At The Nation Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda seems to have decided that people in the Malay-Muslim south are a bunch of gullible dolts. He demonstrates this when he states that “everybody in the country loved people in the predominantly Muslim South and were trying hard to bring love to the violence-hit region.”
Supported by a gaggle of privy councilors in uniform-like powder blue jackets as he tried to dupe “241 youths from the restive South” from one of the many royal projects that treat everyone like children.
Prem declared: “Love is important, it will bring peace, happiness and success… I beg all of you here to love them and make them good citizens,” Prem said to the audience, which also included former prime minister Surayut Chulanond, Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha, Navy commander Surasak Rounregnrom, Air Force commander Prachin Jantong and National Police chief Adul Saengsingkaew.
We don’t think Prem is an old hippie so exactly why he has a bee in his bonnet on love is not immediately clear, but it seems he is beating the elite’s old drum on a Thailand that no longer exists as a united nation under the monarchy, if that ever existed. So he prattles on about duty and love.
His claim that “[c]hildren of any religion can grow up to do good things for the country…” is on the one hand trite and, on the other, reflects fear. The fear is that he military is “failing” in the south and that the south may be “lost.”
His call: “What we have to do in our country is have love and unity,” is nothing new. It does seem there is a recognition that the hard-line military strategy is failing: “All of us here, the commanders and heads of all units, love our children [from the South] and that is our clear message to you…”.
Yet the military will keep doing what it always does.
Prem’s call is for greater loyalty:
“Shall we tell the children to love each other, love their parents, love their communities, love their professions and love our country?” he said. “This is not others’ country, it’s our nation. We are all Thai, we have to love our country to make it peaceful, strong, secured and developed…”.
And royalist. It might be 1985. Prem’s world no longer exists.