Is Thaksin's son preparing to enter the fray?

Is Thaksin's son preparing to enter the fray?

Reports that former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is grooming his son Panthongtae for public office come as no surprise. They emerged amid claims that Thaksin would ask metropolitan police chief Camronwit Toopgrajank to be a Pheu Thai MP after his retirement next year. Camronwit has already denied this, and deputy government spokesman Sunisa Lertpakawat has said Panthongtae is not interested in being a politician.

Let's consider why this news has emerged and the choices that Thaksin has for a political heir.

There are different pros and cons relating to members of the Shinawatra family being in politics nowadays.

Although incumbent Prime Minister Yingluck still has a good approval rating, her government has not had any outstanding achievements. The price of goods and living costs have soared, and the government's populist policies have flaws that are like a volcano waiting to erupt. In the future, her standing could plunge. There is also talk that Yingluck is not so "obedient" in following orders from her older brother.

Another alternative premier is Yingluck's elder sister Yaowapha Wongsawat. Her competence and influence are undoubted, both in politics and businesses. But it could also be her weakest link, as problems related to the highly controversial rice-pledging scheme linger around her.

The next choice, Priewpan Damapong, the former national police chief, may also be qualified, but the fact he "only" used to be Thaksin's brother-in-law means he may not be fully trusted.

This is why some believe that, sooner or later, Panthongtae will step in as Thaksin's political heir.

The question is whether Panthongtae, 34, is ready. And, if there have been deeper reasons behind his engagement in political attacks and counter-attack via social media, as well as his visiting people in flood-hit areas. Was this done to see if he has the capacity to wipe away the image of a little or bad boy in his adolescence, or demonstrate administrative ability?

These reports are likely to be just a test of the water, and given his habit, Thaksin is unlikely to reveal the name of his heir until the last minute. Although Panthongtae is Thaksin's pure and direct blood, he would not risk letting him attacked by revealing his name "too early".

Meanwhile, rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle linger, and with Thaksin is reportedly in Indonesia while Yingluck is at the Apec Summit in Bali, many expect changes in Pheu Thai's quota to be clearer after the PM returns.

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