The slide to military authoritarianism

13 06 2010

PPT has been posting about Thailand’s slide to military authoritarianism for several months. This slide has been presided over by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, abetted by a group of his close collaborators like Suthep Thaugsuban, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Privy Council-connected Panitan Wattanayagorn, Korn Chatikavanij, Kraisak Choonhavan, Kasit Piromya, and the generals Anupong Paojinda and Prayuth Chan-ocha.

This slide and the increased role of the military from the formation of the Abhisit government and with enhanced power under the circumstances of the crackdown on red shirts is why PPT refers to the Abhisit regime.

In Asia Times Online, Shawn Crispin recognizes this slide: “Thailand is sliding towards de-facto military rule and it is not clear that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has the will or power to turn back the authoritarian tide.”

Crispin uses the usual. shadowy and unnamed “sources” to say that “the Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES), which was formed to handle the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protest group’s street protests, is morphing into a sort of ‘shadow government’ to Abhisit’s democratically elected coalition.” This shadow government is putting in place structures that are intended to be long term.

Two points here. First, no one should need an unnamed source to make this statement of the obvious. Second, the claim that the Abhisit government is “democratically-elected” is unworthy of a journalist who should be able to see that a government of elected members of parliament and at least one who isn’t – Suthep – doesn’t necessarily warrant this legitimizing moniker. It is, however, the one the Abhisit regime prefers.

Much of the rest of the article is Crispin’s now usual descent into the murky and dark waters of speculation – this time on the potential for a red shirt insurgency. PPT sees speculation but not much else. Crispin has run this insurgency line since Jakrapob Penkair went into self-imposed exile in about April 2009. Crispin uses unnamed sources to again suggest that exiled red shirts might operates an insurgency from Cambodia. He compares this to southern insurgents operating from Malaysia; maybe he hasn’t noticed that the insurgency in the south operates locally….

Crispin does add some comments on hardliners in the miltiary, which seems at least to be partly evidence-based, when he states: “The ongoing crackdown against the UDD is being viewed in some royalist quarters as a measuring stick of regional commanders’ loyalty and effectiveness. Second Army Region commander Lieutenant General Weewalit Chornsamrit, who oversees security in the northeastern region, has passed the test with flying colors, according to one military insider. The First Army Region Commander, Lieutenant General Kanit Sapitak, charged with Bangkok’s security, has reportedly come under fire from Prayuth for his perceived hesitant response to the UDD.”

There’s also little doubt that the military has used the “threat to the monarchy” line for its own purposes and to shore up the Abhisit regime: “its clear from the ongoing crackdown on UDD supporters, including an academic who has been released and a newspaper editor who is still in detention, that the military is exercising emergency powers to identify and target perceived threats to the crown.”

Abhisit is claimed by Crispin to be some kind of bastion against the hardliners in the military. PPT sees no evidence of this. Abhisit has worked hand in glove with the military and his record in government is one that shows the slide into authoritarianism is his responsibility. That the military now take advantage of that shows that he has been essentially their pawn since they acted as his government’s midwife.



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