PM's new role has staff aflutter
It's musical chairs at the Defence Ministry as officials race to prepare offices for Yingluck and Yutthasak - Suthep Thaugsuban steps into the limelight to regale Thais with a show on political intrigues - More signs are appearing that V for Thailand is struggling to maintain unity
The armed forces, it seems, are quite excited about having Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as the first female defence minister, though she'll be saddled with a load of responsibilities.
Yingluck: Hoping for a lucky start
After becoming the first female prime minister almost two years ago, Ms Yingluck is now adding a second first to her resume.
Ms Yingluck has made history as the first female defence minister. But concern is mounting over how she will be able to manage the additional responsibilities _ she will bear a much heavier workload and increased pressure.
The answer lies with the appointment of Yutthasak Sasiprapa as deputy defence minister.
Gen Yutthasak was once the defence minister, and with that background, he has been enlisted to help Ms Yingluck oversee some of the work at the Defence Ministry.
A source at the ministry said Ms Yingluck is due to sign an order authorising Gen Yutthasak to act on her behalf in dealing with some of the key defence supervision duties. The delegation of duties is thought to be to help protect Ms Yingluck from any legal ramifications that might arise if she directly takes charge of or approves certain policies including some budget-intensive armament procurement projects.
When it was announced that Ms Yingluck was to head the Defence Ministry, officials rushed to prepare the minister's office on the second floor of defence headquarters. The room has a serene aura as its windows open up to a sweeping view of the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Originally, Gen Yutthasak was to be accommodated in the minister's office, since he will be assuming a lot of the duties for Ms Yingluck.
However, ministry officials were concerned that Ms Yingluck would have nowhere to work on going to the headquarters if Gen Yutthasak had the best office in the building.
Also, the room ''speaks'' authority. If the minister's room is used by someone other than the minister herself, people might think Ms Yingluck exists only on the name plate stuck on the office door, the source said.
Ministry officials figured they would have to find a separate office for Gen Yutthasak. The Defence Ministry is refurbishing a room reserved for guests for the purpose.
The source said despite the cabinet having been sworn in, Gen Yutthasak has yet to set foot in the ministry, preferring instead to wait until today _ a day he has determined as auspicious _ to start his new job.
Ms Yingluck, on the other hand, will officially begin her first day working as defence minister at precisely 11am on June 11. The 11-11 timing is believed to signify plenty of good luck, and her first day promises to be a grand event.
The date for her first working day has been pushed back several times to make way for her latest overseas visits.
A revealing little chit-chat
Who says a court battle is all pain? Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, for one, has found so much fun in it that he is eager to share the experience with the audience for his first solo talk show tonight.
The former Democrat Party secretary-general is hoping the talk show will entertain people while at the same time hook them up to 14 interesting stories from his years in politics.
Suthep: A man of a lot of words
Tickets for the show for this evening at the Scala theatre in Siam Square cost between 1,000 and 3,000 baht.
Mr Suthep declared he is now ready to hit the stage in a talk show with the mighty name of ''Rak Muang Thai Zogzaeg Karnmuang Sud Soi Sayam Sanook Khemkhon Kinjai Satai Kamnan'' (love Thailand, getting into to the nooks and crannies of politics, going all the way in Siam, great fun, riveting show kamnan style).
Blue Sky TV, which has close links with the Democrats and which is producing the show, promises that it will be huge fun and high on substance.
Mr Suthep has spent weeks rehearsing the political talk show while still struggling with his ongoing court battle in connection with his handling of the red-shirt rallies in 2010.
One of his picks for the show's themes will be about ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who used to be Mr Suthep's very close friend.
They were once close enough for Thaksin to encourage Mr Suthep to ditch the Democrats for Thai Rak Thai, the party that Thaksin founded and which is now extinct.
The two men are now, more or less, serious political opponents. Mr Suthep claims to have many ''untold stories'' of their short-lived friendship.
Other stories he will share with the audience are expected to range from the moment Thaksin knelt down to kiss the ground at Suvarnabhumi airport on his return from post-coup, self-imposed exile, to incidents in which his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, allegedly lost her interview notes, said a source in the Democrats.
Mr Suthep will talk also about Chalerm Yubamrung, who is now labour minister.
Two core red-shirt leaders, Nattawut Saikuar and Jatuporn Prompan, are also on the list of people who will be ''material'' for Mr Suthep's show.
Mr Suthep is expected to also touch on Tarit Pengdith, chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
In the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, Mr Tarit worked under Mr Suthep, the then deputy premier. Mr Tarit directed the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation during the 2010 political unrest. Now, three years on, Mr Tarit is head of the DSI, the agency which has pressed charges against Mr Suthep and Mr Abhisit for their roles in authorising military action that led to clashes with the protesters and the subsequent red-shirt fatalities.
During the show, Mr Suthep will also likely have a field day poking fun at his boss, Mr Abhisit.
The source said Mr Suthep will recall the tough moments he and Mr Abhisit went through together at the height of the 2010 political violence, when pressure on them was building up from all sides.
He also has some stories about former Democrat leaders Chuan Leekpai and Banyat Bantadtan.
Issue wise, the national reconciliation and amnesty bills will top the list of topics Mr Suthep will cover.
Mr Suthep said he had worked hard every day to prepare and rehearse the show because his concern is that he has to make the event fun and not end up turning it into another political rally speech.
White masks could be cracking
The anti-government V for Thailand group's decision to carry on with its gatherings on July 14, soon after having declared it would suspend activities, has many watchers wondering whether the growing movement is experiencing unity problems.
The decision came just one day after the group, which has frequently faced intimidating street rallies by the red shirts, announced it would temporarily suspend its weekly gatherings in Bangkok.
Suriyasai: Time for a breather
That suspension would only have affected its activities at CentralWorld shopping mall at Ratchaprasong intersection. Similar rallies in many other provinces would proceed as planned.
In an announcement on its Facebook page, the group cited attempts by another group to throw them off balance.
According to the announcement, its activities in Bangkok would therefore be suspended until its allies were ready to abide by the movement's stated anti-government purpose, although rallies in the provinces could continue.
In recent weeks, movement members have converged for one-day gatherings on Sunday afternoons in front of CentralWorld. They would then march to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in Pathumwan where they would wrap up their activities and disperse.
Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the anti-government Green Politics group, agreed with the decision by the group, whose participants are widely known as the white masks.
He said the movement needed breathing space and time to review its role and to prepare for future situations.
Mr Suriyasai said while it was necessary for the V for Thailand movement to take a break, it should have consulted its supporters before issuing the announcement to avoid criticism that the group's activities might be orchestrated by someone behind the scenes, which could become a potential problem for it in the future.
However, Mr Suriyasai noted that some allies of the white-mask movement are still determined to continue with tomorrow's rally at CentralWorld regardless of the announcement.
Mr Suriyasai voiced disagreement with their move, but he admitted that he did not want to get in their way and stop them as he could be seen as trying to exert influence or as attempting to become the group's leader, which would run counter to its original intention to be a ''leaderless'' movement.
He said those who wanted to continue with the rally could be former members of the now-defunct anti-government Pitak Siam group led by Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, widely known as Seh Ai.
This faction is upset with V for Thailand's decision to halt its activities in Bangkok. Many members of the Pitak Siam group still want to confront the government, Mr Suriyasai said.
This is because a sense of frustration still lingers after Gen Boonlert abruptly called off his anti-government demonstration in November last year following clashes between police and protesters that resulted in 82 injuries.
''Those who want to continue with the activities must prove themselves _ that's if they want to stick to the original intention of the white-mask movement. If they stray from the path or go too far, the people will decide who they will side with,'' Mr Suriyasai said.
Even though red-shirt core leader Jatuporn Prompan has warned that the white-mask movement could become a potential threat to the government, he is being dismissed as creating a ruse to draw the government's attention to the red shirts, whom he says are starting to fall from favour with the Yingluck administration.