Chamlong on the Songkhran uprising, a coup plot, communists and the monarchy

27 04 2009

PPT understands that PAD leader Major-General Chamlong Srimuang is a major political actor in Thailand, and has been since the 1970s. At the same time, he is not the usual kind of politician, and maybe this difference explains some of his personal popularity over the years. As an unusual politician, he has not always been easily understood, especially when he is personally and politically quirky.

Some background before commenting on an interview with Chamlong.

As a devoted follower of the Santi Asoke sect, Chamlong’s religious views have been seen by some to underpin his politics and to explain some of his seemingly erratic decisions. A Young Turk military officer who was close to and served Prem Tinsulanond when he was prime minister, Chamlong was the founder and mentor of the Palang Dhamma Party (PDP) in the 1980s and it was this party that initially provided a platform for Thaksin Shinawatra. Chamlong was criticized for his handling of internal PDP politics in the last days of the Democrat Party-led government and he appeared to retired from politics, choosing Thaksin as the new party leader. In the elections that followed in July 1995, PDP did poorly, but was still able to join a coalition government led by the Chart Thai party. Thaksin was appointed a deputy prime minister. The PDP soon faded and was destroyed.

As Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party developed, Chamlong was a strong supporter and were a range of former PDP people. However, by 2005, Chamlong was speaking against Thaksin and TRT. He joined the PAD as one of its co-leaders and Santi Asoke’s so-called Dharmic Army were important to PAD’s organization and protest successes.

The Interview: This is all by way of introducing an interview with The Nation (27 April 2009: “Abhisit govt not in actual control”) where Chamlong’s ideas are set out, with some attention to the monarchy.

He begins by talking about the new political party that PAD is thinking of establishing and admits that some of its followers do not want to take this step. Asked about “new politics” – the code for a less representative political system proposed by PAD last year – he responds: “Palang Dharma actually practised the so-called ‘new politics’ which has been heralded by the PAD, even back before 1988, when the party was established. In 1990, an American professor who did his doctoral thesis at London University, later wrote a book entitled: ‘Chamlong Srimuang and the New Politics’. I guess it was then that the new politics was first recognised.”

Not quite right. He is referring to the book by British political scientist Duncan McCargo, Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics. By chance, PPT was reading this book at the very time that Chamlong was interviewed – 60 pages still to read – and the point McCargo seems to make is that Chamlong was not really representative of much that was “new” in Thai politics. Rather, he was a military man, interested in personalism, controlling, and so on. Packaged differently, but not so new. And, we don’t recall any serious PDP calls for reducing parliamentary representation for particular groups. Tell us if we are wrong.

He is then asked: “Who attempted to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul…” and answers: “I don’t know, but there two motives behind the murder attempt: PAD has tremendous support from the masses across the country and ASTV’s success as a mouthpiece for the PAD, which is known as the core of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement.” Chamlong seems to accept the view, once attributed to elements in the military and perhaps the palace, that both Sondhi and Thaksin are threats because of their ability to mobilize people.

The interviewer then asks why “Sonthi [was] the first target, … instead of those in red shirts?” Chamlong responds: “The people who gave the order didn’t care who they killed, first or later. But the current political turmoil dictated the order of kills. More importanly, there are known leaders of yellow-shirted people, who are even classsified as prime and secondary leaders, while there are no known leaders of red-shirted people. Should Thaksin be killed first? He stays abroad now.” Again, this is Chamlong affirming that both PAD and the red shirts are a threat to others in Thailand’s political quagmire.

The interviewer implies that Chamlong has said that there was an “effort to stage a coup on April 12 and 13” and asks why this planned coup was “aborted”? His response it that a “coup was seen as essential to bring peace – and secondly, it may have been used as bargaining power in exchange for a law to pardon [Thaksin], to promulgate a so-called Reconciliation Act, or even to amend the Constitution. Yet, I don’t know why it was aborted.” So this was a pro-Thaksin coup? Or was it a “reconciliation coup”?

Then the interviewer links this alleged coup and an “assassination attempt” – Sondhi or the privy councilor plot? – what did they want? Chamlong says that they “wanted power … to pardon some wrongdoers so they could escape serving prison terms and asset seizure. Or they wanted more and more power to become bigger in the country.”

The interviewer then jumps to what might be an unrelated topic – but then all of this does seem related somehow – and asks: “Does the ideology of some die-hard communists still exist? Was there any effort to revive it along with other tactics [used by the red shirts]?” Chamlong replies that “Some die-hard communists who became Thaksin’s allies will still pursue their ideology despite the collapse of Soviet-era communism and the capitalism now adopted by China. But it is very difficult for them to achieve their goal. They came up this time with a clear stance against the monarchy – a policy they never stated clearly during their armed struggle then. And they are complaining about the PAD using their anti-monarchy policy as the main goal in our campaign. It’s clear to everyone now that PAD always tells the truth.” He says that Thaksin was an ally to these communist anti-monarchists.

He adds that it is the “government’s duty to uphold and enforce the lese majeste law, as the anti-monarchy doctrine has been spread out and is now widely accepted by people who are highly-respected lecturers, who are admired by their like-minded students.” He sees this “anti-monarchy doctrine” as a “threat to national security” and states that the “government must take responsibility for its inaction in dealing with the widespread violation of the lese majeste laws.” He adds that PAD will become involved if the “government proved incompetent or was inactive in dealing with the issue.”

The reporter asks: “Will the PAD rally to oust the government if it does nothing to deal with people who want to pursue an anti-monarchy stance?” Chamlong replies that the threat to the monarchy must be dealt with, saying that the government “just cannot let these people get away.” The Democrat Party government is warned.



2 responses

28 04 2009
Example of PAD propaganda - from Chamlong « Media war

[…] has also posted its own  commentary on Chamlong’s  […]

28 04 2009
New: Beating the communist drum « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Take Action New: Chamlong on the Songkran uprising, a coup plot, communists and the monarchy […]

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