Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama should become a battery for energy-starved Thailand. He seems to fire up whatever he touches.
Just months after coming into power, the former consiglieri of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra has electrified the country’s diplomatic circle.
Yesterday, a day before he was set to board a plane to Quebec, Canada, to take part in an annual Unesco meeting, Noppadon was said to have been extremely edgy.
He will be coming face to face with his Cambodian counterpart, who is likely to remind him of the commitment he made to that country in Paris on May 22 – that Thailand would endorse Cambodia’s bid to have Preah Vihear Temple listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.
Noppadon’s problem is that he overlooked the possibility his pledge to the Cambodians could become a politically charged topic at home. In fact, it could cost him his political life. Already, there is a growing call from various quarters, including from within the government coalition, for a new Cabinet line-up.
Over the weekend, the Administrative Court issued an injunction on Noppadon’s pledge and the Cabinet endorsement of Cambodia’s bid.
And just like that, the pledge made in Paris, the minutes of that meeting that had been agreed upon, the joint communiqu้ and the Cabinet’s endorsement, have all been reduced to the point that they are all not worth the paper they were printed on.
Calling Noppadon a lame duck would be an understatement at this point in time.
Noppadon, like a typical Thai politician, tried yesterday to hide behind a technicality, saying his pledge to the Cambodians in Paris was non-binding and would only take effect once the two respective countries endorsed it. But the Thai Cabinet did in fact endorse it on June 18 – map and all. What threw the entire thing off course was the injunction from the Administrative Court over the weekend.
By any standard, this predicament is nothing less than a political embarrassment.
Noppadon, meanwhile, had the audacity to say that the non-binding nature of the Paris communiqu้ was a safety valve that he himself had put in place.
It would have been more dignified for him just to have admitted defeat rather than trying to insult everybody’s intelligence.
In the coming days, all eyes will be on the Unesco meeting in Canada. Interestingly, in response to a letter from the Senate asking Unesco to postpone Cambodia’s bid, the UN cultural body reminded the country’s Upper House of the pledge in Paris. While it is understandable for Unesco to be frustrated at Thailand for putting it on a roller-coaster ride, there is no need to cry over spilled milk.