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Those who know, don't talk, those who don't know, talk
Publication Date : 10-10-2013
The prime minister's spokesmen and aides have dismissed rumours about a Cabinet reshuffle leading to the "Yingluck 6 Cabinet", but Premier Yingluck Shinawatra has chosen to keep silent.
Her lieutenants in the Pheu Thai Party have been floating the idea of a possible snap election. The prime minister has decided to keep mum on that too.
Premier Yingluck has grown into her job. She has learned that, in politics, you must adopt the safest stand, especially in public: never say never. With her deafening silence, she can never be accused of not telling the truth. She doesn't tell. So you can't say whether she is telling you what she is really thinking about.
In Thai politics, vehement denial usually suggests that something is afoot. Those in the know don't talk, and those who talk don't know.
Stories about an imminent Cabinet reshuffle stemmed from a few senior Pheu Thai members who met up with Thaksin Shinawatra, who has so far refrained from using his Facebook account to confirm or deny the speculation. He was supposed to be the source of the story. And if he keeps quiet about such a juicy line of speculation, it could probably mean that he is either floating a weather balloon or waiting for the right time to make a statement.
Cabinet reshuffles aren't about improving efficiency or plugging loopholes in the management of the government. They are about stopping the merry-go-round to let some ministers off so that others can join the ride in exchange for "services rendered".
Six months has been the usual time span for this game of musical chairs. But if the patience of the most powerful man in this game runs low at a particular time, or if lobbying from those who want to get in becomes intense, the time span can be shortened.
The fact that the premier hasn't expressed irritation over newspaper headlines declaring that the new Cabinet reshuffle was on the orders of her elder brother suggests that the public's worst suspicion about who's really in charge of the government has again been proved true.
Reshuffling the Cabinet is just one of several options for the government to survive the political onslaught. If things turn really sour in Parliament - or if the ruling party detects some legal hurdles in pushing through some of the major pieces of legislation - dissolving Parliament to call a new election is certainly on the cards.
Calling a snap election has always been part of Thaksin's grand strategy to pre-empt any assault from the opposition. Pheu Thai's confidence in returning with a bigger majority in the lower House has been boosted by the latest constitutional amendment that will require all senators to be elected.
But unrestrained confidence can spill over, and hubris in politics is always dangerous if not contained at an appropriate level. Orders from the top, it is said, have directed the government and Pheu Thai members to "go for broke" and push further charter changes and the highly controversial amnesty bill through Parliament.
An overconfident government, ignoring all dissenting voices from not only the official opposition but also significant segments of civil society, could stumble in the face of a determined move to pave the way for Thaksin's return as a person absolved of all past guilt.
The apparent move to use the majority in Parliament to consolidate power by removing independent agencies destroys the checks and balances that are crucial for a democratic system. And it will inevitably boomerang.
The battle cry from the powers-that-be is: "Go all the way to the end of the soi." Little do they realise that this soi isn't the sole property of any particular individual. Besides, it could lead to a dead end from where there might not be a viable exit.