Published on March 5, 2008
The biggest controversy is whether that heart-warming, Wimbledon-winning posture on the unsteady ground of Suvarnabhumi Airport was in fact an appropriate thing to do.
The subsequent press conference was a bit of a threat to many people's heart conditions, and so was Chalerm Yubamrung barking security orders as if it was the US president visiting. But all in all, the day could have been much worse.
My nightmare had involved far bigger crowds in a tearful frenzy, and a live broadcast to giant screens in every province's jam-packed soccer stadium. In it, Samak Sundaravej was also at the airport, carrying a draft constitutional amendment to nullify the existence and work of the Assets Examination Committee. School kids wearing Manchester City jerseys and waving the club's scarf lined up to cheer every step.
With the mystic figure having been demystified, perhaps the one craving attention should get what he deserves. Poor Samak. In reality he has been the loneliest man on earth. His main job since that day has been to tell everyone, in an increasingly unconvincing manner, that he remains what his title suggests.
Yet it seems every time the other guy says he's washing his hands of politics, it eats into Samak's already thin credentials.
The prime minister's dilemma is whether to go ahead and help whitewash the other guy and remove all the doubts, or maintain the semblance of defiance that is the only thing standing between the status of nominee and total puppet. Bad news is, it could end badly for Samak either way. Good news is, his leverage has not totally gone.
To help the other guy, Samak has to either initiate a legal amendment to cancel the AEC, or propose changes to the Constitution to virtually make the coup and all its consequences illegitimate. Numerically, it's easy to push those amendments through Parliament. Politically, it's anything but, not least because of Samak's alleged, newfound dignity.
To be fair to the other guy, without him Samak would have been doing nothing but selecting quality chicken bones and talking to his cats. But power is like a boy's shared toy. It doesn't matter who bought it; once you get it in your hands, it's yours. The owner loans it at his own risk.
The other guy may be adept at parking his assets elsewhere, far away from him, and making sure they stay his.
It's different when it comes to this particular "toy", which contains a self-destruct button that only the one holding it can reach.
If Samak presses that button, in other words dissolves the Parliament, he will set the clock back to square one, at which point he can go back to perfecting his chicken-bone-soup recipes, but the other's life will be much harder.
So, who needs who more? A new election would mean more spending and new uncertainties.
Even assuming the People Power Party survives Yongyuth Tiyapairat's red card crisis threatening its very existence and wins a new election, the other guy still wouldn't be able to get his hand on the new toy. He would definitely have to loan it again, presumably to a more loyal and less ambitious friend.
Even then, initiating a legal and constitutional blitz to clear his name wouldn't get any easier.
The spotlight, therefore, needs to keep switching to the right boy. As of now it has focused quite correctly on the rich kid coming after his toy, but soon the poor one who is grabbing it with both hands will require attention.
One simple solution is for the rich boy to buy back his toy, assuming it has not yet totally consumed the other kid. But it's the poor one who can dictate how the game is played.
So far, the boys-with-a-toy theory remains pretty much speculative, probably wishful thinking. But it's tempting and tantalising all the same. The most tell-tale indicator of Samak's relationship with the other guy will be the timing of the legal and constitutional drive to help the latter.
If they are, in fact, on a collision course, it will add another layer to the already immense complexity of Thai politics. And if they really clash, watch out for Samak reaching for that self-destruct button.
If he really does push it, whatever that Suvarnabhumi Airport scene really meant - "The Empire Strikes Back" or "Return of the Jedi" - will be irrelevant.