Military boss is country’s boss

25 08 2014

Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post, who sometimes sounds like a military cheerleader, has a flawed account of General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s elevation to prime minister following a very quick sign-off by the king.

Thailand’s 29th prime minister received the “royal command” in a ceremony at army headquarters. The Dictator is now “commander of the army, head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and prime minister…”. Getting his appointment in a ceremony behind Army doors was “a break from tradition,” yet it is certainly symbolic of where the power currently resides and where Prayuth places himself.

Prayuth is said to be the “first serving military officer to become prime minister in 22 years, when the Black May revolution of 1992 overthrew then-premier and Gen Suchinda Krapayoon.” That’s true, sort of. At the time that Suchinda took power, it followed an election, and the constitution required that he resign his military positions.

The report also states that Prayuth is “the first coup leader to serve as prime minister since Sarit Thanarat in 1957.” This is incorrect. Suchinda was a coup leader and so was General Kriangsak Chomanan. So too was General Thanom Kittikachorn, depending on how one counts coups. We see no reason for diminishing the role of the military and its coup-making!

Apart from this, the report throws in details about General Prem Tinsulanonda, another former unelected prime minister, who edged out Kriangsak by arranging an internal Army move against the latter. Having the support of the palace assisted Prem.

In the report, “Privy Council president Prem … has decided to forgo his usual meeting with senior military leaders to mark his birthday this year.” Given that they all slithered around to the old man’s place just a couple of weeks ago, and that he is unwell, that’s not s aurprise, but the comment attributed to Prem that he “does not want to disturb NCPO members…” is suggestive of his support for the military junta.





The Dictator and the kamnan

28 06 2014

Last week, the exuberant, coup-supporting Suthep Thaugsuban babbled and bragged just a little too much at an anti-democrat get-together, telling how the now Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and he plotted and planned the May coup, scheming and working together to overthrow another elected government. According to Bangkok Pundit, Suthep was supporting Prayuth and the coup, declaring:

[I] ask all of us to help assist the work of the NCPO [that's the military junta] in advancing the reform of the country [and] solving corruption problems, [and] to give moral support [to the NCPO] because from now on once the honeymoon period ends, they will be confronted with pressure on many [issues]. The NCPO has taken over the work and the movement until the point that the proposals of the [PDRC] masses [and] they are ready to hear all [our] proposals and for us to have involvement in making proposals.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

Prayuth was ticked off because, in his mind the coup is somehow “legal” and he was only engaged in “legal” activities prior to the coup. Everyone knows this is horse manure, but Prayuth thinks he needs a facade that is a charade.

So it is that the Bangkok Post junta reporter Wassana Nanuam dutifully tells us that Prayuth “sternly ordered an end to all political talk.” Add that to the other things the Dictator wants off the agenda: ideas, websites, social media, books, food and clothing.

Prayuth declared: “I did not collude with anybody,” adding that “[t]he deterioration of the political situation forced the army to resolve the problem…”. No one believes him.

The Dictator declared no more public get-togethers where embarrassing statements could be disclosed: “Stop it here. Don’t organise events like political talks and dinners to raise funds to help anybody. It’s not the right time to do that…”. And don’t embarrass the boss.

He added: “Gatherings or events cannot be organised because they are in violation of the martial law.”

The Nation reports that the lead anti-democrat seems to think his buddy is joking about, and will reportedly “continue holding fund-raising events, but they will be closed to media and ‘outsiders’, said a source who asked not to be named.” The event might already be underway. Will the Dictator throw his underling in jail? It remains to be seen if Suthep thinks better of it and knuckles under for the boss and meets with just “key members of the movement and some ‘thinkers’ on reforming the country to dine together and discuss some issues.”

We take it that “thinkers” refers to royalist ideologues. Our guess is that Suthep has to give way and let the Dictator lead. The warning to those who mobilize the anti-democrats went out quite some time ago, when Sondhi Limthongkul was punished for getting above himself, and was attacked with automatic weapons. We imagine Suthep should have learned that lesson.





Further updated: Anti-democrat action

9 05 2014

PPT does not have the capacity to provide a live blog on the events today. However, The Nation, with all of its anti-democrat sympathies seems to be doing this at its breaking news link.Nation News - Copy

The most alarming aspects of this reporting are regarding intimidation. One report states that the anti-democrats will rally at Channels 3, 5, 7, 9 and NBT “because it regards that the TV stations have served as the government’s mouthpiece,” which is utter nonsense. It is added that Thai PBS is exempted. Presumably it is considered on-side with the anti-democratic message. The thugs will “seek cooperation” from the TV stations to “broadcast statements of the PDRC…”. They are already at the TV stations.

They also plan to seize parliament and Government House and are blocking several roads including Silom and Rama IV.

Update 1: Wassana at the Bangkok Post: “The prospect of a coup is looking more appealing since other political solutions proposed by various groups are looking futile.”

Update 2: Pravit at Facebook: “PDRC has surrounded all major Free TV stations demanding that they stop reporting news about the government and relay signal from PDRC stage when ‘requested’. Very democratic indeed!”

Update 3: The Nation reports that the anti-democrats, led by Suthep Thaugsuban, were welcomed by their yellow-shirted allies at parliament. Their allies are the mainly unelected senators who act as the royalist ballast against elected parliamentarians. Suthep, “welcomed to the Parliament after marching from the Government House,” asked the Senate “to help find a solution to the country’s ongoing political stalemate.” Of course, the senate has no such constitutional role and its meetings once the house is prorogued is very, very limited. But that doesn’t bother anti-democrats.

Update 4: Siam Voices is doing some live blogging and rounding up information from the tweets and posts on social media.

 

 





The prince’s men

14 02 2014

Readers may recall that just over a week ago we posted on a movement of troops that caused considerable social media attention. Part of the reason for this was that the troops were associated with Prince Vajiralongkorn, and he was rumored to be supporting the government.

The social media faction that argues that succession is the key to understanding Thailand’s political crisis saw the troop movement as some kind of support for their position.Prince in uniform

Now the Bangkok Post has reported what can only be an “official statement” on what happened. We say this because while it appears as a “report,” it is actually in the form of an announcement under the name of Wassana Nanuam.

The report is interesting for it could be used by the “succession crowd” or by those who are not so struck by this claim that this is the explanatory key.

It does state:

There have, however, been recent attempts to link the creation of the Royal Security Command to the political conflict. Fake documents were released saying the command had assigned 3,000 of its officers to take care of the prime minister, seemingly in an attempt to draw the monarchy into the ongoing political unrest.

Permanent secretary for defence Gen Niphat Thonglek confirmed no such order had been issued, as did ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol, secretary to the Crown Prince.

”The command has nothing to do with politics. Its main duty is to provide security to members of the royal family,” Gen Nipat said.

The account reports 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.”

The first thing to notice is that this is fixing some kind of previous problem or issue. What that is is never made clear, but if we were interested in the succession issue, we’d likely see this as a positioning maneuver.

The reporting lines are explained, and support this line of thinking:

Reporting directly to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the command will be assigned to provide security for the royal family, as well as take charge of administrative affairs for the palace and His Royal Highness.

This is not a small unit; it “comprises six battalions of soldiers, [who] will be placed on the Defence Ministry’s payroll, permanent secretary for defence Niphat Thonglek said, rather than the army’s as in the past.” We are not military wonks, but we guess a battalion is several hundred troops.

There is a bunch of stuff about this group recruiting and being an elite unit with better pay and so on. And also some stuff about how the recruits get tough and specialist training and are on probation for some time.

This unit is know as “The Royal Guard 904,” and “well recognised for its strict discipline and professionalism. The officers are thoroughly screened to ensure competency.” Loyalty to the prince too, no doubt.

Interestingly a point is made that this Royal Guard includes an “all-female team…”. Make of that what you will.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has reportedly said that he is “confident these officers are fit for the duty of providing security for the royal family.” That could be read as a linking of the Army to the prince as succession looms.

There’s something going on.

 

 





On monarchist mafias, political madness and coups

22 05 2012

Is the monarchy really the most important and nation-defining element of a supposedly modern Thailand? It certainly seems that the Army brass has defined their world in terms of the monarchy. For the military, nothing else seems to matter. Forget the things most of the world’s professional armed forces consider relevant and important.

That seems to be the story from a new Thai-language book, Lab Luang Prang V, by the Bangkok Post’s military affairs reporter Wassana Nanuam, reviewed in her newspaper. The review states that Wassana’s new book:

… again stirs the local political pot and while she doesn’t actually come out and state in so many words that another coup is in the making, one can read between the lines when she explains that the army _ and its present leader, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha _ “has to prepare” for any movement _ she could be referring to the red-shirt camp or left-leaning intellectuals or some other group _ that might try to undermine the monarchy.

In the book, Wassana apparently:

… lists various scenarios which might pitch the army against the present government: a reshuffle of high-ranking army officers to flush out and sideline monarchists is one she discusses; another is an excessively zealous public campaign to revise Section 112 of the Criminal Code (which outlaws lese-majeste).

In other words, there is not even a shaky pretense that the current Army leadership is an apolitical and professional. It seems that the Army is incapable of anything other than “protecting” the monarchy by coups, orchestrating the installation of royalist governments and gunning down oppositions.

The reviewer observes that Wassana sounds “at times a bit like Mario Puzo in one of his Mafia novels…”. There is much to this as the Army is a mafia-like organization with links to the underworld. Like the monarchy’s mafia,

Wassana gives a lively account of the two major factions within the army at present. The dominant Burapha Payak clique, which includes army chief Prayuth, is so close to the monarchy that members are often referred to as taharn sua Phra Rajini (soldiers of HM the Queen). Its influence currently eclipses that of Wong Thewan, a faction comprising scions of ultra-elite families, which once controlled the army.

In fact, it makes little difference whether it is the current mafia or the previous mafia clique, in practice, they tend to operate in pretty much the same manner.

As an illustration, Wassana apparently offers an insight on the death of senior soldiers in April 2010 as they fired on red shirts. Her claim is that the shooting “by mysterious men dressed in black … was the result of a personal vendetta by an unspecified force of militants against Burapha Payak.” In other words, she is suggesting internal Army conflicts led to military-on-military fighting.

As startling as this “inside view” is, according to the review, the “highlight of the book are the hints about a possible coup.”

Wassana apparently reveals the significance for the Army of the floods in 2011. Readers may recall that the Army was slow to move on floods, and when it did, it appeared to be driven by the PR need  to rebuild its image after the bloody crackdown on the red shirts in 2010.  Wassana believes it was more than this, for it was preparing support for military political interventions. In terms of a “hypothetical putsch the army will make use of logistics it developed and connections it forged with various communities last year when troops were deployed to assist victims of the devastating floods.”

It becomes clear why the military politicized flood relief as they prepare for a possible coup.

Wassana is said to be disdainful of “coup-makers who, she says, may win the battle, but will lose the war.” She thinks a coup could bring the end of the monarchy. That makes sense, but Wassana is also able to be as mad as a hatter. In predicting red shirt opposition to any coup, she apparently

devotes a whole chapter, entitled ‘Red America’, to claims that the United States is giving support to those who are seeking to revise Section 112. This move is supposedly part of a geopolitical strategy to reclaim US dominance over our region and offset the increasing influence exerted by China.

Frankly, this is absolute nonsense. Anyone familiar with U.S. policy would know that such a claim has no evidence to back it. Rather, Wassana appears to be drawing on bizarre conspiracy theories that have emerged from a small and extreme group from the libertarian U.S. right-wing. This group constructs conspiracies based on a selective use of “facts,” and has been strongly taken up by equally loopy conspiricists amongst ultra-royalists.

Wassana is not the only one to believe fairy tales.  A chapter of the book tells readers that

a soothsayer has told army commander-in-chief Prayuth that he is the reincarnation of a warrior who served the 16th-century King Naresuan the Great and that he has been reborn for the express purpose of saving our nation. dedicated to superstitious beliefs and predictions.

If that is true, the Army is led by a person who probably thinks vampire movies are documentaries. But, then, some would say that the army is full of blood suckers and other devils.





Coup talk and Nitirat

9 02 2012

Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post has a column worth reading. It is about the “threat” apparently posed to the military leadership as the custodians of  “royalist democracy” by a few academics asking that parliament consider amending the lese majeste law.

She recounts the time sequence of military threats to the small Nitirat group:

1) General Boonlert Kaewprasit: “chairman of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School Foundation and leader of Class 1, who recently urged all soldiers to protect the monarchy. He warned of a possible coup if there was no respect for highest institution of the land.”

2) Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha: against any attempt to amend Article 112. He infamously declared that anyone who supported the Nitirat call should “go and live abroad” and asked: “Were you born in Thailand?” He promised Nitirat: “If you guys play hard ball, I’ll have no choice but to do so, too.”

3) Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn declared: “The armed forces are against amending Section 112. Personally, I strongly oppose it.” Joining the nasty attacks on Nitirat, he “criticised overseas-educated academics who support the amendment.” He warned them “not forget that they are Thai.” And, he wondered aloud “whether they [Nitirat] have any hidden agenda.”

4) “[T]he army has also deployed officials from the Internal Security Operations Command to play a “behind-the-scenes” role in countering Nitirat.”

5) Prayuth came out again to declare: “The armed forces are duty-bound to protect the monarchy. We will not stand still. I myself am against the amendment or any attempt to touch Section 112, because Thailand and the royal institution cannot be separated.”

Wassana observes that with “Pheu Thai in power, the armed forces seem to be the only hope left for the anti-Thaksin groups, including the yellow shirts, to end Thaksin’s political influence.”

But is a coup on the agenda? Wassana seems to think it would just be too much trouble, with the Army having learned a hard lesson after 2006. She also says that “Pheu Thai is wary of a coup but believes the armed forces will not do it this time because they would face public opposition which could turn the coup into a bloody tragedy.”

PPT’s view is different, and we think a coup remains on the agenda, but that getting rid of Puea Thai by “other means” a la 2008 is also on the agenda. But let’s continue with Wassana’s view that the “only thing the armed forces can do is not to turn to using force. They are using only their voice to tame those trying to put an end to the monarchy.” We assume she means: “They are using only their voice to tame those they believe are trying to put an end to the monarchy,” otherwise she’d be clearly biased.

She then adds a neat tidbit:

And it is not surprising that this campaign is led by the two generals: Thanasak and Prayuth. Gen Thanasak is a Special Guard for Her Majesty the Queen and Gen Prayuth has been a member of the Queen’s Guard for all of his military career, as an alumni of the 21st Infantry Regiment of the Queen’s Guard in Chon Buri.

She concludes, and we agree: “But do not blink, as anything can happen in Thai politics.” Especially when the military and palace are in play.





Preparing to throw out another elected government

12 11 2011

PPT never imagined that the electoral defeat of July 2011 would be accepted by the defeated opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, the red shirts, Yingluck Shinawatra and the Puea Thai Party. The Army, the entirely misnamed Democrat Party, yellow/multi shirts and their big boss backers have never accepted that defeat. They consider themselves the rightful owners and rulers of Thailand and consider elections a flawed political process. A couple of reports in recent days suggest how these groups are re-mobilizing with political tools they’ve used before.

The first report links to PPT’s astonishment expressed in a recent post regarding the threat by Chulalongkorn University academic that he would sue the government. We couldn’t imagine much from Narong Phetprasert, a founder of the Fascist-like neo-nationalist movement a decade or more ago, being take seriously. However, a more detailed and later report, makes it clear that his action is part of a strategy being developed by anti-government academics and activists. That these activists are rounding on the government is why the mainstream media is interested and promoting their “cause.”

Narong claims he has “discussed the matter with lawyers and found a couple of legal points that can be pursued.” His discussions have been with the notoriously yellow-shirted Lawyers Association of Thailand. He can’t expect a “class action suit which will cover not only those who are directly affected by the flood, but those who lost income as well” to be taken seriously, but that isn’t the point. The purpose of the action is to begin the active campaign to bring down the government.

He is supported by lawyer Srisuwan Janya, president of Stop Global Warming Association Thailand, also a driving force in the Lawyers Association of Thailand. Srisuwan “said people who are considering taking action should join a flood forum on Dec 15…. And those who want to sue the government cannot miss this…”. Kriangsak Woramongkolchai, a spokesman for the Lawyers Association of Thailand, joined the call to establish the flood was caused by mismanagement and to sue.

This activism is couched in populist terms but is meant to destabilize the administration and allow opportunities for a “movement” to develop and for the biased judiciary to be used. The pattern will be familiar to anyone who followed the rise of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in 2005.

That movement led to the 2006 coup, so it is no surprise to see the military carefully positioning itself as an ally of anti-government forces. In a report at the Bangkok Post, sprouting the mantra that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her coalition government face “declining popularity,” the alternative government appears to be identified as residing with Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his forces.

On the survey data, PPT urges readers to look at Bangkok Pundit’s account which bears the hallmarks of maturity, perspective and some critical thought – all qualities sadly missing from the Bangkok Post in recent times.

Reflecting the opinions of the mainstream media and anti-Puea Thai Party elements in Bangkok, reporter Wassana Nanuam claims the “floodwaters are washing away her credit and, in contrast, boosting the popularity of the armed forces, especially the army under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, because soldiers have become the core group helping flood-affected people.”

She then claims: “In Bangkok and suburban areas alone, army trucks and boats are everywhere, giving passengers a free ride when the public transport system is paralysed and comes to a standstill in some locations where the high level of water makes the roads impassable for buses and other ordinary vehicles.” PPT points out that this is a gross exaggeration that parrots politicized propaganda.

Anyone who watches Thai television (other than the Army’s own propaganda channel) recognises that the Army is active but that so too are thousands of ordinary government officials and huge numbers from the private sector.

Wassana claims that the “floods are making people forget about the negative image of the army last year, when soldiers used force to break up the anti-government rally of the red shirts in the heart of the capital.” She means when they used snipers to gun down scores of people, in a massacre that was reminiscent of several previous attacks on civilians by the military. Of course, there are other assessments of the military’s flood role that are not nearly so positive.

But then Wassana gets to the point of this propaganda and to what is an important point that is probably felt to be best made in a story that repeats all of the pro-Army propaganda: “More importantly, the present role of the army has made Gen Prayuth ‘a star’…”. She says “the public” is making “comparisons between him and the prime minister.”

PPT has posted several times on how reporters and opinion page writers have been demanding strong leadership. Of course, these are the same lot who hated Thaksin Shinawatra’s strong leadership…. They only want unelected strong men.

Wassana makes the all too obvious point about the Army’s PR offensive: “[t]he rising popularity of the army is not an encouraging sign for Thai politics…. Gen Prayuth is seen as being on the side of “the amataya” or aristocracy which stands against Pheu Thai and United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.” Water coup talk again? It seems that Wassana wants to raise exactly this point.

The army is unable and unwilling to wean itself of its control addiction, and Wassana reveals the leadership’s current political position: “the government has been a failure in its handling of the crisis. Ms Yingluck lacked leadership, did not put the right man on the right job, played a political game with the Democrat Party which controls the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and spent more energy trying to save Pheu Thai’s constituencies in Bangkok from flooding than other areas…”. It matters little whether this assessment is even marginally accurate, for it is a statement that the military is at war with yet another elected government.

Prayuth himself is playing a careful game, allowing Yingluck to be criticized by his underlings and then denying responsibility and claiming to not be mutinous like pretty much all the leadership of the Army. But, and here Wassana is correct, the “power play between the army and politicians will not end…. The conflict between the two and the way in which Ms Yingluck and Gen Prayuth are going in their different directions could give the Democrats or ‘the amataya’ a chance to widen the rift so as to pave the way for the army to oust the government.”

More pointedly, she asserts that “it may be possible that Gen Prayuth might be used to confront the youngest sister of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, when the army on one side and the UDD and Pheu Thai on the other, have very fragile relations. Gen Prayuth’s position remains unchanged. He does not like the red shirts or Thaksin. He is determined to protect the monarchy and lives with the motto that ‘Country Above All’.”








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