On length

12 09 2014
Wassana Nanuam is a senior news reporter covering military affairs for for the Bangkok Post. She usually knows what The Dictator is planning and sometimes acts as a conduit for the military in getting its view known. That is always very useful for her readers because they are getting an inside perspective.

In this context, her recent comments on the longevity of the junta are important:

With a hint delivered during his weekly address last Friday, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha let us know that his tenure will not end in one year as initially announced.

She’s right that this should be “no surprise.” She says this is because Prayuth has an “ambitious” plan. We’d suggest the agenda is as ambitious as is required to establish a Prem-like “semi-dictatorship.” Wassana says this “may take two to three years or longer…”. We think it will take as long as The Dictator thinks is necessary. “Necessity” may demand staying in power long enough for the king to die and ensure a successful succession.

Wassana reckons there is a threat to the military dictatorship: “the underground movements of anti-coup groups which are ready to surge once martial law is lifted.” This is little more than junta propaganda and there’s no evidence for the claim. Her hclaim that the military dictatorship will be around for a considerable time because “pro-coup people want the military to … make sure that the ‘Thaksin regime’ will not return” is much closer to the mark.Prayuth and Suthep

Wassana notes that Prayuth “has strengthened his power base for a long tenure” through “military transfers.” He “handpicked deputy army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr as his successor for the top army position and also deputy defence minister.” Udomdej is Queen’s Guard and the two have “been close since they were junior officers.”

The two of them have concocted a story that they “fought side by side in 1983, when the Vietnamese army” and that the “two eventually pushed the Vietnamese out of the Thai border.” As far as we can recall, the Thai Army, trained only for killing its own citizens, was repeatedly in trouble against the Vietnamese, who were attacking Khmer Rouge sites protected by the Thai military.

Udomdej has also “served both Gen Prawit Wongsuwon and Gen Anupong Paojinda.” Udomdej is likely to only last a year as he retires in 2015, and is likely to be replaced by “Lt Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, younger brother of Gen Prayuth who was promoted to the rank of full general to become assistant army chief.” Wassana states:

It is said that Gen Prayuth, as prime minister, will have a major say in naming the next army chief, and it would not be unusual to push his own brother to the top post. It would be an honour for the Chan-ocha family if two members become army chief, and Gen Prayuth has no doubts over his brother’s loyalty.

Wassana concludes that:

Prayuth has nothing to worry about while he runs the country. A counter-coup is not possible. If the situation is not good for general elections, Gen Prayuth can prolong his interim government with no challenges from the armed forces.

Prayuth can stay in power for a log time. The only question that is unanswered is whether The Dictator can keep control of the population. That is usually where dictatorships stumble.

The tale of junta longevity is confirmed in another Bangkok Post story where the military sycophant-cum-Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam makes the bizarre claim that the junta “will become only an organisation, not a government as it previously was.” This claim is that the junta is being replaced by a “government.” That this government is entirely the offspring of the junta is somethign Wissanu is hired to deny and propagandize about.

This claim by Wissanu is so loopy that when he says that the junta “can no longer issue any announcements or orders, nor can it summon anyone to report as the government has taken on all decision-making powers on national administration” is simply a ridiculous lie.

Wissanu is simply making the case for a long-term military-dominated government.





General inflation

11 09 2014

Thailand is sometimes said to lack certain things. Some suggest that it lacks democracy. Others say it lacks political civility. However many items are listed as “lacking,” there is one thing that Thailand does not lack: military generals.

According to Wassana Nanuam in the Bangkok Post, this year’s military reshuffle result a mammoth 1,092 generals.

Wassana states that “Thailand’s total military strength is 550,000 men and women, of whom about 245,000 are reserve or paramilitary.”Brassy

She compares this with the United States, which has a total military and paramilitary strength of 2.2 million, but where “US law limits the number of active generals and flag-rank officers to a maximum of 652, although there are almost always fewer.”

In fact, the New York Times states there are “nearly 1,000 flag officers preside over about 1.3 million…”.

This seems to us to suggest that the Thai military five times as many generals as the U.S. military.

As has long been reported, the huge number of generals is usually due to the top brass rewarding loyalty to their class mates.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha wants to reward all those who have worked with him to crush red shirts.

The taxpayer picks up the bill for this General inflation.





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.








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