The government has just made its biggest gamble by nominating Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew for the position of national police chief, replacing Pol General Priewpan Damapong, who will retire at the end of September.
Following the blessing of her brother Thaksin, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday convinced the 10-member Police Policy Board to make a unanimous decision endorsing Adul’s nomination. Thaksin and Yingluck seem to have subscribed to an old adage – keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
Adul’s track record is beyond reproach – although he is seen as having been close to the Democrats for more than 20 years – but he appears an odd choice for carrying the police torch under the Pheu Thai-led government.
Long before Thaksin assumed his political leadership in 2001, Adul had been known to look up to Democrat Suthep Thaugsuban as his mentor.
Throughout the political turbulence, he has been treading carefully to keep intact his ties with Suthep and at the same time stay out of the political bickering.
After the Democrats came to power in 2008, Suthep made sure to put his protege Adul on a fast-track for promotion.
What had brought Adul to Thaksin’s attention was his supervision of crowd-control operations when the red shirts stormed and disrupted the Asean Summit Meeting in Pattaya in 2009.
Adul made a calculated decision not to crack down on the red shirts, hence avoiding bloodshed. His action pleased Thaksin and at the same time kept the Democrats happy because anti-riot forces could subsequently disperse the protesters.
Should the political |conflict escalate, Adul at the police helm can be counted on to rein in the government’s opponents, particularly the yellow shirts and the pro-Democrat crowds.
In contrast, General Pansiri Prapawat appears lacking the political acumen of Adul. The two have unblemished records and Pansiri has one-year’s seniority over Adul.
But Thaksin is reportedly unhappy with the way Pansiri has been handling the killing of 13 Chinese boat crew in the Mekong.
At the end of the day, the choices boil down to an inept friend and a politically astute enemy.