How many generals does it take to change a cabinet

24 08 2015

Depends how you count then, but 15-16 seems to be The Dictator’s answer. The new cabinet is a bit smaller than the previous one, meaning that military and police types have more seats than in the previous junta-dominated cabinet.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha was his usual angry self when reporters pointed out that the new cabinet was more military dominated than the previous one:

“So what when the new cabinet has more generals…. What happened with the past (governments) when there were  none…?”

The Dictator needs lots of generals around him, no matter how dim they are, for the respect they give him and because he prefers to operate in a hierarchical milieu.

We can think of plenty of answers to the general’s query, but it was a rhetorical question. The Dictator can’t conceive of any arrangement where civilians, especially elected ones, could ever be permitted to rule in Thailand. He considers military men the nation’s “natural” rulers.

If we were to observe anything positive in the changes made to the cabinet it is that The Dictator got rid of two serial failures who get positions for the capacity to represent the royalist duffers who think they run the country. We have previously mentioned wealthy minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula as a lazy and failed former finance minister from a previous military-backed government and failed businessman and serial minister Narongchai Akrasanee. Both are gone.

The military dominance of cabinet indicates a determination to maintain military rule for some time to come.





A cabinet of sycophants

2 09 2014

Sycophant is defined as: a “servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.” Another meaning is: “a person who uses flattery to win favour from individuals wielding influence; toady.” And a third and related meaning is: “a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.” All of these seem like perfectly adequate definitions of the military dictatorship’s recently announced cabinet of yes-men-cum-ministers.

An AP report stated that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “awarded top posts in his Cabinet to senior military officials, in the latest move that critics say will prolong the military’s grip on power.” We doubt that only critics will notice this. We notice that the anti-democrats are cheering. According to AP, the new cabinet “includes 11 career military men with no political experience, seven of them generals, who will serve as the ministers of justice, education, defense, transport, commerce and foreign affairs, among other posts.”

In fact, though, these general do have political experience. All of them have been heavily involved in politics for their entire careers, serving political masters in the palace. As a result most of them have seen 3-4 military putsches overthrowing elected governments.

Indeed, a longer AP reports states, “Prayuth awarded portfolios to several senior soldiers said to have played key roles in both coups, including his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda. Anupong will serve as the new interior minister.”

Anit-democrats seem to have wanted more military men in the cabinet, with pretend “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong criticizing the non-military “bureaucrats” in cabinet.

PPT is having difficulty reconciling the numbers in cabinet. The Bangkok Post’s reporting has it that there are 36 members of cabinet. The official announcement lists 32, of whom 12 are military or police.

The Nation commented that the 11 military yes-men are “close and trusted colleagues of Prime Minister General Prayuth…”. It identifies three groups of military men. The first are Prayuth’s former bosses, General Prawit Wongsuwan and General Anupong…”. They take the two most important political positions, defense and interior. For more than a century, these have been the most powerful cabinet positions. Here the sycophant is Prayuth. The second group is composed of trusted buddies. Prayuth reckons his “close friends … deserve rewards and important posts.” These friends were all “Prayuth’s former classmates at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

These include General Dapong Ratanasuwan, who was an Abhisit Vejjajiva regime appointment to ISOC, used for their political purposes, which coincided with the military’s desires.

The third group of military men are all trusted by The Dictator, who has also brought in “National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana as the Prime Minister’s Office minister [which] also indicates that Prayuth is focusing on security affairs, at a time when the junta believes there are still threats to the newly formed government by old power cliques.” To make the point again, The Nation states: “It appears Prayuth wanted him to help with possible threats from the new unelected administration’s political enemies.”

Regime protection is important to Prayuth as he re-designs Thailand for the royalist elite.

The civilians brought in are a mix. There are recycled sycophants from the previous coup and a group of trusted and anti-Thaksin/anti-red shirt bureaucrats. PPT has mentioned military sycophant Wissanu Krea-ngam plenty of times in the past. He’s trusted because he is for hire. His position, status and wealth depends on his support to the palace-military cabal. Minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula is a failed former finance minister from the failed military-backed government led by privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont.Sommai Pasi is a former deputy finance minister in the Surayud administration.

We were most interested to see Narongchai Akrasanee, described as a “senior economist and former commerce minister” included as energy minister. Quite some time ago, PPT noted that Narongchai was a spectacularly failed businessman, and adviser to various governments, who was then chairman of MFC Asset Management. In passing, we noted that even if you fail in this industry and lose millions of baht in other people’s money it seems you can be reincarnated in both business and politics. For more on this, we are grateful to a reader who sent on material.

Narongchai headed General Finance, which was one of 56 finance companies closed by the Thai government in 1997 because of bad loans and making loans without requiring collateral. In August 1998, the Bank of Thailand filed criminal charges against six executives of General Finance. For some of 1997, Narongchai was the commerce minister. He was brought into the Chavalit government by Amnuay Viravan, and they presided over some of the financial meltdown:

Although Amnuay was close to the prime minister and had known him for about 10 years, relations between the two were getting sour. Amnuay came aboard the Chavalit government on the New Aspiration Party’s quota, along with other non-MP colleagues Dr Narongchai Akrasanee, the commerce minister, and Somphob Amatayakul, the deputy industry minister.

Narongchai was a well-known economist and chairman of General Finance & Securities Public Company Ltd, which was among the first lot of insolvent finance companies to be shut down by the banking authorities. Somphob was a former top executive of IBM Thailand Ltd.

 If readers can add more, we’d be happy to post.





Puppet assembly

1 08 2014

As expected, the military dictatorship has appointed a puppet National Legislative Assembly packed with military and police and anti-democrats. (In fact, only anti-democrats could agree to serve as military puppets in this way).

The king apparently received the list on Thursday and almost immediatley approved it. This action suggests considerable coordination between the palace and military junta. The list of those appointed was immediately published in the Royal Gazette (the link is fixed and clicking downloads a PDF in Thai).

Puppets and clowns

Puppets and clowns

There are 10 senior police and “105 military officers, 67 are from the army, 19 each from the navy and the air force.” The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s brother was even appointed, just to keep some of the puppetry in the family.

The military/police bloc is a majority of the 200 appointed and will remain so even when 20 more are appointed and if none are military. But the notion of majority hardly matters for this puppet assembly.

This is because everyone in the assembly is going to dance to the military’s tune and to the strings it tugs.

The unelected senators group, composed of anti-democrats from the appointed part of the last senate got their reward for their longstanding opposition to elected governments, and can now join the puppetry as junior cast members.

Likewise the anti-democrat presidents of nine universities that also did their job in bringing down the last elected government, following the orders from higher up.

So too the business flunkies, including the military accolyte Narongchai Akrasanee, chairman of MFC Asset Management, Boonchai Chokwatana, chairman of Saha Pathanapibul Plc who is close to Anand Punyarachun and was once said to be funding the anti-democrats and a bunch of other royalists.

Colgate-Palmolive appears to have its hands being dirtied by one of its well-paid executives “serving” in the military’s puppet parliament, which is probably not a good look for an international company that advertises its dedication to “good governance.”

Other puppets include many with links to the anti-democrat, anti-election, anti-Thaksin and anti-Yingluck campaigns. They include Klanarong Chanthik, the notorious anti-foreign campaigner and wealthy scion of a corrupt military family, Songsuda Yodmani, and Kittisak Rattanvaraha, the “deputy chairman of the Thai Farmers’ Network who led protesters to pressure the Yingluck government to repay farmers under the rice-pledging programme.” In other words, the anti-democrat stooges are now puppets for the junta.

Finally, General “Ood Buangbon, former defence permanent secretary and close aide to Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, was also appointed.” Who was suggesting the palace wasn’t involved in this coup? Oh, yes, it was Prayuth….

Now we will will be treated to a show as the puppets dance for their masters.





Preserving the government and monarchy is core mission

26 02 2010

Television is wall-to-wall coverage regarding the Thaksin Shinawatra and family assets case. The print media is full of huge headlines. The government is stating again and again that it is prepared. The middle class are feeling a little more secure. Some see the case as the big showdown, with former Assets Scrutiny Committee members coming out demanding that the courts take all of money that is frozen. It is as if this case is the big turning point. As one correspondent put it, “we’ll be able to exhale.”

Others are looking more to the medium and long terms and are less focused on the decision. The Bangkok Post (25 February 2010) reports on comments by former academic economist, former commerce minister, spectacularly failed businessman, and advisor to various governments Narongchai Akrasanee, now chairman of MFC Asset Management (even if you fail in this industry and lose millions of baht in other people’s money it seems you can be reincarnated).

He begins by noting that “major political changes are unlikely no matter how the Supreme Court rules tomorrow in the Thaksin assets case…”. Narongchai said the balance of power was unlikely to change…” as the “Democrat-led coalition government under premier Abhisit Vejjajiva remains the best option for all involved…”. His reasons for favoring the Democrat Party was because it is the “strongest in terms of leadership, authority, military support and resources…”.

This seems to be a common perspective amongst the Bangkok-based ruling elite and high society types.

For example, in the Bangkok Post (26 April 2010) it is reported that several analysts agree that the “protracted political crisis is here to stay regardless of how the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions rules…”.

Woothisarn Tanchai, who is deputy secretary-general of the royalist bastion at the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said the assets case was “unlikely to be a critical turning point in Thai politics.” He added that the red shirts “would press on with its rally to bring down the coalition government and discredit the amataya thipatai system…”. Woothisarn, however, “doubted the red shirts would succeed.” Targeting the amat system “will bring together other forces in society including the military to fight them.”

Not surprisingly, Woothisarn was supported in his views by government security authorities.” One such unnamed source said “the activities to discredit the government, the Privy Council and independent organisations were likely to continue. They might also intensify because the red shirts’ ultimate goal was a state of social anarchy, which they hoped would force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament.” They would be unsuccessful in this “battle” because of the “strong alliance made up of the government and the military led by army commander Anupong Paojinda.

This view was supported by a cabinet member from the Ruam Jai Chart Pattana Party who said the full support of the military meant the government was likely to last.The minister added that: “Military leaders have intervened and mediated between the Democrat Party and its partners when conflicts have risen.The military needs to keep the Democrat Party-led coalition in power for as long as possible in order to preserve the monarchy.

The earlier cited security source believes that as long as the “red shirts have set their sights on the country’s core institutions,” meaning the monarchy and privy council, the military will continue to support the government…”. The agreed core mission of the government and military is said to be “to save the country and core institutions…”.

Adding to the chorus of opinion that the government remains in place because it is the military’s preferred government is Chairman of the Political Development Council and former academic Suchit Bunbongkarn, who “said he could not see how the red shirts could bring down the government.

If it wasn’t clear already, these statements from government-aligned sources spell it out: the Abhisit government remains the military’s government, put in place and maintained by military support. December 2008 was the military’s solution to its failure to get the Democrats elected in December 2007. Protecting the monarchy is its core mission. The political choice is clear.