Listening to military groupies and others

3 01 2015

When an academic is introduced as a “security affairs expert,” PPT usually writes them off as military groupies, not necessarily with a sexual connotation, but in the context of hanging on every word and everything from the most self-important generals, no matter how banal or corrupt they are.

At the same time, because they are groupies, they often hear interesting whispers or provide insights into the usually warped minds of those who expect to be obeyed. A perfect example is Panitan Wattanayagorn at Chulalongkorn University. He’s only interesting when he reveals little secrets he’s picked up while slithering about with his bosses.

We are not sure about “an expert in security affairs from Rangsit University,” Wanwichit Boonprong, from Rangsit University, quoted in a report at The Nation. This academic has previously written on the military (downloads a PDF) and has been quoted in 2014 in the media, yet he is new to us.

Wanwichit says that the “military is expected to have increased political roles in this new year…”. That is hardly worth saying, for the next year will see it consolidate its role as the major political power, in partnership with a weakened monarchy.Nor is the claim that “martial law … is likely to be retained for a long time, to help ensure that the military will have the power to deal with unexpected problems when they arise.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has told us that. Martial law is also useful for the quick silencing of dissent on the military dictatorship and the monarchy.

Wanwichit’s statement that “martial law would serve as its [the junta’s] ‘fangs and claws’,” seems entirely appropriate. He observes that “arrangements had been made … to increase the military’s power. These included the junta’s orders to expand the martial court’s authority to try cases involving lese majeste and war-grade weapons, as well as the upgrade of military districts into military circles to allow increased roles in civilian affairs.”

Wanwichit is undoubtedly correct to expect that “many military commanders, as well as senior bureaucrats, [will…] become senators…”. The political future remains in the past. He reckons that the “military should be able to control the [political arena] in 2015. They will continue to get cooperation from many sectors…”. We don’t agree entirely on this for the patern so far has been for increasing disaffection, and as it becomes clear how much control the military will have, even some of the anti-democrats will wince.

More interesting is the claim, attributed to “a high-ranking officer in the armed forces,” that “there is a unity problem among top commanders in the Army…”. We are not convinced, but these reports keep popping up. The source states: “There are uncertainties in the Army.” It is added that “the current Army might seem to be united but in fact potential conflict is brewing under the surface. This is because the Army is now controlled by three different and powerful figures.”

Wanwichit is cited as identifying a “a key weakness in the junta is the fact that all the problems will push towards … Prayut[h].” Why is this a problem in a dictatorial arrangement? Wanwichit says, “The prime minister’s mood changes quite easily and this makes it easy for him to be the target of criticism…. Without relegation [delegation?] of power to other people, particularly over security matters, there will be negative consequences on the government and the Army.”

Wanwichit considers that Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr, also deputy defence minister, “needed to be given more responsibility on security matters.”

The third figure is General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defence minister.

One conflict is considered to “stem from a contest to become the next Army chief between two leading candidates – Prayut’s brother General Preecha Chan-o-cha and General Teerachai Nakwanich – who are both assistant Army commanders-in-chief. Teerachai is Udomdej’s former classmate from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

Something to watch, but we have the feeling that the big issues in 2015 will be the military dictatorship’s capacity to mange succession and conflicts with broader “civil society,” most especially with the groups that prepared the ground for the military coup in 2014.



One response

4 01 2015
New year barbs III | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] As PPT noted yesterday, we think that there is a potentially broader anti-coup/anti-military opposition that will emerge. We agree with Verapat Pariyawong, “an independent law expert and a red-shirt supporter who has remained outside Thailand since he was summoned by the coup-makers,” who states that “the junta’s strategy of suppressing dissent against students, activists, reformists and academics would only trigger more critics and sympathy from around the world,” and, we think, in Thailand; and that is most significant. […]

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