The new privy council

6 12 2016

It was widely expected that the new king would put his stamp on the Privy Council. He’s done that in very quick time.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has appointed an 11-member Privy Council.

The new members are: “Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the current Education Minister; Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, currently the Justice Minister; and Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, who retired as army commander-in-chief on Sept 30.”

We surmise that they will need to give up their current positions.

Those who “retired” are, including the dates they took their positions: “Tanin Kraivixien [1977], Chaovana Nasylvanta [1975], ACM Kamthon Sindhavananda [1987], Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya [1993], Ampol Senanarong [1994], Rr Adm ML Usani Pramoj [1984], MR Thepkamol Devakula [1997] and Adm Chumpol Patchusanont [2005].”

Persons with more knowledge than us will have to read these tea leaves and explain the possible reasons for sending these men on their way.

This means the current 11 members of the Privy Council are: “Gen Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Watanachai, Palakorn Suwanarat,  Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Phungam, Chanchai Likitjitta, ACM Chalit Pookpasuk, Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich and Gen Paiboon Koomchaya.” General Prem Tinsulanonda is president of the Privy Council.

This means six are military men, all from the post-2006 politicized forces and several of them having been actively involved in coups overthrowing elected governments.

Three are for presidents of the Supreme Court. One is a former education minister and another is Former Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior. Except for Prem, all have been appointed since 2001.

The king can have up to 18 members, so there’s plenty of empty chairs for him to add others. At the moment, this new Privy Council will be especially pleasing for the military junta. We can only wonder what the deal is for appointing three two serving ministers and a corrupt officer.





Updated: The Leader explains

27 07 2014

The interim constitution – in fact, a document that grants the military dictatorship sweeping power – is available in English translation. Given that the junta had already grabbed sweeping powers, this is hardly a shock.

Surprisingly, the grumpy military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha decided that, despite having his minions “explain” the need for a dictatorship, he needed to “explain” it again. The Bangkok Post has a story where The Leader states that the junta “sought to maintain a balance between the powers of the interim government and those of the NCPO [the junta].” He adds that the junta “has no desire for power or personal interest…”.

Perhaps The Leader hasn’t read his interim charter. If he had, then he’d realize that his statement to the nation is nonsensical. The interim constitution makes it clear that the military dictatorship and, more specifically, The Leader himself, have remarkable power that override those of any interim government.Prayuth planking

That government will be a bunch of junta flunkies, and under the interim constitution the junta is still acting illegally except for the fact that that basic law absolves the junta of all illegalities (section 41), including the illegal seizure of power itself (section 48). The junta continues to hold power and can even call a joint meeting with the junta-appointed Council of Ministers (section 46).

Prayuth defended the junta’s cancellation of local elections, saying that “the selection method was not transparent in some [local] areas while some of the people holding office were not effective.” In fact, the junta is transparent in its intentions. It wants no elections where its political opponents may win until it can fix the rules in a way that only permits its allies to be victorious.

Prayuth also “urged the media to correctly understand the NCPO’s intentions.” The problem is that the media – what little of it that remains supportive of democratization – knows the intentions of the junta only too well. Accurate reporting of this would lead to bans, censorship and “invitations” for re-education.

As The Leader “explained,” there would only be “problems” for the media “if you over-criticise or don’t have an honest intent.” Of course, it is The Leader and the junta that determines “intent.” More alarmingly, The Leader promised “media reform”: “In the second phase, there will be reform in all branches of the media and all media members must help and cooperate…”.

PPT can only assume that this is going to be a major state-military-junta effort to enforce “fascism with the king as head of state.” After all, The Leader “criticised the people who claimed to be ‘calling for democracy’ in the country.” He’s clear that His “democracy” is not the democracy of elections, voting and representation.

Update: To follow up on that statement by the Big Boss (-1) where he earnestly stated: the junta “has no desire for power or personal interest…”. The Nation reports that he must have been fibbing for “an informed NCPO source,” which means one of the military dictatorship’s junta, has contradicted the sill Prayuth claim with a statement of reality: “At least 100 senior military officers are tipped to be selected as members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”.

The Leader and liar, General Prayuth even personally “screened the list of people proposed to be members of the NLA presented by his assistant General Paiboon Koom-chaya, who is in charge of justice and legal matters for the military leaders.” The list includes some other flunkies who masquerade as academics, claim to head “non-government groups,” steal the slaves’ labor as “business people,” and who have done the palace’s dirty work as unelected “senators,” but the biggest group will be the men in green.

The powers backing Prayuth and the key links to the palace will also be there: General Prawit Wongsuwan, the mutinous former Army chief General Anupong Paochinda and former deputy Army chief General Dapong Ratanasuwan.





Updated: Who let the boys out?

12 01 2013

All media have been reporting on a “rally” by some 50 soldiers outside the ASTV/Manager office protesting the newspaper’s criticisms of Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha. Prayuth had earlier dismissed the People’s Alliance for Democracy threats on Preah Vihear and belittled the xenophobes. They responded via PAD propagandists at ASTV, which, according to the Post, drawing on classic Sondhi Limthongkul-style mysogynist rhetoric that has Prayuth as an angry woman with a period who has failed as Army commander:

ASTV-Manager issued a statement to counter Gen Prayuth under the headline “Manager or Gen Prayuth: Who is lousy?”

The statement posted on its website, www.manager.co.th, said Gen Prayuth had failed to protect national interests and solve problems. “If the army chief believes that he knows the problems better than anyone else, why can he not solve them?” it asked.

The problems included failure to put an end to violence in the far South and to protect villagers at the border being attacked by Cambodian soldiers, according to the statement.

In fact, Prayuth deserves much criticism for his often bellicose interventions in the political process and for his role in post-coup politics and events that include the bloody crackdowns in April and May 2010, and he needs to be held accountable for these.

So while the president of the Thai Journalists’ Association has reportedly said: “It is inappropriate for the soldiers to rally against the media outlet. They have no such duty…” is right and PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan is also correct in saying that “soldiers had no right to dictate editorial policy…”, both are being disingenuous. We say this because both the TJA nor PAD have been contingent supporters of media freedom. Both have not howled in protest when red shirt media has been closed and harassed in the past and nor have they been even-handed in protesting political repression more broadly.

That said, the idea that soldiers should rally and threaten a media outlet is anathema to a democratic system. When Army “protesters” rally it is their bosses who should be held responsible. Prayuth must accept criticism, and respond to it in an appropriate manner. He and his top commander must also accept responsibility for the politicized action of soldiers under their command.

Clearly, this protest is not a bunch of soldiers acting politically and independently, for Major General Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 11th Infantry Division, and a man with considerable political lineage and recent history, has again defended his boss by attacking the media, again stating that “he and other troops would not tolerate their superior being insulted and were acting to protect the dignity of the army chief.” This is Army bullying and intimidation, yet again. Also confirming the support for this action is Deputy army commander General Dapong Rattanasuwan who “urged soldiers to show restraint in their protest.”

The soldiers actions are throwbacks to earlier decades when soldiers also protested against civilian politicians and other critics. The Yingluck Shinawatra government, timid in dealing with opponents, and its supporters may be tempted to cheer the Army boss for his quite reasonable support of the government on Preah Vihear.

However, that act of “reasonableness” is also wrong. Prayuth shouldn’t comment on political events at all. Comments should be from the Minister of Defense. The Yingluck government should be aware that this politicized Army must be brought under civilian control and professionalized/depoliticized if democratic government is to be embedded in Thailand. Just getting the military on its side is an act of politicization that will have negative and long-term consequences.

Update: The Post now has a longer story that makes it clear that it was Prayuth who let the boys of the leash so that the Army could again be politically intrusive for two days of “rallying” at ASTV/Manager. Another general, Paiboon Khumchaya, who is chief of the First Army Region, “said he gave the soldiers permission to gather at the newspaper offices…”. Paiboon added: “They asked my permission and I approved it because I could not curb their right to protect their supervisor.” This sounds like the Army inventing a new “human right”! What nonsense!

Meanwhile, Sondhi, reported to be “speaking from California,” which means he’s again raising money from the LA-based yellow shirts, “said he would not apologise for his paper’s stand.” He claimed “many army officers were disappointed with Gen Prayuth for failing to protect the army’s dignity when it was ‘insulted’ by the red-shirts and the Department of Special Investigation, which continues to investigate the army’s role in the political violence of 2010.”

On the green side, the dutiful Army lads “said the article has damaged their morale because the army chief is like their “second father”. They demanded the media outlet issue an apology to the general.” How many fathers can they have. Really, this attitude is childish nonsense whether expressed for a Army boss or a king.





Abhisit, Yingluck and ISOC

29 09 2011

It was always kind of assumed that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government used the Internal Security Operations Command for its own political purposes. However, it is good to see this confirmed in the Bangkok Post.

The Post points out that ISOC “has become the latest battlefield amid continuing power struggles that the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the army commander are struggling to contain.”

The report states:

The past government led by the Democrat [Party]… reportedly exploited the Isoc’s vast networks, all the way down to community level, to promote itself and block deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to Thailand, and to fight _unsuccessfully _ the Pheu Thai Party’s rise to power.

At that time, Abhisit Vejjajiva, then prime minister, held the ex officio position of Isoc director and assigned army chief and deputy Isoc director Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to act on his behalf.

In essence, the last government teamed up with the army chief and army chief-of-staff Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, who is secretary-general to the Isoc, to direct the organisation.

At that time, friends of Gen Prayuth and Gen Dapong from Class 12 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School were appointed to all commanding positions at the Isoc.

The unit’s annual budget is more than 8 billion baht.

Further:

during the Democrat [Party] tenure, the Isoc also implemented a so-called economic solution project. It was reported that this was actually aimed at convincing people, especially in the North and the Northeast, not to support the Pheu Thai Party.

The Isoc also implemented an anti-narcotics campaign before the July 3 election. The campaign was viewed as an attempt to tame Pheu Thai canvassers.

Abhisit and his government politicized this organization and was supported enthusiatically by the military’s leadership. Puea Thai wants to claw this back. It should.

However, Yingluck did this by trying to appoint the horrid Panlop Pinmanee to be “the government’s chief advisor,” this has been opposed by many (including PPT). It is also opposed by Army boss General Prayuth, but for different and highly political reasons.

Prayuth wants to retain control. He is battling to keep the Puea Thai Party government from controlling the major security organizations.





Abhisit finds an election plot

18 06 2011

In response to the directions issued by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, numerous commentators have reacted negatively to Prayuth’s political intervention. His main defenders have been his unarmed brothers in the Democrat Party.

The Bangkok Post says that “political heavyweights” not just supported Prayuth, but “welcomed” them! In the surreal world of Democrat Party politics, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva can state that “there was no hint in Gen Prayuth’s remarks as to which party people should vote for.” Abhisit is probably the only person in Thailand who believes this to be the case. Everyone else was crystal clear that Prayuth was making a statement against the Puea Thai Party.

Not to be outdone in the I-have-no-credibility stakes on this issue, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “Prayuth’s interview was not a show of support for the Democrat party.” He also claimed that any report that he had met with Prayuth before the general’s diatribe were “untrue.” It is not clear from the report that Suthep is denying that any meeting took place.

Suthep does admit to meeting Army chief-of-staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan, apparently to give the Army support when it has been criticized.

The bonds between the Democrat Party and the Army have never been stronger, and both Abhisit and Suthep have reiterated that they are ready to work with and cooperate with the Army in all ways. It seems the bonding is strong as they face the election together.

One of the items that has clearly been decided is for the Democrat Party to get “tougher.” That has been the call from business and other supporters. PPT has no doubt the Army brass has been saying the same thing. This is how The Nation explains Abhisit’s last-ditch plea to the electorate: “It was probably a punch as hard as Abhisit Vejjajiva could ever throw. Whether his bringing up of last year’s fiery red-shirt fiery to the election race will rattle the hot favourite Pheu Thai Party and whether it will backfire remains to be seen, but his last card is apparently on the table…. [C]aution has been thrown to the winds.”

It’s not a new strategy as the Democrat Party has floated it for some time, more insistently since last weekend, and now it seems to be the only talking point.

The Nation reports that Abhisit, like Prayuth, has drawn on the monarchy for political support. In words that echo those of Princess Chulabhorn in the syrupy Woody interview, Abhisit complained that: “he had never thought Thais would torch their capital the way Ayutthaya was raided by the Burmese in 1767.” He went on to add that “King Taksin restored the country’s independence after Ayutthaya was torched. I never dreamed that in my life, after enemies raided the country twice, I would see my fellow countrymen torch our city…”. He seemed to compare himself to Taksin and his army.

The next couple of weeks will be nothing if not interesting as desperation replaces policy for the Democrat Party. PPT still doesn’t rule them out as they may have small numbers but they have the big guns behind them.

 





With a major update: Clash escalating towards real war

8 02 2011

The border “skirmish” between Thailand and Cambodia continues to expand and grow. As ever, The Thai Report is providing a host of useful links to stories, tweets and video.

On the Thais side, there appears little way to back down. Readers can go back to our earlier posts on the relationship between PAD and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government for comments on the need to be “tough” in a tug-of-war for the nationalist yellow supporters. The military continues to run its own show with little or no effective civilian oversight and seems to line up in ways that provide considerable support for the yellow nationalists.

The Phnom Penh Post has several stories from the Cambodian side.

Update: As the armed forces seem to control so much, including the way the border clashes go with Cambodia – perhaps towards more martial responses, in The Nation, Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senapong gets upset that red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan has again talked of coup plots. Of course, Jatuporn isn’t the only one making these claims. Admiral Bannawit Kengrien, a yellow-hued supporter of the 2006 coup and (a former supporter) of the current government has talked of coup too.

Thepthai says Jatuporn “fabricated an alleged coup plot in order to drive a wedge between the government and the armed forces…”. Well, the fact is that the army is the dog and not the tail in this relationship, so if there is a breech, perhaps it is reflective of the tail not being adequate for wagging. He claimed that “the government had a good working relationship with the armed forces. This was in stark contrast to the situation when Pheu Thai was in power and failed to win the respect of top military leaders…”. Thepthai neglects to mention that the government is beholden to the armed forces. It stays in power while the military wants it there.

Jatuporn alleged that a  “coup plot was being hatched by five figures.” He named  the plotters as: “tycoon Prayad Boonsung, Army Chief-of-Staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan, retired General Saprang Kalayanamitr, businessman Piya Malakul and People’s Alliance for Democracy Sondhi Limthongkul.” All names that we’ve heard from before and potentially associated with a coup, some of them not for the first time.

The events on the border and the actions of PAD should be seen in the context of rumors of splits and coup plotting.