Tuesday, 15 March 2011

PAD struggles to ward off mid-life crisis

via CAAI

Published: 14/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

A political mid-life crisis has come too soon for the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Odd behaviour stemming from a fear about ageing normally shows up in middle age.

Typical symptoms include getting depressed when things don't go your way; and failing to accomplish a task which was once easy.

These symptoms seem to fit well with what is happening to the PAD and its hardcore yellow shirt followers.

The PAD was once a formidable pressure group, having toppled governments and chased prime ministers out of office, including its nemesis Thaksin Shinawatra.

But as it marked its fifth anniversary on Feb 8, the movement is a pale shadow of its old self.

It's not too cruel to say that principal leaders such as Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang are struggling to make themselves heard from the group's stage at Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

The Cambodian card they're playing has failed to rattle the government, even after months of trying.

The PAD's calls on the government to rip up the 2000 memorandum of understanding on land border demarcation signed with Phnom Penh has yet to excite the group's supporters or the public at large.

National sovereignty is supposedly at stake, but the group has yet to strike the right chord with voters so that we really care what is happening at the border, or in meeting rooms where border demarcation lines are decided.

The yellow shirt group felt frustrated when their allies, Veera Somkhwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon of the Thai Patriots Network, who are serving jail time in Cambodia for spying, chose to apply for a royal pardon favoured by the government, rather than the PAD-preferred option of carrying on with their court fight.

Now the only way left for the PAD is how to exit this rally in a way which leaves supporters with a sense that they won.

That is an essential matter now, as the psychological reward from having scored a big hit will draw them back next time the PAD has found a pet cause.

They want to go back home with a sense of pride, a belief that they were part of the historic mission to protect Thai territory for future generations.

The poor response to the Cambodian issue, which the PAD has played up for months, is the group's second big disappointment after the unimpressive debut of its political party spin-off, the New Politics Party.

The NPP was shocked in by-elections last December when voters in Bangkok opted for the Democrats, even though the capital is also a strong base of the yellow shirts.

The defeat is a bad sign given that a general election will be held within months.

The PAD hoped the rally against the governments of Thailand and Cambodia over the border stand-off would have improved its traction with voters.

What's worse than their failing to excite voter interest is that the PAD leaders have failed to keep their composure and apparently are making more enemies than friends as the rally goes on.

They have attacked anybody who refuses to bend to their demands.

That will isolate them politically after the election, assuming some NPP candidates are elected to parliament.

That's something for the future; the more pressing concern is the present.

The PAD urgently needs medical advice to pull itself out of its premature political mid-life crisis.

It needs to cast aside its crisis of confidence and shape itself up to fight the forthcoming poll.

The yellow shirt leaders cannot make a U-turn on the NPP as it needs heads in parliament to fulfil its political agenda, where it will have to take on parties which are experienced in political trench warfare.

The PAD's best-known faces, Mr Sondhi and Maj Gen Chamlong, have decided to leave the election fighting to a younger generation of leaders.

They are sitting out the the poll from the ringside, rather than making themselves available as candidates.

That could be another mistake, if the younger ones aren't yet well known enough to voters, even after months of campaigning from the PAD stage.

The PAD will have to take careful stock of itself before the election.

The PAD was once a political force to be reckoned with.

If only for that reason alone, nobody wants to see the PAD's mid-life crisis getting worse and turning out to be full-fledged political suicide.

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