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Yellow shirts divorce another man in green

Many say it was bound to happen, as the honeymoons between Thailand's Army chiefs and the yellow shirts were usually short and ended in tears. If some jaws dropped when, like his predecessors, Army chief Prayuth Chan-o-cha burned the bridges with the People's Alliance for Democracy, it's probably because of how the break-up materialised rather than the break-up itself. Of course, we had seen the brooding and yelling, but few of us expected them to slam the door, throw away the key and change the lock in this ultra-swift manner, with household missiles flying all over the place.

Like when any couple parts, you'll hear standard reasons. Prayuth's changed, sobbed the yellow shirts. Or more likely, he has shown his true colours. Maybe he has found someone new. (Imagine a powerful, beautiful lady with a powerful but not-so-beautiful brother.) Maybe he's trying to please that potential "someone new", believing that keeping a smile on her face will ensure that he retires graciously next year, as an Army chief, not from any "upstairs" position.

The bitch is out of control, Prayuth fumed. Who the hell do the yellow shirts think they are to ask me to show contempt for a world court? Fine if they want to fight for the disputed Preah Vihear Temple, but they must learn to respect my position. Am I a traitor all of a sudden after refusing to say I'd reject a negative verdict (by the International court of Justice) on ownership? Give me a break.

Look who's talking, the yellow shirts scoffed. You demand freedom to stand your ground, but it's not us who sent thugs to intimidate people who have different opinions. The rowdy visit of your men to our place after the break-up was uncalled for, ungentlemanly and uncivilised. Apologise.

(A couple of things need to be mentioned here. The yellow shirts are no strangers to such rowdy visits. Sometimes they were on the receiving end, but other times they were not. But the latest information could not confirm who ordered last week's visit to ASTV, so three possibilities remain: 1) Prayuth ordered it; 2) his men took the liberty to do it, wanting to show love, loyalty and camaraderie; or 3) a third party was behind the visitors, hoping to accelerate the break-up and push it past the point of no return.

Okay, I'm sorry, Prayuth finally said. But his apology was vague enough to keep the three possibilities equally alive. And it won't wipe the enigmatic smile off the face of someone in Dubai who is seeing the political momentum swinging unmistakably in his favour. Not only has the most poweful man in the Army and the yellow shirts filed for divorce, they also have sought restraining orders against each other.

The Dubai man can now be less worried about Preah Vihear becoming an explosive political factor. The break-up takes a lot of wind out of the sails of the nationalistic movement preferring political mayhem if Thailand loses her "sovereignty" because of the international court's verdict. He can now concentrate more on other issues, like a constitutional revamp and so-called "reconciliation".

To him, most things are falling into place. The police's allegiance has been assured. Parliament is in his pocket. The yellow shirts have made another Army chief turn away in disgust. Media groups are at each other's throats. Soldiers have been spared in a legal campaign to rein in top Democrats who allegedly ordered a massacre of red-shirt protesters. And if his sister hasn't got the men in uniform charmed already, at least she's more pleasant than ASTV articles of late.

A coup is out of the question. Prayuth would rather die than give the yellow shirts that pleasure. And not that it would be easy, even if he still harboured a secret desire to do it. His right-hand man, Dapong Ratanasuwan, retires as deputy Army chief in October, and thereafter Prayuth will have two very simple options: take an insane political risk, making himself susceptible to sedition charges; or behave like a good, old soldier counting the days to leaving the service with full military honours.

You are such a coward, like Sonthi and Anupong before you, the yellow shirts screamed. You are crazy, Prayuth shot back. Look what you did to Sonthi. He staged a coup on the back of your protest, for crying out loud, but is now a laughing stock. And everything Anupong said about you is right. You are so hard to please. Hope you find a new boyfriend, and may God save him.

The yellow shirts will never find their man, and the man in Dubai knows that. The good news, however, ends there. The bad news is that the national divide, which is obstructing a charter rewrite and any "amnesty" scheme, now has little to do with where the military stands, let alone who is in what position. If the ultimate wish is for the government to safely negotiate the Preah Vihear storm with most top soldiers staying in line, it may have been granted. If the real goal for the man in Dubai is to come back a free man and get his money back, the road's still long, winding and bumpy.


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