Further updated: What is the rumor?

17 12 2014

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Stock Exchange of Thailand says it found no irregularities in Monday’s stock plunge as battered Thai shares Tuesday extended their six-day skid” of about 10% since 8 December. It cites several possible contributing factors and then states “[a]n undisclosed local rumour and the tumbling oil price prompted the selling spree.”

In fact, the undisclosed is disclosed. Prachatai, citing the ultra-royalist ASTV, states the:

Thai junta on Tuesday accused a Thai journalist living in self-exile of spreading rumours about the Thai King’s health, which caused the Stock Exchange of Thailand to plunge dramatically on Monday.

Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Army and government spokesman, said the rumour about the King’s health was spread by Jom Petpradab, a veteran journalist now living in self-exile in the US.

In fact, PPT hasn’t followed Job, but we were also pretty sure that the SET trading was due to two things: that the king is so unwell that he is unable to operate; and related, that the succession has begun. Several of our recent posts about the “royal divorce” have indicated our guesses about this.

Because the media is so opaque and self-censoring on these things it is difficult to find evidence that is in any way solid. However, it seems pretty clear to us that the prince is preparing for his reign. That might be a cause for the sell-off as much as claims that the king is dead (or just resting).

Update 1: Another take on the rumors is provided by the Bangkok Post’s reporter assigned to the military, Wassana Nanuam, who claims several domestic rumors: General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh talking about a possible “counter-coup”; that the military dictatorship “might invalidate 1,000-baht banknotes in a bid to wipe out corrupt politicians and officials who keep all their money in cash”; an “internal conflict within the NCPO and between the NCPO and the ‘old powers’, a reference to soldiers loyal to Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda”; and, finally, although it is not quite stated as a rumor, “concern about His Majesty the King’s health…”.

Update 2: Prachatai has a story citing journalist Jom Petpradab mentioned above. He is reported to have issued “a statement released on Wednesday [stating] that he was very upset and worried with the allegation from the junta that he spreaded [sic.] the rumour which caused the biggest single-day loss in six years at the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).” He said that the story, “The inside story of the divorce between the Crown Prince and Mom Srirasmi,” which was published on Thai Voice Media website on 13 December 2014, “was initiated because he noticed that most of the public have sympathy for the former royal consort, so he intended to correct the popular misunderstanding about the divorce.” He states that he had “high level sources in the palace.” One of those sources stated that the “divorce” was done in “preparation for the succession. The source also speculated that the succession will take place during the military regime.”





Prayuth gets up close

24 11 2014

PPT might as well join the huge interest in the bizarre effort by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha getting “media friendly” in a very odd way.

The Straits Times reports that “Thailand’s military leader has opted for something a little more unorthodox – patting a reporter’s head and scratching behind his ear.”

The video of the General “petting a kneeling reporter during a chat with reporters earlier this week has gone viral…” after it was posted by Wassana Nanuam onto Facebook on Wednesday.

We have no idea what this is about or why he would do it.





In for the long haul II

13 11 2014

Some time ago, PPT posted on the military dictatorship being in position for the long haul. Then we were observing that despite claims about “democracy” and an “election” in about 12-15 months, the military dictatorship was likely to maintain control for a very long time.

Wassana Nanuam a senior reporter at the Bangkok Post now seems to agree with us, setting out the path to deep military involvement in Thailand’s post-junta regime.

She focuses on “speculation is growing over a plan by the men in green to form a new political party, or perhaps a nominee party with military backing.”

Previous military regimes that decided not to rule more directly tried this. Some past efforts have failed. In the post 2006 period, the military backed Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, and it did poorly in the 2011 election. Before that, when General Suchinda Kraprayoon tried a military party, it resulted in the 1992 rebellion.

She details moves that might politically position the military for the long term. The important considerations seems to be the observation that “[s]ome people in the military believe the Democrat Party will never win the next election, so the military might have to step in, or at least throw its support behind a party to challenge Pheu Thai.”

As a footnote, Wassana’s discussion of the dealings between General Prawit Wongsuwan and Thaksin Shinawatra put a different spin on this part of the story, worth considering.

In terms of transition beyond the military dictatorship, 12 years has often been mentioned as the period required to get back to full electoral democracy. It was 12 years from the coup in 1976 until Prem Tinsulanonda finally stepped aside in 1988.





Preventing the counter-coup

5 10 2014

Back in August, PPT posted on the military threat to the dictatorship. At the time, the Bangkok Post’s Wassana Nanuam revealed a motivation for the military dictatorship, saying that as then Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and others approached their scheduled retirement, they wanted to ensure that their successors did not stage a counter-coup.

We were somewhat skeptical, but then these military leaders are a very odd and politicized bunch of schemers and wheeler dealers, even if they are rather dull and unprofessional and untrustworthy soldiers.

What we didn’t figure was that the scheming military brass believe that there is a threat. This is why Wassana now reports that there has been a strategic “reshuffle of 371 army personnel…”. Interestingly, one of the big losers is said to be “Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya [whose subordinates] … lose control of all key combat units.”

Quoting unnamed sources, Wassana says the “move reflects new army chief Udomdej Sitabutr’s worries about a possible counter-coup and is being seen as a way to prevent it…”. Equally, the “changes are … viewed as a way to reward some of the officers who played key roles during the political unrest and the May 22 coup, [with] the reshuffle … intended to consolidate the power of the new army chief.”

Not surprisingly, it is the members of the Burapha Phayak, or Tigers of the East, that has been heavily promoted. After all, it is their bosses who mutinied and ran the coup.

Paiboon and his supporters have been sidelined, despite his role in the coup and the junta. Paiboon is not considered totally trustworthy because he “had close ties with key figures of the Pheu Thai Party and also had close ties with associates of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.” This means all his “boys” are also suspect. That said, this sidelining might yet turn out to be a political error, for the spurned may well revolt.

One of those rewarded is “Col Songwit Noonphakdi, … commander of the 11th Infantry Regiment, King’s Guard…”. He “led security operations for the safety of students after deadly confrontations with protesters at Ramkhamhaeng University last November. He also oversaw the response to clashes between anti-government protesters and a group of red shirts in the Laksi area on the eve of the Feb 2 election.”

As long-time readers will know, these operations were to protect those attacking red shirts.

The military dictatorship is taking no chances as they purge the nation of all Thaksin support. Of course, this is the plan that the anti-democrats put in place when they served as the advance guard of the coup.





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.








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