Reading the military’s political dominance

21 07 2010

There are several items that caught PPT’s eye in the Bangkok Post today. All are indicative of the decline of politics under the Abhisit Vejjajiva military-civilian regime.

The first was in a story about the Constituency 6 election. In it, the Post reports the results of a Police Special Branch poll of voting intention. Why on earth is the Special Branch doing this? Are they trying to influence voters? Another sign of the throwback regime that is running Thailand’s politics in a manner that reflects the deepest, darkest days of the Cold War and military dominance.

Related in the sense that it shows how powerful the military have become is a second article that focuses on the failure to lift emergency rule in most provinces that still suffer this undemocratic intrusion on politics and daily lives. In it, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence General Apichart Penkitti is quoted as saying that he “believes the political activities of the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts still pose a threat…”. Apparently the general is worried about a birthday party for the absent Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now the last time PPT looked, Puea Thai was a legal political party. But the leading military bureaucrat now labels their political activities a threat. It is all downhill from here. Next they’ll want to ban Puea Thai after dissolving its two predecessor parties. Maybe the Department of Special Investigation will start crashing birthday parties in search of evil opponents of the regime and so-called Democrat Party?

The same article mentions that the army is “seeking 60 million baht from the central budget to support the work of security guards for the prime minister and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban amid rumours about an assassination plot.” This rumor has been around for a considerable time, but there is still no accounting of how much money CRES and the government are spending protecting themselves.

A third story, linked to the lack of transparency on military spending is the account of the army “seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.” Apparently, “army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces’ leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.” The APCs haven’t been delivered because the motors overheat and seize. So they are useless, but they order more. And Anupong wants the whole thing done before he retires. A retirement fund perhaps? If so, its 4.6 billion baht, making the non-flying and deflated 350 million baht zeppelin seem like small change.

It is all a bit too obvious and too depressing. Thailand is in a vortex of actions and interests that are at once a Cold War throwback but also something new, where the military has a civilian front. That seems to have been the lesson of failure of more or less direct military rule after the 2006 coup: get the civilians to be the front men and women and have them run down the rat hole of authoritarianism, censorship, repression and corruption.



One response

8 09 2010
The army and cabinet « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] army and cabinet PPT readers may remember that we posted some time ago on the military’s budget requests that included funding for the amazing APC […]

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