Prayuth, loyalty and mutiny

29 07 2011

Prachatai has a story that confirms the decidedly odd position taken by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. While the story doesn’t necessarily tell PPT readers anything stunningly new, it does confirm that Prayuth believes the monarchy and Army are untouchable and that loyalty to the monarchy is the essence of a definition he has of “Thainess.”

When talking to young secondary school students at propaganda campaign called “Love of the Land Songs,” Prayuth stated: “I have always said that we must not doubt loyalty. If anyone does, he or she is not Thai. So Thais must not doubt loyalty because we were born with this word, and we will die with it, no matter what…”.

This statement is almost Vajiravudhian in its statement of the links between Thainess and monarchy. But King Vajiravudh generally evidenced a reasonably educated opinion, whereas Prayuth seems simplistically demanding and mouthing a propaganda position that has been fixed for decades. Congruent with this reign, he is also reinforcing the Army’s proclaimed position as the guardian of the right-wing conception of Thainess.

Prayuth proclaimed that “he was moved when hearing the songs as they described the graciousness which His Majesty the King had been giving to Thailand, and seeing the young people perform the songs with determination in their eyes.” He added that he “felt relieved that Thailand still had a future with these young people…”. Prayuth proclaims a belief that the monarchy gives its all to Thailand. Of course, he ignores all that they take from the Thai taxpayer and the fact that the monarchy gives less than it takes.

For Prayuth, the message is simplistic: the monarchy is “a pride which is in the hearts of all Thai people. So it will be unacceptable if anyone violates or harms the institution…”. He means unacceptable to him and his Army. One can only wonder what this means for the millions of Thais who now question both military and monarchy.

Apparently all misty of eye, Prayuth goes on and declares: “What I’ve always thought and want to let everybody know is that whenever you can’t figure things out, you can turn to look at His Majesty’s picture, and you will know what to do. When you see the tiredness, smiles and drops of sweat of His Majesty, you will know what you have to do. How much His Majesty has done!  How devoted His Majesty has been! So, please do things with your heart and loyalty, and be confident that what you do is right…”.

Sure, this is all propaganda, but there is a hint that Prayuth is more than a little invested in this ideology of the monarchy. You can imagine him as a general with a chest full of medals shouting his loyalty to the Beloved Leader in North Korea. As would be the case in that dictatorship, Prayuth’s view is that there is “[o]nly one thing which can unite us all is the monarchy. So we have to unite the hearts and minds of the people to hold on to the monarchy…”.

But he also reveals in this statement that he is fearful that his right-wing world of military and monarchy is crumbling. He states: “Now don’t put too much blame on the soldiers. We’re ready to do our best. Please give moral support to the soldiers. Sometimes I appear on TV looking a little bit tough, but it’s normal. This is a role of a leader of an organization. I have to protect the reputation and dignity of the army over my own life. This is what has been instilled [in soldiers].  No one can touch the army. I make it my duty to protect it. I apologize if I’ve been a bit ferocious.” In fact, making this statement is an act of mutiny (yet again) as Prayuth again refuses to make Thailand’s military subordinate to any government.

While Prayuth proclaims, “I’m gentle and innocuous man…”, he is anything but innocuous. He’s a dangerous right-wing ideologue, trying to protect the twin institutions of an authoritarian past. While their time is gone, those at the top of both are scrambling to prevent the decline. We think they are misguided, but that doesn’t mean they won’t manipulate, scheme and undermine those who want to move Thailand into the modern world.



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29 07 2011
CPJ on Somyos and lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

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