Thaksin's ties with red shirts grow more delicate

Thaksin's ties with red shirts grow more delicate

A lot of what is said politically has to be read between the lines these days, not least the words that have come out of Jatuporn Promphan's mouth. His latest widely reported remarks can be seen as a warning either to the opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra or the man in exile himself. Or Jatuporn could be issuing threats to both camps. For a red-shirt leader scorned, anything is possible.

He has said that unless it moves quickly and correctly on the contentious issue of amnesty, the Yingluck government will not last long enough to spend the massive sum of money potentially available in the water management and infrastructure development schemes.

Jatuporn wants the government to move the amnesty issue to the top of the parliamentary agenda, above the budget bill. It's a demand that the government seems to have thrown cold water on, with all the signals suggesting the budget bill is the real priority.

According to Jatuporn, if the government does not act on amnesty now, it will never be able to. The government's enemies, he said, would never allow the Thaksin camp to have both people power and financial strength. He seemed to suggest that the government is so close to having it all now, and that passing the amnesty bill would be the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

However, there is one key condition in Jatuporn's demand. He wants an amnesty bill that will benefit grass-root red shirts while "those who ordered the killings of protesters" must be excluded. It's a tough, if not impossible, condition. For one thing, how can such a bill bring about true reconciliation and peace? For another, how can this kind of bill favour Thaksin Shinawatra?

Jatuporn has become a bitter red warrior. Time and again, he has missed out on a Cabinet post. He has faced legal crackdowns and he has seen those who did less for Thaksin reap more political rewards. To Thaksin's enemies, he has come to symbolise all the unfavourable facets of the red-shirt movement. To the Thaksin regime, he is something of a liability, one that is obstructing a "real" truce.

His warning that the government must act quickly and correctly on amnesty has come at a most delicate time in the relationship between Thaksin and the red shirts. The relationship has always been hounded by outsiders' claims that Thaksin was exploiting the grass-roots' loyalty. Such accusations were often swept aside by strong allegiance, but if the red shirts managed to suppress their doubts, that scepticism must have started to grow lately.

The recently leaked audio clip purportedly between Thaksin and a senior defence official referred to a thawing of ties between the former prime minister and the military. Although the red shirts may still bear some resentment against the armed forces, the thorniest part of the dialogue could be the way "amnesty" was discussed. To the two dialogue partners, the issue of amnesty seemed to be more about bringing Thaksin home than anything else.

Thaksin's relations with the red shirts have survived tough times. Bigger tests, however, may come soon when the government has to prioritise key bills and possibly decide what kind of "amnesty" it wants.

Jatuporn may not represent the entire red-shirt movement, but as far as Thaksin is concerned, few things can be more dangerous than a loyal warrior betrayed.

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