Following the 19 September 2006 palace-military coup, U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce met with palace insider and former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun. Boyce’s conversation with Anand is reported in a cable dated 21 September 2006. Boyce considered Anand as “Thailand’s most distinguished elder statesmen.” He also notes that “Anand made waves in August  when he publicly denounced Thailand’s course under Thaksin [Shinawatra].”
Boyce begins by recounting that Anand’s view on the coup was that it had “forestalled imminent political violence between Thaksin’s enemies and loyalists.” Helpfully, Boyce points out that the People’s Alliance for Democracy “had called for a major rally on September 20 to persuade Thaksin to resign. Thaksin’s allies publicly condemned the plan and rumors arose of an impending crackdown on protesters by security forces.”
That Anand is repeating a mere rumor suggests that he was either disconnected from the reality of political events or, far more likely, was conjuring a justification for the coup that foreigners might “buy.” After all, none of the coup “explanations” and justifications for the coup by the junta really gave this rumor much credence.
While Anand reportedly stated that “he could not have advocated a coup,” he was crystal clear in stating that he supported it. He claimed that “Thaksin’s administration had already become undemocratic.” For a twice unelected and appointed premier, the claim to democracy is more than a bit rich. Neither of his administrations was to be overthrown by the military-palace clique as he represented each.
He added that:
Thaksin had controlled the media, suppressed the free flow of information, and manipulated an uninformed electorate. He had corrupted the judiciary, to the point that court cases against him could not proceed. He had sabotaged the Constitution, manipulating political institutions that were supposed to be independent, destroying the system of checks and balances set up by the 1997 Constitution. Thaksin’s administration lacked accountability and transparency. In this environment, elections by themselves hardly ensured democracy. Thaksin blocked off all avenues for political change, leaving his opponents no option other than a coup.
Yes, Thaksin was powerful and had some arrogant and authoritarian tendencies. After all, his party controlled 75% of the seats in parliament, having won a massive electoral landslide. But had he done all of this and did his power demand a coup by a bevy of unelected and unrepresentative agents?
Here we see the patrician Anand expressing his position that ignorant voters were “manipulated.” The same Anand, of course, has never been elected to anything. He is a member of the elite that is selected for their powerful positions through birth, connections and money. He’d be lucky to know anyone from the “uninformed electorate,” unless they are his drivers, maids and gardeners.Maybe they could have told him whether elections had anything to do with democracy.
Did Thaksin corrupt the judiciary? He tried to but was far less successful than, say, the monarchy in getting the judiciary to do his bidding. Indeed, prior to the coup, he lost one very significant case that was seen as a measure of media freedom when journalist Supinya Klangnarong was sued for a fortune. She won.
This case also relates to the idea that Thaksin controlled the media. We think he’d have like to have had more control. He lost the case against Supinya and by early 2006, almost every newspaper was attacking Thaksin. Also, the military control a big segment of the electronic media, and Thaksin didn’t win control of them.
Did Thaksin try to pervert the independent agencies? The answer on that has to be yes, but that he still faced resistance from some of them.
In other words, Anand is both a consumer and purveyor of the royalist elite’s position on Thaksin that justified a coup. We think the elite essentially took a lazy way of working against Thaksin. These people simply couldn’t be bothered fighting Thaksin on democratic and lawful grounds; it was “easier” just to get the praetorian guard to ditch him out and restore Thai-style (non-)democracy.
Emphasizing Anand’s royalism, he argues that:
Thaksin further aggravated the Thai people by appearing to put himself on the same level as the King. Anand stopped short of characterizing Thaksin as disloyal to the King, but he said Thaksin failed to understand how many people came to perceive him as hostile to the monarchy.
PPT can’t recall the “Thai people” being aggravated. The royalist yellow shirts used this line as a way to weaken Thaksin but, frankly, most Thais weren’t buying it as anything other than royalist propaganda. Again, Anand is a member of a cabal of royalists who convinced themselves of Thaksin’s “disloyalty.”
Anand also noted “Thaksin had brought trouble upon himself by picking fights with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda…”. We’d suggest that it was Prem who chose to fight Thaksin and actively planned his downfall by Prem’s men in the military.
Anand’s political views are further revealed when he is asked about “constitutional reform.” He is said to have:
acknowledged problems in the 1997 Constitution, and he advocated abolishing the Senate as a non-partisan elected body…. A better alternative would be a House of Lords model, with the Senate consisting perhaps at least in part of former high-ranking officials, appointed in a transparent, systematic process.
Ah, yes, Anand feels like an English lord perhaps.Again, he is opposed to the idea of elections, and advocates the oxymoronic notion of appointments of “high-ranking officials” in a “transparent” manner. Anything but elections!
Boyce uses Anand as a tool in making his point to Washington that the coup is acceptable:
Given Anand’s experience as a Prime Minister who was appointed by a coup-instigating junta and then worked to restore democracy to Thailand, the ease with which he accepts the CDRM’s claim of noble intentions is noteworthy.
Well, of course he does; it is what he wanted. Get rid of Thaksin and put the patrician royalists back in their rightful position as rulers and string-pullers.
Boyce then makes the somewhat surprising admission:
This elitist point of view — shared by many wealthy and educated Thais, especially in Bangkok — gets to the heart of Thaksin’s claim about revolutionizing Thai politics, precisely by taking on these entrenched elites.
Indeed. What Boyce – and the royalist elite – doesn’t foresee is that their day is essentially gone, and the struggle to push the old and rich duffers aside would continue until today.