PPT has watched many of the statements made about elections and the dictators and came to the conclusion that the Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has learned the lesson of failed military coup leader and would-be premier General Suchinda Kraprayoon. Suchinda led the 1991 coup against the allegedly corrupt elected government led by Chatichai Choonhavan.
The lesson? Back in 1991, Suchinda claimed the military was unsullied by the black economy, despite considerable evidence of border trading, gun-running, drug trading, human trafficking and so on, declared that he would never become prime minister. Following election is 1992, he did become prime minister. The backlash was huge and led to Black May.
The Dictator Prayuth has not made the mistake of stating that he will not be prime minister in the future. So it is no surprise that the Bangkok Post reports that:
Most military officers have come to believe National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will take the position of prime minister when he retires in September.
Interestingly, the Post refers to “possible lessons from previous coups [that] may persuade the NCPO chief to take the top administrative job.” The Post claims that the “unofficial rule of coups” is that “a coup-maker should never be prime minister,” which is an erroneous claim made by ignoring the real and actual history of coups in Thailand. However, the lesson that Prayuth is said to have drawn from the most recent putsches is this:
Look back at the coup-installed interim civilian governments, one headed by Anand Panyarachun in 1991, and the other by Gen Surayud Chulanont in 2006. They both refused to be the coup-makers’ puppets and stayed independent from the military.
The Surayud government probably doesn’t fit in the same category as Anand as it was so somnolent and incompetent.However, both Anand and Surayud were very close to the palace. In this sense, if Prayuth is tracking a different model, he may be doing that with the palace as well.
That said, the Post’s claim to speak for all of Thailand may be stupid and arrogant, but the suggestion of a military assertiveness that should worry those who aspire for a democratic Thailand:
Confidence in Gen Prayuth is overwhelming. Many Thais think we are in dire need of a strong, decisive leader to “sweep and clean” the country before we return to a democracy with general elections.
Gen Prayuth’s supporters include the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and its allies as well as the yellow shirts who want the NCPO to root out the so-called Thaksin regime.
Also in this camp are those “colour-neutral” people who are fed up with long-standing political conflicts. They wholeheartedly welcomed the coup when it was staged on May 22.
…In their view, Gen Prayuth is a hero who has freed the country from its troubles. Now people look to the general in hope as a stream of petitions floods his office.
In our view, there was never any doubt that Prayuth was doing the yellow shirts’ work, but in the past, the mobilized were expected to go home and let the “new regime” get on with their work. Not this time.
The military dictators, believing their own propaganda, reckon they and Prayuth are popular. So it is that Deputy NCPO leader ACM Prajin Jantong said that it will decide who will be the next premier: “The NCPO will listen to the people, including the media, about who should be the next prime minister and whether Gen Prayuth should be the choice.”
The report says Prayuth “seems fully confident in his ability to solve the nation’s problems.” That his retirement coincides with the estimated time for haveing a new premier cannot be an accident, and if there is insufficient
fixing of election rules reform, then an election may be a long time away, meaning a dictatorial premier could stay on for a very long time. And it isn’t just Dictator Prayuth:
Some believe army men will be offered cabinet posts, and regard the appointment of the supreme commander and other top brass to various roles under the coup regime as a warm-up for the jobs they are likely to get in coming months after they retire.
As the article explains:
It’s clear the NCPO has learned from past coups — not the lesson against seizing power, but the need to exploit its power under the coup to bring about change.
It has also decided against limiting the duration of the coup before setting up an interim government, which won’t necessarily be a civilian one. It’s clear that men in green will be a major component of the interim cabinet.
Those who want a more democratic and progressive Thailand face a long and difficult time ahead.