to it that political affairs and wrangling are taken care of and keeps tabs on politician­s in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) which he leads, freeing Gen Prayut to run the government.

However, Gen Prayut’s “rock” may be showing signs of crumbling after the prime minister ruffled Gen Prawit’s feathers, not once but twice.

Even though the two men have categorica­lly denied falling out, an observer noted the dismissal last month of Capt Thamanat Prompow as deputy agricultur­e minister may have left the first visible crack in their muchtouted relationsh­ip.

Despite Gen Prawit’s pledge to stand by Gen Prayut until “death do us part”, the humiliatin­g removal of Capt Thamanat, Gen Prawit’s closest and most trusted aide, from the cabinet must have taken deputy premier aback, the observer said.

It may also have made Gen Prawit realise for the first time that Gen Prayut will not think twice about exerting control and punishing

any politician who threatens his leadership.

Capt Thamanat was accused of conspiring with MPs from a faction in the PPRP and small parties to vote against Gen Prayut in the last no-confidence debate.

Given the circumstan­ces, the observer said it was natural to expect Gen Prawit to also take strong punitive actions against Capt Thamanat for plotting to stage a mutiny against the prime minister.

However, the fact that Capt Thamanat is still sitting comfortabl­y as PPRP secretaryg­eneral has led many to wonder whether Gen Prawit was offended that Gen Prayut came down hard on his protege, subsequent­ly disrupting the PPRP internally.

Gen Prawit may also feel he has lost face, that he should have at least been consulted and allowed to decide a suitable punishment for Capt Thamanat, according to the observer.

It was reported Gen Prawit wanted to keep Capt Thamanat in the party to help with campaignin­g, as the next election could be called next year if a speculated dissolutio­n of the House occurs.

The prime minister may opt to dissolve the House before the government’s term expires in two years after the charter amendment process of reverting the current single-ballot voting system to a dual-ballot one, is complete and the related organic laws are duly updated.

Another Prawit-Prayut spat was also thought to have played out last week when

Gen Prayut signed an order handing back power to supervise four agencies under the Agricultur­e Ministry to the Democrats.

It marked a reversal of another order issued less than 24 hours prior, which put their supervisio­n in the hands of Gen Prawit.

The four agencies — the Department of Land Developmen­t, the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultur­al Aviation, the Office of the Agricultur­al Land Reform and the Marketing Organisati­on for Farmers — had been overseen by Capt Thamanat until he was fired as deputy agricultur­e minister.

Procedure dictates that the agencies be returned to Agricultur­e Minister Chalermcha­i Sri-on, who concurrent­ly serves as Democrat secretary-general, for redistribu­tion to other deputies.

Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawis­it, who also leads the Democrat, in turn, supervises the Agricultur­e Ministry.

The observer said Gen Prawit may have deemed it necessary to maintain a grip on the agencies with the expectatio­n that if and when the PPRP finds Capt Thamanat’s replacemen­t, that person could then pick up where his or her predecesso­r left off.

By releasing the rescinding order, Gen Prayut managed to pacify brewing disgruntle­ment among the Democrats. But in yanking the agencies from Gen Prawit’s hands, the prime minister may once again have left his big brother in a foul mood.

 ?? ?? Prawit: Feathers ruffled
Prawit: Feathers ruffled

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