Surayud, the Privy Council, Piya Malakul and the 2006 coup

29 03 2009

Reports flowing from deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s accusations regarding moves to oust him, which eventually led to the 2006 coup, are coming thick and fast. PPT reports them here because they are revealing details about the political events of 2005 and 2006 that have resulted in both deep political divisions in Thailand and the increased use of lesé majesté charges in highly political ways.

In his denial that he was involved in planning Thaksin Shinawatra’s downfall, Privy Councilor (at the time and again now) General Surayud Chulanont (in the Bangkok Post, 29 March 2009: “Surayud says Thaksin coup claim untrue”) is reported to have said that he had “no desire nor was in any position to plot the overthrow of Thaksin.” Even so, the report states that Surayud is considering the call from General Panlop Pinmanee for him to quit the Privy Council.

The Post report has more details than the one in The Nation, mentioned by PPT in an earlier post, and reveals that “he had met prominent judges at the Sukhumvit residence of Piya Malakul, chairman of Pacific Intercommunications company, in early May 2006 as claimed by Thaksin.” It is added that Surayud stated that those at the dinner “never discussed any plan to organise a coup.” The General also “conceded [that] Panlop Pinmanee, the former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) – whom Thaksin claimed had leaked the coup plot involving Gen Surayud to him – was also at the meeting.” Surayud says that “everyone was exchanging views on national affairs over dinner…” but “We never drew any conclusion about seizing power…”. He also is reported to have said that he went to the dinner because, “As a privy councillor, he needed to be well-informed, meet people and seek out information.”

Further, General Surayud is reported as denying “Thaksin’s allegation he had informed His Majesty the King that Thaksin did not respect the monarchy. The accusation was baseless, as were claims he volunteered before the King to topple the government, Gen Surayud said, adding Thaksin was always paranoid about a coup…. He had no idea why Thaksin attacked him and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.”

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Pachun Tampratheep, an aide to General Prem, said “Thaksin often made veiled references to Gen Prem as a person behind moves to remove him. He said he was not worried those accusations would paint the Privy Council in a negative light as Thaksin loyalists never viewed the council positively anyway. Many people still had faith in Gen Prem, said Vice-Adm Pachun.”

In a related report in The Nation (29 March 2009: “Piya defends Surayud”), Piya Malakul has defended and supported General Surayud. Piya is reported to have claimed that “It was just ‘a dinner among friends.’ It wasn’t, as alleged by former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a ‘secret meeting to plot the Sept 19, 2006 coup.’ Piya said. Piya told Matichon Online that he had hosted the dinner after His Majesty the King had on April 25, the same year, urged the judges … to find a solution to the country’s political crisis at the time.” Piya added, “I only wanted to hear what the country’s top judges who happened to be my friends had to say about the situation…”. Surayud, in the Post reports, claims that he only personally knew Supreme Administrative Court President Ackaratorn Chularat.

The Nation links to one of their blogs, Thai Talk, by Suthichai Yoon (29 March 2009: “Piya Malakul, the dinner host, said there was no talk of coup”). Drawing from Matichon (29 March 2009: “ปีย์ มาลากุล เปิดตัวยัน สุรยุทธ์ ถก 3บิ๊กตุลาการ”ปัดวางแผนรัฐประหาร แค่ดินเนอร์-แม้ว-อ้อ ก็เคยมา”), the report continues: “He [Piya] first invited Mr Akrathorn Chullarat, President of  the Administrative Court, and Mr Chanchai Likhitchitta, President of the Supreme Court, to the dinner. ‘I had known Mr Akrathorn since we were both boys,’ Piya said. He then called up Gen Surayud and Mr Pramote Nakhonthap, an academic, to invite them to join the dinner. Mr Charan Pakdithanakul, then secretary general of the Supreme Court’s President and currently a member of the Constitutional Court, also joined the dinner.” Piya is adamant: “I can confirm that there was no talk of a coup or about who was going to get what position. There was not a single military officer there. How could we discuss a coup?”

According to Matichon, the 7 attendees at the dinner were Piya, Surayud, Panlop, Ackaratorn, Charnchai Likhitjitta, Charan Pakdithanakul and Pramote Nakornthap. Each of these persons has had particularly high profile roles that have impacted political developments since April 2006.

Piya Malakul na Ayuthaya is a 72 year businessman with close palace connections. Matichon includes extensive details about Piya, in Thai. Other available information on this seemingly colourful and influential figure:

Paul Handley (Asia Sentinel, 8 September 2008: “The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt”) refers to Piya’s role in 1992 and calls him the “king’s media adviser” and a “palace agent.” In the agitation over Thaksin’s letter to President Bush, Piya is mentioned as one of those who perhaps leaked the letter and promoted the response against Thaksin.

In a note to the McCargo and Ukrist book, The Thaksinization of Thailand, Piya and Pacific Intercommunications are mentioned. The company lost valuable contracts with the army after Thaksin reorganized the military hierarchy in late 2003 (also here). In the struggles for control of iTV, Piya, who was iTV’s vice chairman in charge of news operations, “was removed from the editorial board after he criticised the ‘politicisation in favour of the owner and candidate’,” referring to Thaksin.

When Pramual Rujanaseri’s controversial book (Phrarajaamnat or The Royal Prerogative) came out, the author stated that Piya, an editor at Advance Publishing Company, stated that the king liked his book. The book was very popular, not least amongst PAD leaders like Sondhi Limthongkul.

During his short time as prime minister in 2008, Samak Sundaravej claimed that a “half-bald man” he called Ai Terk was undermining the government and country. It is believed that he refered to Pin.


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22 10 2009
8 04 2010
Yellow academics « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Pramote Nakornthap above in respect of the Finland Plot. He was also one of those said to have helped arrange and been at the dinner at the Sukhumvit residence of Piya Malakul, chairman of Pacific Intercommunications company, in […]

6 04 2011
More on coups, the military and influential people | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] is to Piya Malaul and his coup planning buddies from 2006, including privy councilors (see here and here). The rumor gets even more remarkable – according to the Post’s unnamed […]