Amnesia on the military

15 06 2011

In a recent post we said: “PPT thought that everyone knows that the brokering of the deal for the Democrat Party-led coalition government was managed by the military with support from business and the palace.” In that post we were commenting on the recent Abhisit Vejjajiva epistle. It seems that this sudden amnesia has also infected the writers at the Bangkok Post, where two articles claim that the military’s involvement in cobbling together the Democrat Party-led coalition is somehow a new story.

The first story is by the yellow-hued op-ed writer Veera Prateepchaikul. He takes up Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa’s comments in an article with the intriguing title “’Forced marriage’ was not made in heaven.” We take this as a reference to the palace. Interestingly, though, Veera doesn’t mention the palace. It seems he wants to shift responsibility away from “heaven.” Veera states: “Chumpol’s first public admission of Chartthaipattana’s ‘forced marriage’ with the Democrats and three other junior parties …has confirmed what the opposition Pheu Thai Party and many political observers have accused all along – that the military had played a crucial role in cobbling together the Abhisit government…. But Mr Abhisit has denied all along that his coalition government was put together with the help of the military.”

The second story is by Wassana Nanuam, who knows what happened very well. Her account also points to Chumpol’s comments “… Armed forces leaders, including Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha], reportedly invited many politicians for a talk at the 1st Infantry Regiment to lobby them to support the Democrat-led government in December 2007. Both the military and the Democrat Party have vehemently denied this.”

The interesting point is the last sentence. PPT’s question is: How can the Democrat Party and the military deny it now and why does Veera think this is new?

We covered some of this in out linked post above and this earlier post. We again draw readers’ attention to the excellent Bangkok Pundit round-up on the Chumpol story. Let’s just cite a bit from that post, from The Nation: “    The shadow of the military hovers over moves to form a new government, which will see the Democrats team up with minor parties who agreed to swap sides “for the sake of the nation. “A key leader of one of the former coalition parties said most parties had moved to the Democrat camp due to a request by a senior military figure, who was conveying a message from a man who could not be refuted.” We would assume that the “man” is close to heaven.

We might add that Anupong and his co-military commanders made a public statement calling for the PPP government to resign. That was in late November 2008, in a nationwide broadcast.

What else does the media say at the time? Here’s some, from PPT’s paper files:

In the same Nation story, this is added: “key Democrat leaders namely Suthep [Thaugsuban] and Niphon [Promphan], along with their supporters namely Pradit [Pattaraprasit], Somsak [Prissanananthakul], Suchat Tanchareon from Puea Pandin, Somsak Thepsuthin from the disbanded Matchima Thipataya, and some MPs from Newin [Chidchob]’s group met Army Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda at his residence. The only parties not invited were Pheu Thai and Pracharaj.”

On 11 December 2011, Wassana in the Bangkok Post stated: “Amid intense lobbying by both Puea Thai and Democrat camps, many key members of the coalition parties and key factions within them were seen visiting Gen Anupong at his official residence in the compound of the First Infantry Regiment off Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, both in small and large groups. Among these special visitors were reportedly Newin Chidchob and Sora-at Klinprathum, two faction leaders in the now dissolved PPP. The two men were seen at Gen Anupong’s residence on Dec 4 along with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army’s chief-of-staff. Later, Pradit Phataraprasit, secretary-general of Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana party reportedly called on Gen Prayuth at his residence, also in the regiment compound. In the meantime, Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban kept in touch with Gen Anupong by phone…. On Dec 6, shortly before the Democrat’s plan to form a new coalition government was announced, Mr Suthep reportedly led a group of key members of the Democrats’ prospective coalition partners to meet Gen Anupong at the residence of former army chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is well respected by Gen Anupong. Even though the meetings were supposed to be secret events, they ended up in the open because of the unusual manner of the visits.”

In the Bangkok Post on 29 December 2008, Anupong “accepted that meetings between him and politicians from the Democrats and other smaller parties at his residence at the First Infantry Regiment on Vibhavadi Rangsit road paved the way for the Democrats to eventually form a new coalition government. The Dec 3, 4 and 6 meetings were attended by key figures of the former coalition parties of the previous government and influential Buri Ram politician Newin Chidchob, the leader of the breakaway faction of the dissolved People Power party.” It is clear that the cat is already well out of the bag and there can be no denying the meetings. What Anupong does then is add this, and this has been the basis of continuing dissembling by the military brass and Abhisit: ”They phoned me for my advice. Some asked to meet me. But I was not involved in setting up the government. I only suggested that they do what is good for the country…”.

But he can’t control himself, saying: “Society expects the military to help restore peace. But when this [the meetings] happened, I was attacked. What should I do, then?” PPT uses the words of a military source cited in the above story: “From the chain of events of the last few weeks, it cannot be denied that Gen Anupong had a hand in the successful formation of the present government.”

What isn’t very clear at all is the identity of the “man” who could not be disobeyed. Many have suggested Privy Councilor General Prem Tinsulanonda. Unlike Anupong’s involvement, however, this one is harder to pin down with adequate news stories.

But this is certainly no big news. The journalists had it right from the start. So why the collective amnesia now? Anything to do with the election?

 





The unmentionable is mentioned

5 05 2011

A report in the Bangkok Post on the attempt to silence political parties on the monarchy in electioneering raises several questions.

This idea, first raised by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and quickly taken up by the Election Commission (EC) who now say the virtual ban was its idea – which may be followed by a regulation – is based on the fatuous notion that the monarchy has nothing to do with politics.

In fact, as PPT has noted in an earlier post, the gagging appears to be one-sided, as the military continues its hard line stance, attacking red shirts and the Puea Thai Party as republicans, hoping that this provides a political advantage for the royalist Democrat Party should an election be called.

This is what we said in that post: “Making a regulation that prohibits politicians even mentioning the monarchy would be a huge expansion of the lese majeste repression that is already in place. PPT can only imagine that claims that a politician spoke of the monarchy would be subject to closed door hearings, with the statements not detailed (as repeating the statement might constitute lese majeste), and electoral red cards being issued against (mostly) opposition politicians. What a boon for the Democrat Party and their allies!”

The report in the Post begins by noting that :[n]early all of Thailand’s 55 political parties have signed an agreement to refrain from exploiting the monarchy to boost their popularity when campaigning in the next general election, expected to take place in June.” PPT assumes that the 3 parties that haven’t signed up are on holidays or risking charges by their failure to sign up to the monarchist contract.

In fact, while the EC claims that it wants to keep the monarchy out of politics, its action just makes the monarchy more central. Abhisit says he wants a ban on references to the monarchy, and it is easy to imagine such a ban being used against Puea Thai poll victors in yet another intervention to cripple pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties.

Other party leaders are not so sure about the ban. For example, “Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa said references honouring the royalty in context should still be allowed. He said the constitution stated that all Thais had a duty to honour the royal institution.” Even the EC seems to court exceptions, stating: “individual parties’ written policy statements about the monarchy would not pose a problem so long as they were not repeated by politicians while campaigning for votes.” This supports the coalition parties and especially the Bhum Jai Thai Party.

At the same time, the same 52 parties were asked to sign up to an agreement that they will “respect the results of the election.” PPT is tempted to add this “promise” to our series on fixing the election. But then such a promise is largely irrelevant.

It has not really been political parties that have been the issue in disrespecting results. Sure, the perennial losers – the Democrat Party – boycotted the April 2006 election and have complained about Thaksin parties and candidates, but it is other groups that have repeatedly overthrown election results. The military by coup, the palace through its continual interventions (think Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda in early 2006, the April 2006 direction to judges on that election, and so on), the People’s Alliance for Democracy and royalists who demonstrate and oppose the whole idea of elections, and scheming business people.








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