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Thailand’s Collapsing Peace: Part II

by Joshua Kurlantzick
March 1, 2012

The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

The Nation (the Thailand version) has an article today noting that Suranand Vejjajiva, who was the Prime Minister’s Office Minister in previous Thaksin Shinawatra governments, has now begun playing a major role in the administration of the current prime minister, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck. Suranand was banned from engaging in politics for five years following the coup that deposed Thaksin; but, like many other prominent pro-Thaksin politicians, his ban is almost up, and he and others are expected to return to the political scene in full force soon.

As I wrote yesterday, the fragile peace between the Yingluck government, their red shirt supporters, and the traditional establishment —including the palace, the military, and the Bangkok elite/middle class— appears to be collapsing, for several reasons: Growing confidence by Yingluck and Thaksin, bolstered by the imminent return of many savvy and powerful politicians from their five year bans; rising frustration in the military over the potential of returning to civilian control; fear of the king’s death after his weak and shaky performance in his birthday speech last December; the government’s failure or unwillingness to take meaningful steps to halt the use of lèse-majesté  to stifle dissent; and the weak economic environment.

Suranand’s return only further signals that, though he was not the puppetmaster-pulling-all-strings that opponents saw him as during his time in exile, Thaksin is clearly amassing more and more power over this current government. Suranand was one of his closest aides, and has been an adviser to the former prime minister going back to the 1990s. It is also a signal that, despite knowing how explosive the issue is, Thaksin is pushing to return to the kingdom. Expect whatever peace has prevailed to end on that day.

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