Faced with anti-government protests for more than 80 days now, embattled caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra is being supported by top strategists advising her through the political showdown.
It’s a situation in which one misstep could lead to serious political mishap and even defeat.
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-wife Pojaman Na Pombejra are in the commander-strategist team, which identifies the direction in which the government and the Pheu Thai Party should head.
Although Thaksin is the top decision-maker, he is said to lean lately more towards the opinion and suggestions of his sister Yingluck, who had earlier been described by critics as his puppet.
Yingluck often discusses issues with PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva, National Security Council secretary general Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabutr and Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Nipat Thonglek.
Sometimes she attends meetings with the government’s so-called “war room” attended by top officials, though they are not regarded as strategists. These include caretaker Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and caretaker Deputy PM Pracha Promnog. And she usually calls in PM’s Office permanent secretary Tongthong Chandransu, the Cabinet secretary-general, and the Council of State secretary-general, for their opinions.
Dr Prommin Lertsuridej, Bhokin Bhalakula and Phumtham Wechayachai are regarded as part of Pheu Thai’s think tank, which scrutinises political and legal aspects of all pressing issues. Thaksin and Pojaman strongly trust the trio and always heed their opinion and advice.
Pojaman also has her brother Bhanapot Damapong, who follows up on details of the government and the ruling party’s work and reports to her for decision-making.
The operation team is led by Thaksin’s sister Yaowapa Wongsawat, who is backed by supporters such as caretaker Deputy Prime Ministers Pongthep Thepkanjana and Varathep Ratanakorn. Yaowapa’s husband Somchai Wongsawat, neither a strategist nor an operator, is actually a lobbyist for the party and the government, thanks to his background and ties with courts.
The team responsible for “political tit-for-tat” moves takes orders from all three strategist teams, comprising former ministers and red-shirt leaders, Noppadon Pattama and Wichit Plangsrisakul. Though they are not policy-makers, they are an important component in filling the jigsaw.