Succession planning

17 04 2014

In recent times there has been some debate about the nature of the decade-old political crisis in Thailand amongst commentators on social media. Some argue that the crisis is all about royal succession and a contest over that. Others argue that the crisis is better understood as a long-term political and historical struggle over the nature of Thailand’s politics that goes beyond the succession issue.

PPT, with its interest in lese majeste and monarchy, is naturally interested in all of the rumors and discussion about succession. That said, we also see the anxiety surrounding succession as just one, albeit very important, indicator of the the deep social roots of the current crisis.Prince and friend

Certainly, as we noted a couple of months ago, there does seem to be some succession planning underway. That account reported of the transfer of a “unit of elite soldiers, the Royal Security Command,” to “the authority of the Defence Ministry in its administrative streamlining of protective duties for the royal family.”

As we briefly noted a while ago, Matichon has reported a Government Gazette announcement of a consolidation of troops to Prince Vajiralongkorn’s personal command. Google Translate does a reasonable job of this announcement that shows the Prince preparing for the bigger role. More interestingly, the prince now has command of some seven regiments that are said to be providing protection for the aged king and queen. The presumed political position of the prince was also noted in our earlier post.

This news of the Gazette announcement has caused some interest. On Facebook, succession-in-chief protagonist Andrew MacGregor Marshall has taken the opportunity to refer to the prince’s role in the 6 October 1976 massacre and coup, with attention drawn to a British cable that uses rumor and talk from Australia to indicate that the prince’s return to Thailand was coincidental with those horrendous events.Prince 1976 - Copy

PPT doubts that this memorandum should be taken too seriously. At the time, the British, Americans and Australians all seemed to want to downplay the significance of the events around Thammasat University and the deep political involvement of the monarchy in mobilizing rabid royalists against those seen as enemies of the throne. Those countries, like the king in Thailand, were deeply disturbed by events in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and wanted to shore up Thailand as the bastion of anti-communism on the mainland of Southeast Asia.

The imagery of the prince was well-used by rightists in justifying their attack on the students as “protecting” the monarchy. As noted in the cable, the prince had indeed returned suddenly from a brief stint with the Australian SAS in Perth, just prior to the coup. After the coup, the prince and his younger sisters gave their support to the rightists.

But back to the succession “crisis.” If there is such a crisis, it has been a very long one. Back in 1981, the Far Eastern Economic Review alluded to a kind of competition between the prince and Sirindhorn.

Succession1

The “crisis” was also a part of another FEER article in 1988, this time by none other than the princeling Sukhumphand Paribatra. His article is available for download at PPT’s Lese Majeste and the Monarchy page, identified at present with a “new” label. In that piece, which was produced after a bunch of anti-prince leaflets were circulated (also available at that PPT page), expressed the concerns. The beginning of the article explains “apprehension” regarding succession.Apprehension At the time of writing, Sukhumbhand was concerned that civilian politics was weak and in crisis and he was seeing that this opened the way for a military intervention.

Later, the article states:

Given the monarchy’s role in Thailand’s political and economic development, as well as its place in the hearts and minds of the populace, any uncertainty regarding the future of the monarch inevitably causes a great deal of apprehension. Doubts continue to be expressed, mostly in private but now increasingly in the open, about the crown prince’s capacity to evoke the kind of intense political loyalty from the people and the major domestic political power groupings that his father is able to do. Doubts also persist as to whether the crown prince can match his father’s subtle and mediatory role in politics.

Some of this is blarney, but the point is that the speculation about the prince and succession has been around for a very long time. We would have thought that if there was serious disputation regarding succession that there had been plenty of opportunities for some kind of intervention to move the prince aside or out of the picture.

In any case, it seems that Vajiralongkorn is doing his due diligence on succession, preparing for the day when he gets the crown.

 

 





Friendly fire

16 04 2014

That some of the armed guards associated with the protection of the leaders of the anti-democrat movement might sometimes get blasted and start blasting each other is no surprise. As Khaosod has it reported, a guard “has been shot dead after a fight broke out among the guards at their Bangkok rally site…” at Lumpini Park.

He “was shot inside the park at around 02.00. He later died from a gunshot wound to his chest, bringing the total protest-related fatalities to 22 since the latest wave of anti-government movements erupted in November last year.”

In fact, in friendly fire incidents like this we see no reason why it should add to the death toll for the demonstrations. It could be an accident. But we’ll never know, for the anti-democrat “guards have barred police officers from entering the area to inspect the crime scene and question the witnesses.”

It seems these hoodlums are a law unto themselves. The police say the “guards have claimed that the police must wait until their celebration of Songkran (traditional Thai New Year) festival in the park is over before any crime scene inspection can be conducted.”

What a nice bunch of thugs. They don’t want a death to interfere with their jolly new year celebrations.

One of the thugs leaders, Democrat Party member Thaworn Senniam told police “that fistfights broke out between some guards. Mr. Jirayuth [the deceased] reportedly attempted to intervene and break up the fights, only to be shot dead by one of the combatants.”

Believe it or not, “the police at Lumpini Police Station are working to secure permission from PCAD [anti-democrat] leaders in order to inspect the crime in due time.”

Perhaps this is what General Prem Tinsulanonda meant when he talked of cooperation with the police: they are now at the beck and call of royalist thugs.





With a major update: Old men’s business

15 04 2014

Over the years, it has been remarkable how often General Prem Tinsulanonda seems to time his public appearances to coincide with forthcoming political events. PPT guesses that this is because he is involved in such events, often very deeply and therefore times his appearances for maximum public impact.

We acknowledge that Songkhran is upon us, and that usually entails the sycophantic slithering off to Prem’s taxpayer funded abode to pay him the attention and deference he feels he deserves. Yet his most recent spate of appearances began a few weeks ago and have continued.

Everyone, including the mainstream media, recognizes that the aged Privy Council President is engaged in politics and is making a political statement with the intention of shifting the course of events.

Everyone, including the mainstream media, recognizes that the aged Privy Council President is also engaged in politics behind the scenes, nagging, cajoling and ordering that things be done as he wants them.

Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda

Privy Council President General Prem

Prem does this so regularly and he has done it since the 1970s at least, meaning that his extra-constitutional politicking for the palace is effectively normalized. The oldest man in the palace still mobile can be assumed to speak for something like the “collective palace,” even though that lot are fractured, ill, aged and/or loopy.

You would think a 94 year-old would just wait out the fires of cremation, but not Prem, for he seems to feel a little royal himself, regularly seen in royal-like poses, and he clearly covets the power and tribute he receives as the voice of the collective palace.

Over the decades, Prem’s main task has been to ensure that loyal royalists fill the top slots in the military, army, Ministry of Interior, judiciary and other major government agencies. He has been highly successful, and part of the hatred of Thaksin derives from his attempts to shake up this “Premocratic” royalist cabal.

The most recent Prem intervention is is reported in the Bangkok Post, where Prem lauds the armed forces and the police as his “real friends” and he sees them as “united.” Given that the Army is undoubtedly royalist and that almost every member of the bras owes their position to Prem’s royal seal of approval, there’s no surprise there. However, the police are generally seen as being politically aligned to Thaksin Shinawatra; certainly that is the anti-democrat’s mantra.

He lauds both groups as a “force to be reckoned with, that can keep out elements harbouring ill intent against the country.” He means anti-monarchists. PPT has a suspicion that the struggle for control of the police is not finished, and Prem’s men are working hard. Hence the sometimes contradictory actions by the police in facing the armed and unarmed anti-democracy militants.

Making his point stronger, Prem says: “If we keep together like this, we will be strong and make those with ill thoughts for the country fearful of us…”. He thanked both forces for their loyalty to him.

Interestingly, this display of mutual posterior polishing and sycophancy is one normally led by the minister for defense. At present that is Yingluck Shinawatra, and she was conspicuous by her absence.

When Prem is on the march, political events – such as the 2006 military-palace coup, seem to result. Keep watching the old men.

Update: As if on cue, the old men are back in the limelight. No sooner had we completed the above post than a report has emerged that has the geriatric brigade working for Prem’s centrality in the current political struggles.

A “group of retired soldiers and former state officials” – in fact, the usual old men – “has called on … Prem Tinsulanonda to step in to help defuse the political crisis.”

It might well be asked how Prem, so central to many of the political disputes since he effectively rallied support for the military-palace coup in 2006, could ever “defuse” a situation he has done so much to create? The answer, of course, is that the geriatrics asking Prem to help them are anti-democratic royalists who know Prem is an ally.

They also know that he is “collective palace,” for the “group wants Gen Prem to act as a ‘middle man’ to work under His Majesty the King in finding ways to end the country’s turmoil.” That is the king they mention and want to be involved. To “protect” the king, they suggest “Prem should function as an intermediary between the King and other parties, since His Majesty has said he cannot be involved directly with political problems.” Boy, these guys are sharp! Like bowling balls.

Leading this bunch of aged ninnies is General Saiyud Kerdphol, the “chairman of the People’s Network for Elections,” which is a group that seems not to want elections but royally-appointed government.

Saiyud’s links with Prem go back to the 1960s when both were involved in U.S.-funded counterinsurgency operations. PPT would guess that Prem has been consulting with these aged plotters and that he would not have made these calls without Prem’s approval.

Saiyud said Prem:

could consult judicial agencies, the military and leaders of other organisations to draft a proposal to end the crisis. That proposal could then be forwarded to the King, who could instruct the statesman on how to proceed.

He argued the statesman’s post was originally created to carry out royal commands in times of crisis and perform responsibilities as directed by the King.

As far as we can determine, that last claim is simply concocted and has no basis in the legal framework of the Privy Council, although we acknowledge that Prem may well have played this role since joining the Privy Council.

Another member of Saiyud’s group is the royalist propagandist Pramote Nakhonthap, who previously worked for PAD, and was arrested once as an airport occupier with PAD and a plotter against the Samak government in 2008, trying to get the Privy Council/palace to throw out that elected government.

Pramote claimed that:

the King’s wishes should be heeded in the event of national emergencies. But he insisted the group is not asking the King to install a prime minister.

Mr Pramote said no statesman had assumed such a ”middle man” role before, but said that does not mean the King could not choose to exercise his power that way.

These plotters want the king to act in concert with the judicial coup, earlier if possible. Prem is certainly at it again.

 





Ji on Thailand’s democracy

14 04 2014

Readers will find Ji Ungpakorn’s Thailand: Democratic Audit 2014 of some interest. He begins with a very obvious and important point:

Thailand used to be a beacon of democracy in South-East Asia. Its democratic system was never perfect, but decades of struggle by social movements had limited the powers of the military and un-democratic elites. However, today, Thailand has slipped backwards, nestling comfortably with the various despotic regimes of ASEAN, with only the Philippines and Indonesia having some degree of freedom and democracy.

His “Democratic Audit” examines “a number of factors which are fundamental to a thriving democracy”:

1. The right of citizens to choose the government of their own preference in free and fair elections.

2. Freedom of expression.

3. Basic standards of justice for all citizens and measures to prevent state crimes.

4. The integrity of public institutions.

5. The strength of pro-democratic social movements and citizen participation.

6. Respect for the dignity of all citizens, gender rights, racism and self-determination for minorities.

7. Trade union and labour rights.

8. Economic equality.

9. Corruption.





Suthep and the lese majeste disease

14 04 2014

Lese majeste is like a dangerously infectious disease. The royalists have terminal cases. Yet, as we have seen in recent years, even the Puea Thai Party can come down with this political disease. Most recently, the Bangkok Post reports, that:

Pheu Thai member Singthong Buachum yesterday lodged a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban for alleged breach of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, which deals with lese majeste offences.

We understand the (il)logic of this. However, the lese majeste disease threatens to paralyze, disfigure and maim all.





Not making it up

13 04 2014

In our last post we vented some frustration with poor and spineless reporting that allowed royalists to appear as something other than political animals intent on saying anything that can bring their side advantage in their struggle to maintain political and economic power and privilege. In this post, we refer to material that could not possibly be made up, but which uses falsified and misleading information as if it were legitimate.

Chavanond being a spokesman (a Bangkok Post photo)

Chavanond being a spokesman (a Bangkok Post photo)

In a report at The Nation, the failed Democrat Party’s loudmouth-in-chief, rants on about Wuthipong Kachathamakul, who has been forced to go into hiding for apparently declaring that the king is and has been an enemy of democratic reform in Thailand. The Democrat Party, acting as judge, chief prosecutor and police detective, declares that Ko Tee is “hiding under the protection of an influential figure in the Northeast.”

Chavanond babbled that “it was time police proved that they were law enforcers and not servants of politicians.” He reckons the police “would be able to nab both Wuthipong and Ekkapob Luara, aka Tang Acheewa, who is wanted for alleged lese majeste offences following a speech he gave at a red-shirt rally last year.”

Recall that this is from a party that when in government ranted about “men in black” but produced no evidence of any worth about them and seemed unable to locate any even with the support of the Army. Recall that this is the party that when in government committed gross acts of violence against protesters and threw hundreds in jail. Recall that this is the party that when in government implemented a vast censorship campaign against political opponents.

Chavanond, as spokesperson for this party then resorted to complete dishonesty and nonsense when he “called on the police to get information about the plot to topple the monarchy from Department of Special Investigation (DSI) director-general Tarit Pengdith, saying Tarit had knowledge of the plot and links within the Pheu Thai Party.” Further:

He said police should start probing the alleged plot against the monarchy by looking into the case of Wuthipong. “If police are reluctant to take necessary action for fear of negative consequences to vested interest groups, the country will continue to face political conflict,” he said.

PPT imagines that the royalist party refers to the crazy diagram it drew up when Suthep Thaugsuban was in government, and which was meant to be a central element of a witch hunt against even more of the royalists’ political enemies. It was a concoction and nobody except diehard and foolish royalists took it seriously. Chavanond was one of them.

Chavanond is a genuine article, making nonsensical statements he must believe, but using concocted and recycled trash. What next? The Finland plot?

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

 





Updated: Making stuff up

13 04 2014

PPT never ceases to be amazed by the nonsensical reports in the mainstream media that seems to have been written by persons with no memory, neither short-term nor long-term. To recent examples appear in the Bangkok Post.

In one story, the Bangkok Post reports on an interview with “former Senate speaker, legal expert and Council of State member Meechai Ruchupan.” Oddly – perhaps we should say “Of course” – the Post doesn’t see fit to describe Meechai as a rabid royalist ideologue associated with the 2006 military coup and junta and with several anti-democratic movements.

If the Post had stated this political position, Meechai’s claims about the constitution on who has the responsibility to call the Senate together when the House is dissolved.

At least the Post pointed out that “Meechai does not see eye-to-eye with colleagues who recently told the cabinet secretariat that the parliament president has the authority to seek a royal decree for the Senate to be convened.”

The story should be that Meechai has broken ranks with his colleagues on the Council of State for political reasons.

Also at the Bangkok Post, Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri’s is reported as coming up with the not-so-bright “idea to seek a recommendation from His Majesty the King if the Constitutional Court rules against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra…”, using Section 7 of the Constitution.

PPT reckons it is dumb to try to involve the king/palace in anything political. They should be discouraged, not encouraged.

But what made us laugh in this report is royalist and anti-democrats criticizing “Chaikasem for trying to involve the institution of the monarchy in the political crisis…”.

Now, really, how ludicrous is such a claim from these political clowns? They spend almost all their time “defending the monarchy” and using it as a political weapon for lashing their opponents. And it was the anti-democrats who originally propounded the use of Section 7.

They are simply making stuff up and there seems no journalist willing to point out that these people are rolling in horse manure.

Update: Still making it up, the hopelessly biased and ridiculously incompetent Election Commission, unable to organize the 2 February election now thinks it is an agency on a constitutional par with an elected government (albeit in caretaker mode). It has been encouraged in this by the equally politicized Constitutional Court. The Election Commission “has warned there will be no chance of an election if the caretaker government and the EC cannot settle their differences.” It is a threat.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said the Constitution Court determined “the EC and the caretaker government must work together to set the date and organise a new general election.” He declared “that if the government and the EC cannot come to an understanding there will be no election.”

Look that fiction up in the constitution or electoral laws. Again, they are making it up for political advantage.

The point is that the EC is saying that it will determine the dte of the next election. When? “Somchai, who is in charge of election management, said the fresh poll is likely to be months away.”








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