We’ll keep this post short as one of the articles we point to is exceptionally long. Both articles are by quite regular commentators on Thailand’s affairs, one a journalist and the other a long-retired academic of the American variety that likes to flit between policy and academia. To the latter first.
In an op-ed at the New Straits Times, W. Scott Thompson describes himself as a professor emeritus of international politics, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His article says that he is also states that he is at “Dr Thitinan’s influential centre, smack in the middle of Bangkok at the royal university, Chulalongkorn.” He is fulsome in his praise of his host, Thitinan Pongsudhirak at the Institute of Security and International Studies, something he’s done previously.
The position he has at ISIS raises questions about the old-guard relationships between Thai royalists and Americans of the same ilk who also have security and policy backgrounds. Thompson has been a propagandist not so much for yellow shirts but certainly for the royalist elite which he sees as “his Thailand.”
His earlier op-ed commenting on the rise of General Prayuth Chan-ocha and succession is worth a read now.
In his NST op-ed, after a few odd comments, he states “the kingdom is in serious trouble.” Prayuth, he says, “has backed himself into his own corner.” The “corner” sounds more like a dictator’s happy place: “Prayuth backed himself into a corner with a tight schedule that now is impossible to meet, making it well-nigh inevitable that he will be leading a dictatorship for a long time to come.” He makes factual errors, but the observation on succession seems reasonably widely accepted: “Prayuth will be in place, after ‘the Long Goodbye’ to the beloved king, to ensure the safety and position of the now-Crown Prince onto the throne. He will be 10th of the dynasty, long foretold as the last.”
What’s curious is that Thompson seems confused and can really only repeat an analysis seen in Thitinan’s op-ed of a week or so ago. While he says he looks at all points of the political compass, like old royalists everywhere, Thompson seems to have lost his compass. 45 years of watching a king is one small point on a compass that is pointing south.
This view links to a Shawn Crispin’s exceptionally long piece at The Diplomat. As we have noted previously, Crispin is a master of conspiratorial revelations based on anonymous sources. He sees the military dictatorship as rabid:”Since seizing power, … Prayut[‘s] … junta has advanced reform rhetoric while simultaneously consolidating a strong and increasingly efficient police state bent on ferreting out and squashing dissent.” Like Thompson, he sees the junta as having a way to run: “it’s a military regime that will likely remain in power for the foreseeable future.”
When looking at the military’s succession is squashing dissent, as well as blunt tactics, Crispin refers to another “deal” done with Thaksin Shinawatra. (Remember the deal he claimed was done when Yingluck came to power? Later, that seemed to no longer hold.) The new “deal” is meant to protect Thaksin’s wealth and that of his family. Maybe, but think of this and then look at this. in the very same newspaper on the one day…. In any case, not all deals are real deals and some are imagined and many are deserted.
Crispin is right that the “vow to restore democratic governance and hold new elections is and remains a sop to Western governments…”. And he’s also right that:
Thai politics will more likely be steered by the military for the foreseeable future. Thailand has arguably already entered an end-of-reign new political order, where the military, rather than a democratic government, has begun to fill the inevitable power vacuum that will open at the end of the current king’s long and storied reign and the crowning of a new, inevitably less influential, heir.
Where he departs to conjecture is on succession, believing that there are competing royalist and overlapping military factions, with the usual nod to General Prem Tinsulanonda, the aged head of the Privy Council.
His scenarios on where Thailand goes from here, while dependent on rumors and guesses recounted earlier in the piece, all suggest plenty more military dictatorship.