Prem at it again

3 04 2012

It is hard to keep an old man down when he thinks he is everything that everyone else should be and is confident that he is one of the great and good.

So it is that in the Bangkok Post the 91-year-old Privy Council President, former unelected Prime Minister and former Army boss Prem Tinsulanonda makes another politically-charged statement.

Prem, infamous in pro-democracy circles for his 2006 call to the military to effectively mutiny and support the king rather than the government in in the run-up to the coup, has now “called on Thai people to show their gratitude and repay the motherland, and put a curse on those who betray the country.” His statement is appropriately opaque when he says:

Many people in the country performed good deeds in the past but praise and admiration made them unable to preserve their goodness and this is very disappointing….

He goes on to state there are 9 “principles of repaying the country,” presumably for being Thai. Readers can look them up in the story, but most are associated with vague and conservative notions associated with a royalist conception of “Thainess”: being loyal to the nationalist-royalist shibboleth , kingdom, religion and monarchy (think of being forced to stand for the royal anthem); showing mercy (think of the way that no mercy is shown to lese majeste “traitors”!); “To be a Thai, a person must have Thainess and be impartial” (think tautology); eradicate poverty (think how wealthy the monarchy is); “[a]bide and practice the teachings of His Majesty the King” (think normative truisms), and so on.

As he has said before, Prem believes in great and holy spirits: “I believe in Phra Siam Devadhiraj [the country’s guardian angel] and that Phra Siam Devadhiraj will protect the good and curse the evil.” He adds: “Those who betray the country will meet a tragic end, that’s what I believe.”

To the uninitiated, Prem’s comments might be seen as being about “morals” and “ethics” and might even be seen as some kind of response to the damaging bombings in the south. But if this comment by the oldest of the grand old men is put together with his earlier statements on traitors, ethics and nationalism, and we believe Prem is attacking Thaksin Shinawatra and his politics, including the government.

Why would Prem make politicized statements now? After all, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reached out to him, the Puea Thai Party hasn’t been especially confrontational and its government has not been interfering of Prem’s boys in the military.

The way we see it is that Prem, like many yellow shirts and the royalist Democrat Party, are becoming increasingly concerned that the post-floods political tide has turned in Puea Thai’s favor, with Thaksin on the comeback trail, Yingluck’s popularity rising, red shirts trickling out of jail, lese majeste off the front pages, and the yellow-shirted opposition looking pretty ragged and without a cause.

In the end, Prem seems doing his job as chief royalist coach for the yellow team. It’ll be interesting to see if he embarks on a series of such calls, as he did in 2006. The circumstances are quite different and seemingly running against the grand old men, bit they may see that as a provocation.



2 responses

20 04 2012
Prem is now “revered” « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Prem continues to meddle in politics, even if things seem to be moving in his direction. Perhaps because things are moving in his […]

20 04 2012
Prem is now “revered” « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Prem continues to meddle in politics, even if things seem to be moving in his direction. Perhaps because things are moving in his […]

%d bloggers like this: