NOW THAT Army chief and National Council for Peace and Order chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has been given another hat as the country's 29th PM, his ability to manage the "frictional force" will be one of major keys to successful administration.
Unlike other conventional democratically elected PMs, the junta chief has taken the country’s top executive post by alternative means.
Prayuth and the NCPO have offered to “fix” problems that have plagued the political system for a decade and brought the country to the verge of civil strife and economic meltdown.
By doubling as PM in order to gain absolute control in running the country, Prayuth cannot pass the blame to others if he and the NCPO fail to keep their promise to improve the political and electoral system.
Right now the majority of the public appears to be behind Prayuth becoming supreme leader, according to pollsters, because they believe his style of leadership could bring peace and prosperity. But being the leader of the military and being PM are two very different things.
Running the country is much more complicated than running the military. Prayuth wearing his Army chief hat can give orders without concern that anyone will challenge or criticise his order because that is the nature and essence of the military. Criticism is, however, the essence of a democratic society.
Prayuth must accept this harsh reality and learn to live with criticism. He will have to put his military hat aside for the time he is prime minister.
Although Prayuth won the PM’s post through election in the National Legislative Assembly without challenge by other nominees, he will not be able to avoid the “friction” that comes with the top job. Along the path to power, the NCPO has inevitably made enemies. People whose power and wealth have been removed are waiting in the wings to “attack” when the PM stumbles.
The country’s 82 years of democracy presents enough lessons, loopholes and pitfalls for Prayuth to learn and try to avoid repeating.
The first test will come when Prayuth forms his Cabinet. Society is holding its breath, hoping Prayuth will pick ministers who are favourable and acceptable in terms of skills and integrity in the eyes of the public.
After the tough job of selecting the right people for these top posts, Prayuth will face even tougher tasks. But the PM-to-be need not to fear if he adopts Dharma in his leadership. The country’s moral leader – the late Phra Buddhathat Bhikkhu – once preached “If today is right, do not fear of tomorrow”.
The statement is short but profoundly meaningful. He should bear it in mind.