Prem is now “revered”

20 04 2012

The Bangkok Post gives its readers one of the most syrupy of stories we have seen for a while. This time, though, it is not about an idle royal doing something mundane, but about the near-royal nonagenarian General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the old guys at the Privy Council.

A Bangkok Post photo

Prem seems to be feeling like his world is being put back in place after he and his co-conspirators screwed things up for themselves and their class by plotting the 2006 coup. Ironically, it is the Shinawatra clan, whether by design, choice, political necessity or something else, that seems to be pasting the pieces back together for Prem and the other monarchists.

Hence, Prem is back to his old style and feeling good about having his posterior polished publicly by underlings who should really be more powerful than Prem is as an old general, old prime minister and old plotter. Of course, the belief that he is the right hand of the monarchy is what makes him ever so significant.

Sounding a bit like the king calling for unity in the nation, Prem “called for unity among the Royal Thai Armed Forces and asked them to remain steadfast in their loyalty to the monarchy and the nation.” The latter is significant for it makes the conjoined twins of monarchy and nation more significant than, say, elected governments. Significantly, that hierarchy of significance is a no-brainer for Prem and royalists.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat led the bosses of the armed forces to perform a water-pouring rite, and said “the armed forces had the greatest respect for Gen Prem as always because of his good deeds and contributions to the nation.” The Post states: “Gen Prem has long been considered a revered figure by the armed forces…”.

Most of all, while Sukumpol didn’t mention it, every senior officer owes his position to Prem, for Prem has, since the late 1970s, ensured that his allies get all top spots. He’s been able to do this even after he was forced out of the premiership in 1988 because of his palace location.

Prem responds to these kinds of ego-polishing and displays of elite unity, backed by the military, with talk of love as well as unity: “ACM Sukumpol is a senior military official who is well aware of how we love each other. We will continue to love one another like this forever…”.

The police have been on the outside of this elite bonding for they are supposed to be Thaksin Shinawatra supporters. This year, in a significant symbolic display, they are back, led by national police boss Police General Priewphan Damapong. The coppers showed up after the military, showing their location in the love-and-unity elite pecking order. The significance of this is in the report:

That was the first time Pol Gen Priewphan, who is an elder brother of Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, the former wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had met Gen Prem since his appointment as national police chief.

The report goes on to explain: “Pol Gen Priewphan looked excited and barely looked Gen Prem in the eyes while conversing with him.” Could that be a message of reconciliation or of mutual suspicion?

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


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