(Chavalit illustration from Matichon Weekly in 2007)
Gen. Chavalit has long been a part of Thaksin’s periodic media initiatives. As both former army commander-in-chief and prime minister, Chavalit’s statements are intended to demonstrate that the military is divided and not universally adverse to Thaksin rule.
Chavalit was part of Thaksin’s media push this year as well, even bringing up the idea of a “third force” under his command that would halt political conflict. In the frame of Thai “big men,” such a plan is meant to evoke the possibility that a man of Chavalit’s influence could unleash a real force to “settle” things once and for all unless those he speaks out against heed his demands.
His current “third force” idea hearkens back to the Red Shirt “People’s Army” he threatened to field in 2010 in the lead up to the Red Shirt siege of Bangkok in that year.
His alliance with the Red Shirts and what that implies for military unity is still strong enough that it triggered an army raid on Red Shirt TV when Chavalit was scheduled to speak.
Ultimately, aging Chavalit is not considered a significant political force anymore nor a good ally for Thaksin. He has a record of repeatedly backing down on his threats and withdrawing from Thaksin’s cause at the first sign of trouble.
Most often political cartoonists of all stripes portray him as a dead dog–meaning he is a spent force of no use anymore. Another cartoonist portrayed him as masochist who loves making big threats and then being humiliated by having to retract them.
Chavalit sets up “Third Force” to end conflict – Bangkok Post, March 13, 2016
…In a move seen to coincide with Thaksin’s political offensive, Gen Chavalit on Feb 24 held a press conference at his residence and called on the NCPO to relinquish power and hold elections to restore democracy this year, instead of 2017. In an open letter, “Big Jiew” accused the military regime of causing more conflict and economic hardship…
Oddly enough, the Nation seems to have purposely misinterpreted Chavalit’s very clear pronouncements as a threat to Thaksin instead (Chavalit resurfaces, issues veiled warning to Thaksin).
2014: Chavalit warn junta of counter coup
This is a particularly interesting and illuminating incident for the Thai world. Due to Chavalit’s long association with Thaksin, this incident was initially assumed to be part of the periodic statements on Thaksin’s behalf.
However, it later emerged that Chavalit was willing to posit chaos and strife for the nation merely over a failed attempt to protect a former aide from being declared unusually rich. Something like this is exactly in keeping with the psychology and actions of the Thai “big man.”