The Dictator, the military and the proxy party

13 06 2019

In a step away from the “model” established by Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in the 1980s, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha looks set to take the leadership of his proxy Palang Pracharath Party.

Gen Prem avoided political parties like the plague, fearing that their machinations could weaken him and his government. He knew he could always “buy up” replacement parties if he fell out with a coalition partner.

Still engineering things

While Gen Prayuth’s move is portrayed in The Nation as a move “to soften public perception of his links to the military.”

Everyone knows that Palang Pracharath was The Dictators’ and the junta’s proxy party and the military’s party. But, he’s not a member of the party, so needs to join it before taking leadership.

Proxy leader Uttama Savanayana is reported to be ready to “step down to make way for Prayut, while Sontirat Sontijirawong would likely continue as secretary-general.”

The move “is aimed at reportedly transform the military general into a full-fledged politician and reduce public perception of his links with the junta.” It seems that the junta has decided that these “links” are “among the most vulnerable spots for attacks by political rivals.” It seems that this “plan” is also part of the political maneuvering to have Gen Prayuth as prime minister for another eight years.

The trouble for Prayuth, shown by Prem’s experience all those years ago, it is likely to be troubles in the military that will be his political vulnerability. Prayuth’s coup, junta and his rigged election have all depended on the military’s power and repression. A move “away,” even if just a facade, is politically risky for him.

Yet, according to the report, he may have little choice as the proxy party is riven by internal tensions between its financiers, the junta and the proxy MPs.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam was already warning “that if anything went wrong, Prayut would inevitably be affected as a party executive. Thus, the general should also plan a way out in case of an emergency…”.

Like all political parties, under the junta’s rules, Palang Pracharath’s parliamentary wing is inherently unstable. But, unlike some other parties, it has no deep roots and no community links. That makes it even more unstable.

If it comes about, Gen Prayuth’s ploy will make it clear that the party is simply the political wing of the junta. We knew that, but the move would mark the transition of the junta into post-junta politics. With Gen Prayuth also likely to also be defense minister, Prayuth is seeking to better connect military and party and eliminate potential instabilities. It’s a brave move, but characteristic of fascist leaders.


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