By The Nation
Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd doesn’t come across as a Rambo-like figure.
But that’s not such a bad thing. His bright smile and amiable posture suit him well. It’s the kind of non-threatening demeanour that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has been trying to get across ever since it came to power through a coup in May 2014.
People call him “Kai Oo”, or “Tiny Chicken”.
But after a while, that charm wears off. After all, it is hard to get people excited about what is put out by a bunch of generals who know virtually nothing about governance or political reform, the very thing they vowed to pursue after the coup.
Besides working for a bunch of ignorant generals, Sansern himself doesn’t across as smart. He seems to come up short, especially on intellectually challenging issues.
While he may not be as dumb as many other generals, it was only a matter of time before his shortcomings were exposed to the public.
Sansern finally lost his cool and posture, not to mention military bearing, the very thing that is supposed to set professional soldiers apart from ordinary citizens.
At first, some people thought it might have been a slip of the tongue, something he uttered in the heat of the moment. He had accused a key protester opposing a controversial proposed coal-fired power plant of vanishing from public view with a mysterious woman. It turns out that was not a slip of the tongue at all. He reiterated his claim on a government-run television programme. It was clear that Sansern was trying to tarnish the man’s reputation.
“There is one key protester named Mustarseedeen ‘Baemus’ Waba. There is a photo of him being escorted by police or military officers circulated online, saying that he has not returned home yet,” Sansern said. “I’ve asked 4th Army Area Commander and provincial police commander. Both the authorities said that they did not take him away.”
Sansern suspected that Mustarseedeen’s disappearance could be similar to an incident that occurred earlier in Saba Yoi district, where “they said he was taken away by the authorities but it was discovered later that he had gone away with a woman, who was not from his family, in Satun”.
“I’m only suspecting, not accusing Bae Mus. This needs to be proved later on.”
As expected, Sansern’s remarks were met with fury on social media. Critics slammed him for blaming an ordinary person without solid evidence.
Too dumb to detect the extent of the damage he had caused, Sansern continued to harp the same tune: “We need to speak the truth today. The government talks with rationality.”
Besides the work of a thoughtless spokesman, the government’s arrest of the protesters did not go down well; they came off as a bunch of bullies jolted by demonstrators who are afraid the coal-powered plan will forever destroy their livelihoods.
Only an insecure government will turn to force as an option to rein in a few unarmed demonstrators and then go on television to shame them and their leaders for demanding answers from the government.
They shamelessly hide behind good intentions – that they have at heart the wellbeing of the people – in spearheading their initiative to build this coal-fired power plant.
As Government Spokesman, Sansern cannot tell us everything. We can live with that, but don’t lie to us.
The stakes are too high for the government to have a loose cannon as spokesman in the new line-up.
This is Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s last Cabinet before the next election and one that will define his legacy.
Prayut needs a sound spokesperson who can be a proper face of the government for Thais and the world. “Kai Oo” has lost his way and needs to be relieved of the responsibility.