Soldiers, palace and politics

18 10 2010

Jonathan Manthorpe at the Vancouver Sun has a useful account of current politics in Thailand that mirrors some of the concerns raised by PPT in a recent post. He begins with the excellent observation that there “are increasing questions in Thailand about the exact balance of power and authority between the civilian government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the army commander-in-chief, Gen. Prayuth Chanocha.” This follows Prayuth’s decision to put almost 2000 soldiers back on Bangkok’s streets and his statement that “if the nation has not returned to order, the military – as a mechanism of government – must help build order first.”

While he says some claim that there has effectively been a military coup putting the military in charge, Manthorpe is more cautious, saying “what is evident is that the military, the royalist establishment and its supporters, and their chosen prime minister, Abhisit, are strengthening their defensive measures in the face of a persistent, bitter and violent political and social divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Manthorpe notes that the “threat” facing the establishment comes from the red shirts of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, who “have rebounded” following the Abhisit-ordered military crackdown in May. He also names the supposedly “ultramilitant breakaway group” from the main red shirts, Red Siam, as being named by some as responsible for the recent bombings. PPT doesn’t doubt that there are disgruntled red shirts working against the government, but the allegation remains unconfirmed.

The article points to conspiracy theories and uncertainties as multiplying and being a “feature of Thai politics where the interplay between courtiers around King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the military, and the elected parliament and government is often shadowy and hard to fathom.” Manthorpe goes on to explain: “The motivation for the September 2006 military coup was outrage among royalists at the activities of then prime minister and billionaire businessman Thaksin, who was seen as attempting to undermine the role of the monarchy as the unifying and binding force in Thai national life.” Of course, this is a partial explanation for the coup. However, as things have gone on, the weight given to this motivation has increased.

Manthorpe adds: “While no one suggests the king was involved in the coup, Thaksin supporters are less reluctant to point at former prime minister and army chief, Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, who is the president of the King’s Privy Council.” Actually, some, including PPT, have suggested that palace involvement goes to the top. This is simply because Prem is a loyal servant and is unlikely to act without approval on matters of such grave importance. The problems is that anyone who says this is liable to spend years in jail.



2 responses

18 10 2010
Tweets that mention Soldiers, palace and politics « Political Prisoners in Thailand --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by redarmyusa and NEWSpace, อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร. อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร said: Soldiers, palace and politics: Jonathan Manthorpe at the Vancouver Sun has a useful account of current politics in… […]

21 10 2010
Surachai to go to court on lese majeste « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the time, PPT said we didn’t doubt that there are disgruntled red shirts working against the government, but the […]

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