Former General and unelected Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda is old yet still prepared to babble on about political issues in repeated displays of double standards.
He does this as the head of the Privy Council, an ostensibly apolitical organization that advises the king, but which has been highly politicized by Prem, to the extent that its members, and notably Prem himself, have taken high profile positions that have led to military putsches.
In a report at the Bangkok Post, Prem is at it again.
Prem has suggested that “[q]uick and decisive legal action that makes people afraid to cheat is the only solution to Thailand’s corruption problem…”. He identified two major problems for Thailand: “poverty and corruption.”
As might be expected from a man who has spent his retirement in the employ of Sino-Thai tycoons in the palace and banks while living in taxpayer-funded housing and rarely shaking the dust of his own wallet, Prem doesn’t think that poverty needs the same “strong and urgent attention as corruption…”.
Let’s not argue with him on this except to observe that he might have considered inequality as being as much a problem as poverty and that he might have considered the links between poverty, inequality and corruption. In fact, corruption underpins that system of political, economic and social power that has the monarchy as its keystone.
Prem is right to say that “corruption [has] long has existed in the country…”.
He states that people don’t fight corruption “because most people think … it is better for them to stay indifferent instead of making enemies…”.
We think he speaks from ample personal experience. When army commander, the military controlled all of Thailand’s borders and managed and profited from human, arms and drug smuggling. The military under Prem was also known to engage in illegal logging and gems trading.
When Prem was prime minister, nothing much was done other than to consolidate the corruption of the military into corporation-like arrangements.
One of the biggest deals for the military was its control of the Cambodian border when the West and China collaborated to oppose the Vietnamese-backed regime that ousted the Khmer Rouge. Many military leaders did very well through this control.