Prayuth’s fury

11 06 2011

In an astonishing display of fury that seemed to descend into a testosterone-laced comparison of size and power, Army boss and royalist-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has lashed out at the Puea Thai Party and red shirts. He seems to be joining the throng of establishment figures who are deeply concerned that Puea Thai might pull off an election victory. He has plenty of reasons for not wanting this. Not least, Prayuth has been responsible for ensuring that Puea Thai does not win. If they do, his political position is challenged and his pro-Democrat Party actions, with huge budgets, are demonstrated to have failed.

There are several reports of Prayuth’s recent concerns and outbursts. The first is from Reuters and suggests a generalized astonishment on Prayuth’s part. The report has Prayuth commenting on a “military inquiry by the 2nd Army Region into some 200 ‘Red Shirt villages…’.” Reuters says there are more than 320 such villages. While the army investigation said these villagers were only demonstrating loyalty to red shirt causes, Prayuth is not sure. He admits that declaring loyalty to red shirts is not illegal but asks “whether this is an appropriate thing to do. … [I]t has raised questions about the social implications in the country from assigning colours to villages…”.

What is in Prayuth’s mind is the monarchy: “Thailand, and Thais should have only one colour — the colour of our national flag signifying the nation, religion and monarchy…”. Perhaps he also remembers the “liberated zones” of the counterinsurgency period? Prayuth’s royalist hackles are clearly raised by this “provocation.” But he’s not sounding rabid at this point.

The second and third reports are from The Nation and the Bangkok Post, and show a furious Prayuth frothing about perceived provocations to the military.

The story relates to a previous Puea Thai Party complaint that the military was threatening potential voters and red shirts by conducting a high-profile anti-drugs campaign that was focused almost entirely in areas where red shirts are strong in and around Bangkok. This complaint was dismissed by the army, which said the campaign would continue.

Over the past few days, a war of words developed between Puea Thai candidate Pairoj Isarasereepong and the Army Spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who is hated by many red shirts as the “face” of regime propaganda during the events and killings of March-May 2010. Sansern is the one who repeatedly says that the military killed no one in those dark days, so his capacity for the truth is restricted.

After Pairoj complained again about military intimidation, Sansern accused the candidate and his aides of “intimidating three military members of the government’s Task Force 315 anti-drug unit in a search at Sap Charoen estate in Nong Chok district on May 23.” The area is described in The Nation as a “red zone,” and at the time had “red clothes hanging out to dry outside many homes.”

Sansern accused Pairoj’s team of “surrounding” the army patrol, swearing at the soldiers, threatening them and of using weapons to threaten the soldiers. Pairoj disagrees and filed defamation complaints against Sansern. He claims local residents complained of the military’s presence. He further claims that the Nong Chok police chief was present when he confronted three members of the army task force.

These events sent Prayuth into a rage of the spotty teenage variety. He was wonderfully direct: “Who are you? How dare you intimidate our officers? I won’t allow them to do so. If three soldiers encountered such a problem in their community, I will send 50 soldiers…. Let’s see if they dare to surround our soldiers again. If 50 soldiers can’t stop them, then I will send 100 soldiers there.…”. In fact, this “mine is bigger than yours” approach is the same “military logic” that has been seen in repeated border clashes with Cambodia.

The general’s frustration boiled: “Lately, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut and tried to build a good atmosphere for the election, so everybody would be happy with the election. People can advertise whatever they want. But you have made allegations against soldiers, you have bullied soldiers. I can’t allow it.”

Prayuth has never been a quiet political campaigner, but the olive branch recently offered by Puea Thai, with Yingluck Shinawatra saying “she was ready to call on Prayuth and seek his advice…” is now broken and trampled. Of course, Prayuth denies any animosity towards Puea Thai. His track record, though, is one of anti-red shirt, anti-Puea Thai and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activism. In this outburst he warned that “law-breakers” would be charged and imprisoned. He made this anti-red shirt when he added “you will be punished and then you will complain about injustice…”.

Prayuth doesn’t change and this exchange is a precursor of what can be expected if Puea Thai, which has always been the underdog given all the election fixing that has gone on, happens to do well in the election.


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