More changes at the palace

30 01 2017

When the last king died, the palace was essentially in the administrative hands of a bunch of old men, many of them who had been around as long as the king himself.

When the prince became king, he moved some of the old men off the Privy Council and replaced them with serving military personal – serving mainly in the junta.

Some other changes are coming just because old guys are falling off the perch. Following the death of his twin brother Keokhwan in September 2016, the Bangkok Post reports that Grand Chamberlain Khwankeo Vajarodaya died at the age of 89 last Saturday, essentially of old age.

His funeral will be managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household, with the king assigning Privy Counselor Palakorn Suwanrath as the royal representative at the bathing rite. That seems a bit odd, given his brother has Princess Sirindhorn preside. In fact, the new king and the Vajarodyas have not always got on. Royal watcher Andrew MacGregor Marshall had this to say:

One of the most prominent families of palace officials is the Vajarodaya clan (the surname is sometimes transliterated as Watcharothai). The octogenarian family patriarch Kaeokhwan Vajarodaya was a childhood friend of King Bhumibol, and has been Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau since 1987. This means that — officially, at least — he is in charge of the sprawling palace bureaucracy of several thousand officials that manages royal affairs, but in fact, as a leaked U.S. cable noted in 2009, Kaeokhwan is senile, and for many years the Royal Household Bureau has been run by his sons Ratthanwut and Watcharakitti. Meanwhile, over the past two decades, Kaeokhwan’s nephew Disthorn Vajarodaya has become particularly close to Bhumibol. The same leaked U.S. cable named him in 2009 as one of the very few people in the king’s innermost circle of confidantes, and another cable describes him as a “well-known associate of the King”. Disthorn was chairman of the king’s Rajanukhrao Foundation and a Grand Chamberlain in the Royal Household Bureau. Over recent years he has usually been at Bhumibol’s side when the king makes his rare public appearances. He has become a familiar face to most Thais who have often seen him on royal news broadcasts, accompanying the king.

Last week, the Facebook page กูต้องได้ 100 ล้าน จากทักษิณแน่ๆ, which regularly shares leaked information from within the junta, published a copy of an extraordinary order from the crown prince. It stated that Disthorn Vajarodaya was instructed to attend a special training course so he could learn to perform his duties properly, and thereafter he would serve as a private page of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He would be banned from ever again running any of the agencies in the Royal Household Bureau. A couple of days ago, a photograph was published on กูต้องได้ 100 ล้าน จากทักษิณแน่ๆ showing Disthorn and his cousins Ratthanwut and Watcharakitti apparently undergoing their special training — the three elderly men appear to be doing some kind of drill in military uniform, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Vajiralongkorn clearly intends to publicly shame the three palace officials, and then continue to torment them indefinitely afterwards. Disthorn, for years one of the closest friends of King Bhumibol, suddenly finds himself forced to obey the whims of Vajiralongkorn, first in a humiliating training course and then as the crown prince’s personal page. It is a dizzying fall from grace, and will be an ongoing nightmare for him.

On Khwankeo’s sons, Thaanit was a “special expert of the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, and … Dissathorn … [was] a high-ranking executive of the Bureau of the Royal Household.”

In another consolidation, the Bangkok Post reports that the king “has appointed ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol, the King’s secretary, as caretaker and manager of his personal assets and interests.”

Back in 2014, Sathipong played the role of secretary to the prince and was involved in bringing down the family of the estranged wife, then Princess Srirasmi and in reorganizing the palace’s troops.

In royal service

20 02 2015

Readers may have noticed a report, mainly about a threat to Thailand’s airline industry on safety grounds, that was headlined “VIPs stranded as Nok Air cancels flight.” Discussants at New Mandala have pointed out that the “VIPs” were an interesting lot, accompanied by a hoard of reporters:

All 85 passengers, including many premium passengers and 40 news reporters, had to leave the aircraft and wait at Nan Airport while airline maintenance staff undertook repair work.

VIP guests included privy councillor Palakorn Suwannarath, [puppet] National Reform Council president Thienchay Kirananada, PTT chairman and former Thai Airways president Piyasvasti Amranand, and Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul.

Helpfully, another discussant points out that this gaggle of “VIPs” and the trailing reporters were all there to cover a gross royal event featuring the burly Princess Sirindhorn trailed by The Dictator, who has ordered that her birthday be the subject of nationwide “celebration.”

Even with a flagging economy and seemingly important political tasks to be completed, the “VIPs” remain little more than servants of the royals. They buff royal posteriors, wasting billions in taxpayer funds because the monarchy is the keystone of their political and economic dominance.

The privy council remains interventionist

17 03 2014

Privy Council President and former royalist premier General Prem Tinsulanonda may be aged and far less mentally agile than he was a few years ago when he engineered support for the 2006 military coup. Even so, he remains politically influential. So do other privy councilors.

On 14 March, Prem dressed up in his beloved military uniform and shuffled off to Sakol Nakorn to dedicate a statue to General Kris Sivara and is said to have asked for all Northeastern-based colonels to meet him, telling them that the Army is the only institution that the people can rely on. His visit coincides with the transfer of rabidly anti-red shirt commanders to Bangkok.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, there are other admissions of privy council meddling. The Post seems to imply that some of the old men like “Anand Panyarachun, … Pridiyathorn Devakul and … Somkid Jatusripitak have been suggesting in the past month that a new type of leader may be needed to replace the embattled caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra.”

PalakornThe name mentioned in this context is none other than Privy Councilor Palakorn Suwanrath. Anti-democrats apparently think he is “a strong candidate for the ‘neutral’ premier to lead the divided country.”

Palakorn, at about 65, is s spring chicken in the aged care house that is the privy council. Palakorn qualification is that he “has been a close aide to … the Queen … [and] has held various posts including Pattani governor and director of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre…”.

The Post jokes that “privy councillors normally steer clear of voicing political comments…” and then proves this is a laugh by saying that:

Palakorn … said the elite members of the [Vajiravudh] college should not stay neutral amid the current state of politics and must stand by the monarchy as more attacks against the higher institution were being seen amid the intensifying political situation.

Apparently recently Palakorn went further suggesting a “neutral prime minister” might be a woman, prompting claims that his preferred candidate is the deeply yellow-shirted Rosana Tositakul who is arguably the least “neutral” person in Bangkok.

It seems that Palakorn is as detached from reality as the rest of the old men who meet to plot and scheme against elected governments.

New “civilian junta” proposed

12 12 2013

At The Nation it is reported that the “People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has:

already has the name of the person it intends to nominate as interim prime minister, and has also drawn up the proposed membership of a “people’s council”.

…”Now we have someone [a candidate to be the next PM] who is sincere and not corrupt. [If] we cannot find someone who is [totally] innocent [in life], we can choose the most innocent…”.

It says it will “announce the names to the public immediately if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cabinet resign from their caretaking duties…”. This would be the next element of what these extreme anti-democrats call a “revolution.”

According to the protest leaders:

… the structure of a people’s council would comprise groups representing different professions, civil society, government officers and the media, with the qualification that they have not been prosecuted for corruption or seizure of property, among things.

They plan to “fix” the constitution:

“We had learned from the lessons of the National Legislative Assembly and Constitution Drafting Committee. And we would prevent the people’s council from making  the same mistakes as them…”.

 If you can’t win an election, you change the rules.

None of this is new. The Asia Times Online reports, with PPT emphasis:

In the lead-up to the 2008 court-ordered dissolution of Thaksin’s brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat’s government, a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest leader suggested that the Constitutional Court and other high court judges had considered the creation of a “Supreme Council” to fill the expected political vacuum to be left by its ruling. Then, royal advisory Privy Councilor and known palace favorite Palakorn Suwanarat was reportedly tipped to serve as the Supreme Council’s appointed premier.

… According to one international mediator, the NACC has [now] fast-tracked its investigations and could rule in the coming days. Some royalists reckon that could open a political and legal vacuum that allows for the formation through court order of a royalist People’s Council. Behind-the-scenes moves are being made in that direction. One list of proposed People’s Council members reviewed by Asia Times Online bids to balance known royalists with once-Thaksin allies who switched political sides after the 2006 coup.

The list includes: Privy Councilor Palakorn as prime minister; former Thaksin ally cum coup maker General Anupong Paochinda as deputy premier for security; former Thaksin-appointed commerce minister Somkid Jatusripitak as deputy prime minister for economics; hard-line anti-Thaksin royalist General Saparang Kalayanamit as defense minister; Thaksin-era foreign minister and royally connected Surakiart Sathirathai as foreign minister; former Thaksin and coup-appointed finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula in the same role.

Little has changed since 2005 for the extreme anti-democrats.

Wikileaks: Two weeks before the coup, Surayud says no coup

20 12 2011

It has been a while since PPT has commented on released cables. We will do more on this as we have time.

Boyce and Surayud

In this Wikileaks cable, dated 5 September 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce and Privy Councilor and former Army commander General Surayud Chulanont huddle on politics. Surayud tries to convince Boyce that there will be no coup. The coup came just 2 weeks after this cable was produced.

Boyce claims that Surayud believed that the incumbent Thai Rak Thai government “might not perform as well in the coming election as previously.” Given that many observers considered a coup on the cards at this point, is Surayud playing dumb? What Surayud did note was dissension within TRT, its lack of money and he thought rival parties would do better. It is worth noting that accounts seem to agree that TRT had spent relatively little in the 2005 and 2006 elections. Surayud seems stuck in some kind of time warp.

Surayud “characterized Thaksin as paranoid and unwilling to believe he would face less pressure and less of a threat to his assets” if he stepped down. Surayud believed Thaksin would return as premier after winning the election (that never came). But Surayud also thought that “TRT might underperform … raising doubt about Thaksin’s ability to claim a mandate.”

Surayud showed that he lived in a fantasy world or believed that he could convince Boyce that Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda “opposed the idea of a coup and had made this clear to Surayud and also to Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.” All of Prem’s actions were quite different. If Prem really was taking this “no coup” position, then he displayed a remarkable and unlikely lack of political acumen.

Surayud even “told the Ambassador he considered Sonthi as a solid professional and an unemotional person – not the type to carry out a coup.” Either Surayud was in LaLa Land with his cars and model trains or was a consummate liar.

Boyce sounds as though he was incredulous stating “that, given Thai history, it might be unwise to think a coup would be impossible, Surayud simply laughed in response.” When the ambassador “observed that conventional wisdom held that Prem, Surayud, and Privy Councilor Palakorn Suwanrath represented Thaksin’s key foes, Surayud simply replied, ‘That’s how he (Thaksin) sees it’.”

Boyce is forced to state that he was “struck by Surayud’s seeming optimism that Thaksin might be gently forced from office in the event of a below-expectations performance by TRT in upcoming elections, caused by factionalism within TRT, a stronger showing by rival parties, and reduced funding for campaign activities.” It seems Boyce was not convinced by Surayud’s act.

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