September 18, 2013 00:00 By Hataikarn Treesuwan The Natio
Phumtham Wechayachai, secretary-general of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, has spent much of his political career attending closed-door meetings with the party's strategic committee, led by former premier Somchai Wongsawat, as well as with the PM's taskforc
His other key task is monitoring news websites every day to see what they are saying. He also works closely behind the scenes with influential politicians to evaluate the government’s situation.
Seven years ago, Phumtham worked closely with then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and was seen by many as the PM’s “heart”. The “brain” behind Thaksin was then PM’s secretary-general Prommin Lertsuridej.
So now the question arises: Is Phumtham aspiring to become Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s “think-tank”? He responds to this with a laugh, saying: “I’m a politician who is concerned about the country, so I will do my best to do my duty.”
When asked if Prommin was still serving as the brains, Phumtham said he could not speak for him. “You should ask the owner of the body. I’m the heart, I will do my duty,” he said, adding that politicians who worked for Thaksin now need to adapt themselves.
As for whether Thaksin and Yingluck’s hearts beat in time, Phumtham said: “The prime minister has her own ‘heart’,” adding that the prime minister was a flexible person who is ready to learn new things and has strong leadership skills.
“She is successful in her position. Pheu Thai MPs respect and trust her,” he said, adding that Yingluck had achieved this without having to play the role of a “jae” – a Chinese slang term for a powerful woman.
As for Yingluck evading media questions, Phumtham responded by saying: “This is her style and strategy. A leader does not need to say everything, but needs to know everything that is going on.”
Yet despite these qualities, Thaksin’s aides still need to come to her rescue on some important issues, such as the political reform forum she has initiated. Other than the politicians assigned by the PM to invite stakeholders to join the forum, there is also a small group of Thaksin’s aides working secretly on the plan.
“I cannot tell you who I talked with, but the PM really needs all parties to join the forum. At this stage, the government is trying to focus on common ideas and is avoiding issues that are difficult to agree upon,” he said.
As for the opposition Democrat Party’s parallel forum on political reform, Phumtham wanted to know why the Democrats were visiting the same people who had agreed to meet government representatives.
When asked to comment on the Democrat plan to form an alliance with other anti-government groups, Phumtham refused to answer, saying: “You know I like to watch the [anti-government] ASTV, T-News and BlueSky channels. I’m a big fan of them.”
As for what issue would pose the highest risk for this government, he said the opposition tried to block the government’s every move, which led to chaos in the House. “I wonder if the Democrats intend to create a condition for ‘special powers’ to get involved. If that is not the case, they should change their standpoint,” he said.
Phumtham also said he was amazed at a recent development involving the judiciary. Former Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh had warned that the government could be deemed as violating the Constitution for failing to declare its achievements before Parliament.
The charter requires that the administration report to Parliament about its achievements every year.
“Wasan has destroyed the judiciary tradition. It seems as if he is trying to influence Constitutional Court judges. I don’t know if this will lead to ‘tulakan phiwat’ [judicial activism] or not. Anything can happen in Thai politics. What amazes me is that the changes have taken place so often,” he said.