Prem and royalist reaction

5 09 2011

PPT always reads Bangkok Pundit and like many others, find the blog insightful and thought-provoking.Hence we were struck by the rapid consignment to the political grave given to Privy Councilor General Prem Tinsulanonda following the dumping of Wichien Potposri just hours after the police chief had seemingly tried to protect himself by running off to get Prem’s support:

To put this delicately, Prem’s influence has waned so much that people don’t really even gossip and criticize him anymore. Such criticism is now directed at others. There are others who have a direct connection to senior people in the military and hence there is not the need to go through Prem like what was done pre-2006. Prem has been by-passed…. Once Prem was powerful and mighty and to visit him and to get Prem’s blessing – as Wichien had done – would be a sign of your connections and that you were not to be touched, but now, and particularly under a Puea Thai-led government, it is not something that will help you and may even hurt you.

In other words, Prem’s reported support made no difference to the outcome, ipso facto, Prem’s power is waning.

As BP points out, Prem’s political decline has been predicted since at least the mid-1990s, incorrectly as it has turned out. PPT acknowledges that Prem is 91 and unlikely to be as sharp and scheming as he once was. But is he dead as the political leader of the royalist faction? And, even if he is, does it matter?

PPT has to think that Prem is not finished and that a relatively small victory on the police chief may not be the battle that Prem and royalists are going to focus on. The problem for the royalists following the election is that they must rebuild their political base in order to oppose enemy no. 1, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Part of this process involves the re-branding of the royalist feet on the ground, the yellow shirt movement. Another part will inevitably involve the reconstruction of the failed Democrat Party, still saddled with a myopic and disgraced leadership. The royalist leadership of the military is not in question, although the current leadership will need convincing that its loss of face during the election can have it immediately back in the political saddle. Prem will play a role in this. However, there are plenty of other royalists who can direct this, including Prem’s logical successor Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont.

Because of the need to rebuild, PPT thinks the royalist battle lines will be drawn to issues that relate directly to Thaksin. Election victories by pro-Thaksin parties and Thaksin’s clear and widespread support don’t count for the royalists. Their hatred of Thaksin runs deep and they are unlikely to ever forget or forgive what they see as his assault on their system of control and wealth.

The petition delivered in 2009 (Bangkok Post photo)

Hence, the royalists are going to push and attack around issues of loyalty to the monarchy. The headline event at present is the resurrection of the Thaksin royal pardon issue. The Abhisit Vejjajiva government buried this petition and it was never likely to see the light of day while they were in power. For royalist opposition to the petition back in mid-2009, see here (in fact, a search for “petition” produces a bunch of posts).

It is thus no surprise to see The Nation with a major story on the resurrection of the royal pardon petition, emphasizing that the issue is a test of Yingluck Shinawatra’s loyalty to the monarchy. The Nation makes the conflict clear:

With the government reviewing a petition spearheaded by the red shirts in 2009 to seek a royal pardon for her brother Thaksin, new PM Yingluck is obliged to make a tough decision which will show the true colour of her leadership.

Will she uphold the monarchy by keeping the King out of politics? Or will she bend the rules in order to rescue Thaksin despite adverse implications that may undermine the monarchy?

Leaving aside the fact that The Nation seems to have missed all of the previous government’s politicization of the monarchy and the palace’s own work on that score, the stand-off and likely repercussions are clear: allow the petition to go forward and Yingluck is a hated red shirt who only works for her hated brother.



One response

6 09 2011
Conspiracy? | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] a kind of follow-up to PPT’s recent post on royalist reaction to the Puea Thai government, a story at the Bangkok Post is worth reading. In […]

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