Speculating on succession and conflict

6 06 2015

Shawn Crispin has been reporting from Thailand for many years, and has usually published at Asia Times Online, often providing discussion of conspiracies and fears amongst member of ruling elites. This week he has written for The Diplomat. This report might be read in conjunction with PPT’s bemused account of how rattled the military dictatorship seems at present.

Crispin refers to “the specter of instability is rising again in Thailand.” He sees this in “self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and coup-maker premier Prayuth Chan-ocha trade barbs and threats, including sensitive accusations involving the monarchy, new rounds of confrontation seem more likely than long-term reconciliation.”

PPT must have missed Thaksin’s comments about the monarchy for we only saw commentary regarding the Privy Council.

Crispin reckons that “Thailand’s post-coup stability has been underpinned by a military-calibrated combination of accommodation and repression.” PPT hasn’t noticed much “accommodation,” and Crispin provides no evidence of any. What we have noticed is repression. It seems Crispin thinks that “accommodation” is leaving “the business interests of Thaksin’s family have been left largely untouched.”

As usual, unnamed “Bangkok-based analysts” are cited as wondering whether General Prayuth will now go after “Thaksin’s family, including his son Pongthongtae’s Voice TV news station and the SC Asset property company where Yingluck previously served as chief executive officer and Thaksin’s youngest daughter’s husband is now a top executive involved in new property launches.”

More interestingly, Crispin suggests a link between Prayuth and “top royalists, including influential Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda,” to ramp up so-called anti-corruption measures to savage the Shinawatra family. He says “[s]ome analysts believe those pressures contributed to the Attorney General Office’s decision to pursue criminal negligence charges against Yingluck [Shinawatra] for her loss-making rice price subsidy scheme…”.

Citing unnamed “Bangkok-based analysts and diplomats,” Crispin reckons that Yingluck is threatened by ten years in prison that will “likely drive her into exile alongside her elder brother.”

Not only this, but “[s]ome analysts believe Thaksin may have broken his post-coup silence in frustration over the new draft constitution and perpetually postponed elections…”.

Crispin also speculates on the role of the monarchy and succession in all of this:

Earlier it was believed Thaksin was content to wait on the political sidelines and allow Prayuth’s military government to oversee the delicate royal succession upon the passing of ailing 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Many felt the coup, led by troops loyal to Queen Sirikit, had served to consolidate her long-held wish that her heir apparent son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, will be crowned the next monarch. It’s also the succession scenario Thaksin and many of his Red Shirt supporters are known to favor.

Last year’s public revelations of an extensive criminal network run by Vajiralongkorn’s former consort’s royally decorated family members, however, renewed speculation about possible alternative outcomes. In turn, the mass popular outpouring in celebration of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 60th birthday on April 2, marked by an officially sponsored proliferation of purple flags and garments bearing her royal symbol, has signaled many Thais would embrace her accession to the throne.

That may explain why Thaksin took aim at the Privy Council rather than the coup-maker government’s constitution and election timeline in breaking his post-coup silence. In certain succession scenarios, the Privy Council is legally empowered to appoint a princess as successor to the throne, a move the current military-appointed National Legislative Assembly would likely endorse. In alleging royal advisors played a role in last year’s democracy-suspending coup, Thaksin has hinted his camp could yet challenge the council’s authority and legitimacy when the time comes to crown the next king.

No evidence for any of this speculation, but in Thailand’s opaque royal politics, this approach is worth considering.


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