PM Prayuth’s New Avatar :  From Authoritarian Figure To Politician?

PM Prayuth’s New Avatar :  From Authoritarian Figure To Politician?
image from prachachat.

PM Prayuth’s New Avatar :  From Authoritarian Figure To Politician?

A few events occurred last week that seem to indicate that PM Prayth may be looking  to turn his back on his military image of being an authoritarian figure and moving  towards being more of a politician.

The Physical

Last week, PM Prayuth, launched a set of daily stickers involving a different look for  every day of the week. A mix of casual business suits, casual wear and tracksuits.
It seemed to be an attempt at a more approachable look, young(er) and dynamic.
Netizens have been divided on this new look, with many commenting that it is not a perfect match for his personality, that he is not being true to his character.
But maybe, that is the whole point, a makeover to prepare the public for his new avatar, leaving his military background image firmly behind and stepping up as an “out of the   closet” politician with a new look to compete effectively with opposition party leaders like leader of Kao Klai party, Pita Limjarouenrat,who is young and dynamic and  whoever Pheu Thai puts up as their PM candidate, unnamed at the moment, but touted   to also be young and dynamic.

The Political Move

This week, on Monday, after the cabinet meeting, a group of ministers met up with PM   Prayuth Chan-o-cha to hold talks in a closed meeting and  the outcome of that meeting  seems to be an agreement for a dissolution of the Executive Board of the Palang  Pracharath Party, the core  government party, to oust out Thammanat Prompao  from his  position of Secretary General of the party , possibly replacing him with Suchart   Chomklin. 

The ministers , loyal to PM Prayuth and present at the meeting were Somsak Thepsuthin  (Minister of Justice) Suriya Chuengrungreangkit( Minister of Industry) Suchart  Chomklin (Minister of Labor) Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn (Minister of Digital  Economy and Society) Santi Prompat (Deputy Finance Minister and Anucha Nakasai (Prime Minister’s Office Minister)

This move is seen as PM Prayuth’s bid to take control of the party.
The plan is to dissolve the power of the party’s executive board by procuring the  resignation of more   than half of the Board members, in this case, 14 out of 26 members.
The dissolution of the board  would enable new members to be elected which could be replaced by candidates loyal to PM Prayuth. 
There are rumors that PM Prayuth may take over the reins of party leader himself.

The bad blood between PM Prayuth and Thammanat started from the censure debate which took place in early September. Thammanath led a group of rebel MPs, loyal to  him, in a plan to vote against PM Prayuth during the no-confidence vote.

After the no-confidence motion, Thammanat was fired from his position as Deputy  Agriculture Minister by PM Prayuth apparently without consulting General Prawit Wongsuwan,  leader of Palang Pracharath party. 

Earlier, PM Prayuth preferred to leave all the handling of MPs and politicians to General Prawit while he concentrated on staying above politics and managed the country.
The censure debate drama made him realize how crucial it is for him to be hands on with the handling of  politicians or to be a politician himself if he wishes to continue as Prime Minister, into the next term.

The Geopolitics

On October 15, ASEAN announced that Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will be banned from attending the bloc’s regional leaders summit,  which includes high- profile talks with world leaders such as U.S. president Joe Biden, as well as the leaders of   China and Russia.
The sanctioning of Myanmar by ASEAN is an unprecedented move, straying from its bedrock principle of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.

Earlier, it was speculated that Biden’s participation may depend on ASEAN’s decision  on the inclusion or exclusion of Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing, who  overthrew a civilian government on Feb 1, while ASEAN leaders were anxious to hear of  US plans to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the region and its plans to engage on trade,   investment and infrastructure.

The refusal to seat the senior general is the most severe  sanction that Asean has handed  down to a fellow member state in over five decades of diplomacy. Experts call it a “paradigm shift” where the domestic affairs of a country will be called out on if the   behavior of that country may bring the reputation of the whole group down.

The writing is on the wall that junta leaders who rule with a heavy hand over their  citizens in the ASEAN region may not get away with it as they have done in the past.

The public embarrassment of Myanmar’s military junta is there for all to see and serves as a warning, that may be prompting PM Prayuth to move graciously to a new avatar of politician rather than military leader.

Written By - Patra Manas.