Sycophant is defined as: a “servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.” Another meaning is: “a person who uses flattery to win favour from individuals wielding influence; toady.” And a third and related meaning is: “a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.” All of these seem like perfectly adequate definitions of the military dictatorship’s recently announced cabinet of yes-men-cum-ministers.
An AP report stated that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “awarded top posts in his Cabinet to senior military officials, in the latest move that critics say will prolong the military’s grip on power.” We doubt that only critics will notice this. We notice that the anti-democrats are cheering. According to AP, the new cabinet “includes 11 career military men with no political experience, seven of them generals, who will serve as the ministers of justice, education, defense, transport, commerce and foreign affairs, among other posts.”
In fact, though, these general do have political experience. All of them have been heavily involved in politics for their entire careers, serving political masters in the palace. As a result most of them have seen 3-4 military putsches overthrowing elected governments.
Indeed, a longer AP reports states, “Prayuth awarded portfolios to several senior soldiers said to have played key roles in both coups, including his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda. Anupong will serve as the new interior minister.”
Anit-democrats seem to have wanted more military men in the cabinet, with pretend “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong criticizing the non-military “bureaucrats” in cabinet.
PPT is having difficulty reconciling the numbers in cabinet. The Bangkok Post’s reporting has it that there are 36 members of cabinet. The official announcement lists 32, of whom 12 are military or police.
The Nation commented that the 11 military yes-men are “close and trusted colleagues of Prime Minister General Prayuth…”. It identifies three groups of military men. The first are Prayuth’s former bosses, General Prawit Wongsuwan and General Anupong…”. They take the two most important political positions, defense and interior. For more than a century, these have been the most powerful cabinet positions. Here the sycophant is Prayuth. The second group is composed of trusted buddies. Prayuth reckons his “close friends … deserve rewards and important posts.” These friends were all “Prayuth’s former classmates at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”
These include General Dapong Ratanasuwan, who was an Abhisit Vejjajiva regime appointment to ISOC, used for their political purposes, which coincided with the military’s desires.
The third group of military men are all trusted by The Dictator, who has also brought in “National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana as the Prime Minister’s Office minister [which] also indicates that Prayuth is focusing on security affairs, at a time when the junta believes there are still threats to the newly formed government by old power cliques.” To make the point again, The Nation states: “It appears Prayuth wanted him to help with possible threats from the new unelected administration’s political enemies.”
Regime protection is important to Prayuth as he re-designs Thailand for the royalist elite.
The civilians brought in are a mix. There are recycled sycophants from the previous coup and a group of trusted and anti-Thaksin/anti-red shirt bureaucrats. PPT has mentioned military sycophant Wissanu Krea-ngam plenty of times in the past. He’s trusted because he is for hire. His position, status and wealth depends on his support to the palace-military cabal. Minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula is a failed former finance minister from the failed military-backed government led by privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont.Sommai Pasi is a former deputy finance minister in the Surayud administration.
We were most interested to see Narongchai Akrasanee, described as a “senior economist and former commerce minister” included as energy minister. Quite some time ago, PPT noted that Narongchai was a spectacularly failed businessman, and adviser to various governments, who was then chairman of MFC Asset Management. In passing, we noted that even if you fail in this industry and lose millions of baht in other people’s money it seems you can be reincarnated in both business and politics. For more on this, we are grateful to a reader who sent on material.
Narongchai headed General Finance, which was one of 56 finance companies closed by the Thai government in 1997 because of bad loans and making loans without requiring collateral. In August 1998, the Bank of Thailand filed criminal charges against six executives of General Finance. For some of 1997, Narongchai was the commerce minister. He was brought into the Chavalit government by Amnuay Viravan, and they presided over some of the financial meltdown:
Although Amnuay was close to the prime minister and had known him for about 10 years, relations between the two were getting sour. Amnuay came aboard the Chavalit government on the New Aspiration Party’s quota, along with other non-MP colleagues Dr Narongchai Akrasanee, the commerce minister, and Somphob Amatayakul, the deputy industry minister.
Narongchai was a well-known economist and chairman of General Finance & Securities Public Company Ltd, which was among the first lot of insolvent finance companies to be shut down by the banking authorities. Somphob was a former top executive of IBM Thailand Ltd.
If readers can add more, we’d be happy to post.