Readers will become bored with PPT’s posts on the corruption and nepotism of the military dictatorship as representative of a deep and long history of military and bureaucratic corruption.
We emphasize this, not because civilian politicians have been squeaky clean, but because the dominant royalist narrative has been that only civilian politicians are corrupt.
It has been academic Thongchai Winichakul who has done most in detailing the concerted royalist effort to establish this royalist propaganda tale as a way of undermining democratic politics. In an academic article some years ago (also here), he wrote that:
since 1973 in particular, the monarchists have assumed the status of the superior realm in Thai politics that claims the high moral ground above politicians and normal politics. With distaste for electoral politics, and in tacit collaboration with the so-called people’s sector, activists and intellectuals, they have undermined electoral democracy in the name of “clean politics” versus the corruption of politicians.
This is a royalist ideology that underpinned military coups in 1991, 2006 and 2014.
One of the important spokespersons of this anti-democratic palace propaganda has been Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda. Despite his advanced age, has a regular speaking schedule that sees him banging out this ideology every six months or so.
His most recent outing is reported in the Bangkok Post. Unsurprisingly, as a supporter of the current military dictatorship, he proposes a “renewed effort to fight corruption, which he decried as Thailand’s number one enemy.”
We agree that corruption is a problem for the country, but it is not number one. Our view is that the number one enemy of Thailand and its people is a military that, in alliance with the monarchy, repeatedly and consistently crush democracy. Worse, the military regularly engages in actions that result in the murder of citizens. At the same time, the military is a deeply corrupt gang of thugs.
But back to Prem’s most recent bleating. His claims come at exactly the time that the military dictatorship has proposed extra-legal action against Yingluck Shinawatra over the so-called rice pledging scheme. Prem is adding his support to this move.
The Post goes on to claim that “academics and experts have praised the Prayut Chan-o-cha government for creating a wide array of measures to help reduce graft.” It cites “Pramon Suthiwong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, [as claiming] … there is a political will to tackle the issue of corruption, adding the government had placed the matter high on its agenda of items demanding attention.”
Pramon’s claim is odd for someone who heads an anti-corruption agency but ignores the unusual wealth of all the generals, admirals and police at the top of the dictatorship.
Why would a self-declared corruption fighter be deliberately blind to the corruption and nepotism that has marked every military regime since 1957? We are guessing, but we think it is that Pramon is politically partisan. For a start, he has a sinecure at the palace’s Siam Cement Group and a swathe of royal-linked companies. He’s served military regimes in the past, including in 2006 and now serves the military junta.
In other words, Pramon is one of Prem’s men, speaking highly of a bunch of dictators, who are also Prem’s men in the sense that this is the regime Prem prefers and these are the men Prem worked to have in place in the military and in government.
Of course, Prem has done nicely from his positions in government and in the private sector, where his royalism is rewarded. He provides essential links to the palace for a myriad of companies.
Prem does talk about the corruption of individuals. It may be a small matter for the fabulously wealthy, but we always wonder who pays his rent for the house he has simply never moved out of, or whether rent is paid at all. A small matter, perhaps, but indicative of double standards. Is free rent an individual corruption or just a reward for a loyal servant of the anti-democratic royal cabal?
Update: A recent example of alleged corruption in military purchases is reported at the Bangkok Post, involving jets. As far as PPT can determine, every military purchase from the GT200 to large ships involves corrupt payments.