Guarding the king

30 05 2019

Over the past few years the number of police and soldiers assigned to the palace has reportedly ballooned. Part of this has to do with the military credentials of the current king. Some of it has to do with the great fear that is generalized among the elite over challenges to its control.

Some might ask why the king, who spends most of his time in Germany, needs an ever larger force of “protectors.” Again, part of the answer probably has to do with the king’s training and his desire for pomp and circumstance and his personal need to command. Notice that he’s incessantly promoting people – especially wives, concubines and dogs – and demoting. It may also reflect, as the media sometimes has it, that the king is establishing his own force to contend with the martial power of the military.

It was in October 2018 that PPT first posted on reports about a new and special police unit for the “protection of the monarchy.” At that time, the new unit of 1,600 personnel, was said to be made up of “police commandos transferred from the Crime Suppression Division.” It is said to be “providing security to the Royal Family” as well as “collecting information on ‘individuals or groups whose behaviors pose a threat to the national security and … the King’.”

A later post recounted that this represented a quadrupling of the police force assigned to the palace and was costing the taxpayer a minimum of 300 million baht for salaries alone.

At that time, the force’s commander, then Pol Col Torsak Sukvimol (ต่อศักดิ์ สุขวิมล), “explained” that this huge increase in security, including intelligence units and additional “patrolling” is required when the “king visits different parts of the country.” This seems like blarney. We haven’t detected any particular increase in any royal trips, except to and from Europe.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post carried yet another report on now Pol Maj Gen Torsak and the renamed “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.”

Torsak

Maj Gen Torsak seems to be well-connected. He is reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

That ACM Satitpong has served the prince/king for many years and that he is “trusted” is confirmed by his rapid promotion not just in the palace but within the king’s businesses.

Obviously assisted by his family connections, Torsak has been moving up for several years.He now finds himself in demand for all manner of activities and clearly enjoys the limelight. One of the most intriguing reports we located was his association with the Chinese-Thai Global One Belt One Road Association, formerly known as Hokien International Chinese Cultural Association, formerly chaired by the Democrat Party’s Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

But back to the recent report in the Post.

Pol Maj Gen Torsak explained that “his team is responsible for the advance surveillance of areas which the King will pass through as well as guarding the monarch and his family.” He added that the unit “will not be deployed to deal with crime suppression, so it can focus on protecting the monarchy at all times…”.

Yet he claimed a populist role for the unit, being sent to “ordinary duties to capture those who have long been wanted under warrants, particularly in cases in which they made trouble for the public.” That populism is also seen in the report when, lapping at Torsak’s boots, it portrays him as a benevolent autocrat.

All officers undergo stringent anti-terrorism training and get the most up-to-date weaponry. As Pol Maj Gen Torsak explained, “I believe that we also must have the best weapons for our officers…. They must protect themselves along with the VIPs and to do that they must be well-armed.”

It is never made clear which people or groups constitute the threats to the king and royal family. We wonder about the unit’s international operations.

Having ealier spoken of lese majeste, he is was again quoted on Article 112:

Speaking of the lese majeste law, Pol Maj Gen Torsak said the King gave guidance that he does not want to see anyone prosecuted under the lese majeste law as it can be “a double-edged sword”, adding the monarch has always shown mercy.

Some people may misjudge the situation from things they have heard, he noted.

“The King gave guidance that no punishment should be made in relation to Section 112 [of the Criminal Code] since some people may have misunderstood or listened to false information,” Pol Maj Gen Torsak said.

The monarch wants authorities to treat the matter on a case-by-case basis with a committee investigating the intentions behind supposed breaches, he said.

Not short of ego, Pol Maj Gen Torsak said “his nomination to the top job at the new division did not happen by chance…. ‘I have earned the King’s trust by working hard for him,’ he said.”

King’s Guard 904 needs to be carefully watched as it expands as a power center within the palace but with the potential for widespread influence and action.





Updated: Still no election II

31 07 2015

In an earlier post we noted that Suthep Thaugsuban’s return to political activism had caused some concern amongst the military dictatorship. Indeed, some have warned him and his anti-democrats to remain politically quiet.

However, despite the fact that the military dictatorship bans political opponents from meeting, it allowed the anti-democrat cabal-cum-“foundation” to meet and hold a press conference.

The double standards were made clear when puppet member of the National Reform Council and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan supporting Suthep, stating it is “Suthep’s right… to express his opinion…”. Of course, he would not say that for his opponents.

That press conference, led by Suthep, resulted in a declaration that they wanted the military dictatorship to “accomplish its reform goals before elections are held, no matter how long the process takes.”

NRC secretary-general Alongkorn Ponlaboot also supported Suthep and reckoned that some “reform” could be “done quickly, and some may be take many years, such as reforms about corruption.” He added that “reforms of all aspects should not take more than four years, because it’s a mission for this government and the next government.” It remains unclear if the “next government” would be an elected government.

Some in the junta will probably agree with Suthep yet they also drew a response, with the usually rather quiet General Anupong Paojinda mumbling that the junta’s “roadmap” is still in place with an election probably/maybe/anybody’s guess sometime late in 2016.

Update: Thanks to a report at The Nation, the support for Suthep and his “foundation” within the military regime is much clearer. That report is about Suthep’s announcement that the failed former foreign minister and yellow shirt activist Kasit Piromya is to act as a “foreign-affairs representative of the People’s Democratic Reform Foundation with the goal of forging a mutual understanding between Thailand and the international community.”

Kasit was a failure in this role when foreign minister under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime so there is no likelihood that he will be more successful for a bunch of anti-democrats. Yet it is the comments from Panitan Wattanayagorn that are most revealing.

Panitan, routinely described as an “international-relations academic from Chulalongkorn University” when he has no identifiable impact as an academic, is really a stooge for the military, acting as “a key adviser to Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.”

When Panitan says that “Kasit would likely act in favour of national interests and not for any particular group, including the current military-led government” he is stating the military junta’s position. His view on the anti-democrat’s “foundation” is the junta’s position: “It’s not unusual for a non-political, pro-society foundation to help build a better understanding towards Thailand for outsiders.”

Of course, Panitan’s claims are lies and spin, but they are also an accurate reflection of the alliance that exists, and has long existed, between the anti-democrats and the royalist military clique.





Bias in the headlines

18 12 2013

PPT was struck by a headline and story at the Bangkok Post that indicates the bias inherent in the paper. The headline is: “Chiang Mai red-shirts threaten PM critic.” The story tells of “Red-shirts on Tuesday rallied outside the home of Chiang Mai Cultural Council president Chao Duangduan na Chiang Mai to demand her resignation after she criticised caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin.”

Fully 50 supporters of Rak Chiang Mai 51 rallied “in front of Chiang Mai provincial hall to vent anger after Chao Duangduan claimed former prime minister Thaksin is the root cause of disorder in the country.” The group read a statement and said more pressure would be applied if she refused. There was a speech and everyone went home.

Are we mistaken? Isn’t Suthep Thaugsuban demanding the resignation of the premier? Hasn’t he made threatening speeches and sent his thousands of supporters into battle with police and to occupy buildings? Isn’t he threatening?

In this Post tradition of biased headlines, PPT suggests that another of their headlines, which reads: “Abhisit uncontested as Democrat leader,” should be changed to read: “Political Extremists control Democrat Party”

After all, with Abhisit Vejjajiva re-elected leader, and reformists like Alongkorn Ponlaboot, who campaigned to restructure the party, pushed aside, Abhisit’s extremist, anti-liberal and anti-democratic wing has complete control.





The Democrat Party unable to change

28 10 2013

There have been several reports over several months that the Democrat Party is “reforming.” Many of these reports actually report a split in the party as its egoist leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his supporters seek to maintain their control of the party.

Tainted by his hoisting to power by the military and Buriram chao pho Newin Chidchob and the murderous military attacks on red shirt protesters, Abhisit’s party was crushed in the 2011 general election.

It would have been normal for a badly defeated and tainted leader to step down following an electoral disaster. Not Abhisit. He apparently thinks he deserves to be party leader.

A report at The Nation begins:

THE DEMOCRAT PARTY’S ultimate goal is to bring an end to 21 years of election defeats. The party’s last defeat was in the 2011 election, when party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was PM.

In fact, the 21 years makes the party look better than it should. While it is only since 2001 that a more-or-less two-party system has emerged, the party has never been particularly successful. The “21 years” seems to refer to September 1992, when the Democrat Party headed a government coalition but only won 22% of seats in parliament.

The 2011 loss was particularly embarrassing as many in the party felt that, with the support of the establishment and military, it should have done better.

The report states:

[the] loss spurred the 67-year-old party to review itself and consider a revamp of its policies, structure and personnel so it has a better chance of leading the government again.

But it seems that it is not Abhisit who is embarrassed by his regular defeats, but deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot. He seems to believe the novel idea that the party should actually win an election.

In order to do this , “Alongkorn says the party requires drastic changes so it can convince voters…” to vote for it. PPT thinks this could only be possible if the party also dumped the widely despised Abhisit. Naturally, that idea is being opposed by Abhisit and his supporters who seek to control party “reform.”

Alongkorn tells us this when he states that:

previous efforts to introduce changes led to serious conflicts as several party members insisted on sticking by individual and factional ideas, but said this attitude would have to change.

The dissatisfaction with Abhisit is seen in continuing claims that “outsiders would be brought in to add freshness to the party.”

Even here, though, the “reformers” seem lost in the past. The names doing the rounds include party seniors who are hardly outsider: Supachai Panitchpakdi and Surin Pitsuwan. “Outsider” seems to mean outside the clique supporting Abhisit.

Abhisit’s minions have responded to Alongkorn. The Abhisit sycophant Sathit Wongnongtaey declared that “election defeats were not the main reason for the reform.” We guess this is because the Abhisit clique doesn’t think that elections are important.

No new leaders for him, but the seniors – and he includes Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda with Supachai and Surin – can form a “central committee.” That is one way of ensuring that they will have no power.

Oh, and by the way, there’s no “internal conflict” because “reform had not been initiated by Alongkorn but by Abhisit himself…”! Talk of a “conflict” was a “misunderstanding.”

If the Abhisit faction sees off this challenge, the immediate political future for the party revolves around street politics, disruption of parliament and the denigration of voters. All of this is dangerous for Thailand’s democratic development.





Updated: Abhisit and political toxicity

15 05 2013

As the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) brings further charges against  former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban related to the 2010 military crackdown on red shirts, Abhisit’s Democrat Party continues its retreat from reform.

Supporting each other?

Who’s the boss?

In one report at The Nation, Abhisit and Suthep were summoned by the DSI to hear charges that they conspired:

with others to take actions that could be expected to lead to murder in connection with the killing of a boy, Kunakorn Srisuwan.

They also heard charges that they conspired:

with others in actions leading to attempted murder in connection with the attack on Samorn Maithong, which left him seriously wounded.

More charges may follow as the Criminal Court completes more inquests into more deaths during the May 2010.

Meanwhile, Abhisit and his coterie have managed to see off calls for the reform of the failed Democrat Party. At The Nation, it is reported that “a reform plan proposed by deputy party leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot” has been deferred.

More significantly, “[t]he party called off a [pre-arranged] press conference to announce its decision…”. Both Alongkorn and Abhisit were said to be unable to attend, meaning that the party is split. This is confirmed when the party spokesman, an Abhisit acolyte, must claim that Alongkorn:

was not upset about the decision, insisting that there was no rift within the party and executive members were disciplined and did not express disagreement outside the party.

Abhisit’s group, which has led the party to repeated electoral defeats and which owed its period in government to the military and its guns, refuses to acknowledge its failures and political toxicity.

Update: In a recent story at The Nation, Alongkorn expresses his anger as he “slammed his party colleagues for accusing him of lacking ideology and principle, and for saying he … follows in the Pheu Thai Party’s footsteps of ‘intoxicating people with populist policies’.” He states he “was attacked” by some in the party “because I have disseminated a reform plan entitled ‘The party reform blueprint and 21 years of election defeat’ in a straightforward manner since I do not want the blueprint to be distorted.” Meanwhile, Abhisit blathered about the party needing more time to think about reform, meaning no reform that is not Abhisit’s proposal.





Democrat Party or Party Abhisit?

28 04 2013

It is telling that Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is opposing widespread calls for the reform of his party. That might be expected as calls for reform are usually attached to quieter grumbles that Abhisit is politically tainted by his term as leader, association with the military and his murderous attempts to crush the red shirts in 2009 and 2010. At the same time, his resistance and his control of the party via a few elite, English-educated cronies is indicative of his authoritarian streak and his pompous stubbornness when in government.

Oddly, in one report at the Bangkok Post, Abhisit is declared to have “backed proposals by his deputy to reform the party’s structure ahead of the next general election.” The most recent calls for change have come from deputy party leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot and party stalwart Bhichai Rattakul.

Abhisit downplayed Alongkorn’s suggestions lumping them in with “different ideas for party reform” put forward by “several party MPs.” He has been even more dismissive of Bhichai, having others claim that the senior figure is in bed with the party’s “enemies.”Abhisit

Abhisit demands that reform “remain an internal affair at this stage” and arguing that such change and debate “could be exploited by the party’s opponents to create conflict among members and confusion among the public…”. In other words, Abhisit is trying to squash reform and in doing so threatens his own tenuous position and risks a party split. He is supported by several party members clustered around former leader Chuan Leekpai, who has no track record of reform or change in the royalist party.

Abhisit’s line is that “party members should focus on their role as the opposition to monitor the government…”, suggesting to PPT that he is content to have his party stay in opposition with no new ideas and stifling any alternative voices.

The negativity associated with Abhisit’s stonewalling is highlighted in another report at the Bangkok Post that refers to the Democrat Party having “been pounded from all sides to undergo reform and become more appealing to voters, [but] the Democrat Party is finding that any efforts it makes to instigate change are meeting with resistance.” The resistance from the Party Abhisit cronies.

This report refers to the calls for change being attacked by Chuan, using the same language as Abhisit as he “insists the party’s internal affairs should not be laundered in public.” Heaven forbid that the royalist party should engage in public debate! It seems that the party that provided no democracy in government can not allow democracy in its own structures.

The report states that many in the party:

want party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to listen to members who are not in his inner circle…. Mr Abhisit’s inner circle consists of young, foreign-educated MPs such as Songkhla’s Sirichoke Sopha and party list-MP Chavanond Intarakomalyasut. Other stalwarts with close ties to Mr Abhisit are members of the so-called ”Gang of Four” _ MP for Trang Sathit Wongnongtoey, party list-MPs Anchalee Wanich Theppabutr and Siriwan Prasajaksatru and MP for Phitsanulok Juti Krairiksh.

This group is the one that stood behind Abhisit in his kowtowing to the military and his government’s murderous attacks on red shirts, demanding that there be no compromise with the “enemy.” This group seems to be the one arguing that:

Only Mr Abhisit, Mr Chuan and former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban know what the Democrats’ key problems requiring reform are.

Given that these are the opponents of reform, this claim is nothing more than recognition that the Democrat Party, which abandoned democratic ideas, is essentially owned by a coterie of elitists and royalists who run it as a fiefdom.