Once the Criminal Court decided it would not revoke the bail of terrorism-accused Jatuporn Promphan, the red-shirt leader's name was back on the list of potential new ministerial candidates for the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Jatuporn claimed he had the qualifications for such a post.
“Politically, I have proved [my eligibility] in all aspects, all platforms, in or outside the Parliament, in all environments. I don’t know what else I can do better in life as this is the ultimate. That’s all. I don’t know what else I have to prove,” he said.
However, he has not conveyed these thoughts to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who will decide on the Cabinet reshuffle. “I can talk about anything but myself.”
Jatuporn denies he would be a target of attack if he became a minister. He said he had worked hard and was one of the rare people who could counter-debate with Democrat veteran Suthep Thaugsuban. It’s difficult to find a person who can really talk down to him, Jatuporn said.
Regarding his image of being aggressive, which could be criticised and hurt the reconciliation efforts of the government, Jatuporn said he had to be aggressive as he had fought for the red shirts and it was his duty. He used the metaphor of warriors and said undoubtedly he was wounded, but his scars should not be seen as flaws.
“I fought to my best. My metaphor will be that I was a warrior on the battlefield. All the warriors, no matter how good they were at fighting – Genghis Khan, Alexander or anyone – had wounds from fighting on the battlefield,” he said.
“The red shirts all have been bruised, black and blue, face legal cases. If you think the wounds of the warriors on the battlefield are blots, nobody will be your warrior in the future. We are at the back when it comes to the reward, but at the front when it comes to fighting – and how can you expect us not to have bruises,” he said.
“It’s not that I fought because I wanted to be [a minister], but on the battlefield you have to accept that the war has not finished,” he said. “If [the Cabinet] consists only of people without any bruises, in the future we’ll have no warriors. Everybody will be selfish,” he said.
Jatuporn denied speculation that if he became a minister, Natthawut Saikua – another red-shirt leader who is now deputy agriculture and agricultural cooperatives minister – would be out of the post. He said there was no such thing as “quota” in the Pheu Thai Party. He and Natthawut were a perfect duo who opponents wanted to separate.
Asked whether the red shirts would accept the situation if he did not get a ministerial post because of his image, Jatuporn did not answer. He only said he would not be a problem for the Cabinet.
“The situation now is normal. It’s not that once I became a minister the government’s administration would collapse. Natthawut is in [the Cabinet] and he is not a problem. On the contrary, we can get a better understanding of the work,” the red-shirt leader said.
Jatuporn said it was necessary for him to have the power to solve problems of people around the country he and Natthawut regularly visit.
“We have received lots of complaints [of problems] from the people. [But] we can only be [sympathetic] as we don’t have the power. We can order [around] only the deputy agriculture minister! [laughs]. We can sometimes tell others. But when the people want a follow up [on problems], they don’t follow up with the ministers, they ask us because they know us. So we have bared the problems,” Jatuporn said.
Jatuporn declined to say which problem areas he would solve once he was in office. “Until the appointment, I cannot say. But wherever it is, I can work with the mechanism,” he said.
On the situation of the red-shirt movement and reconciliation, Jatuporn said he had told the red shirts to keep calm and not to protest or attack the Democrats. They will get justice in the near future.
“I told supporters that the judicial process will lead to the Democrat government being penalised. It had been delayed for two years, but it is progressing. The red shirts must be mindful. If they obstruct [justice], we will be the villains. If the red shirts do that, it means we are opening the exit for [the Democrats],” he said.
Regarding the relationship between Pheu Thai and the red shirts – whom some see as being abused by the party, especially when de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra once said the red shirts had supported him to his destination and it was time he went on by himself – Jatuporn said there was no problem. Thaksin had apologised and he might have been incited by people with ill intent.
“As long as Pheu Thai does not abuse its power, is not corrupt and does not do anything against the people’s will, [the red shirts] still share its heart and breath. If one day, Pheu Thai does something the other way round, the red shirts who have free hearts are ready to go. We have our own way,” he said.