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.


Updated: Yellow academics

8 04 2010

Update: Available in Thai as “นักวิชาการเหลือง” from Liberal Thai.

The Bangkok Post (8 April 2010) reports on what might be called “dueling letters” as various academics call for or oppose a House dissolution. The latest is from the most yellow of yellow shirted academics. Others were reported here, here and here.

Now “303 academics at universities throughout the country on Thursday signed a statement opposing the use of violence and ‘unreasonable’ demands for a House dissolution, and calling on the the government to implement political and social reforms.  They said people can exercise their right to a political gathering under the constitution, but they should be condemned if they cause trouble for other people through intimidation and threats.  They called on the government to maintain the sanctity of the law and restore peace in society as soon as possible, before the country suffers more damage. In conducting political and social reforms, the government should be sincere and take the opinions of people of all sectors into consideration.”

The academics signing are led by Chai-Anan Samudvanij, the President of the Royal Institute, Pramual Wirutamasen, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of the National Institute of Development Administration, Charas Suwanmala, dean of the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University, and Pramote Nakhonthap, said to be “an independent academic.”

PPT sees all of these names individuals as People’s Alliance for Democracy stalwarts, and in some instances, simply academic stooges. They are operatives for PAD.

Chai-Anan is one of Sondhi Limthongkul’s allied academics, and PPT has posted on him previously, here and here where his use of the Finland Plot (along with Pramote Nakhonthap, who wrote the discredited 5-part article titled ‘Finland Strategy: Thailand’s Revolution Plan?’, that appeared in the Manager on 17, 19, 22, 23 and 24 May 2006, is also mentioned.

The Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University is the most yellow of faculties in the most yellow of universities. PPT had a relevant post here. Dean Pramual Wirutamasen was one of those who brought the complaint to the Election Commission that had the snap 2006 election annulled and earlier called on Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign.

A more staunch opponent of Thaksin Shinawatra, all of his related parties and the red shirts than Sombat Thamrongthanyawong would be harder to find. Yet he is still regularly cited in the media as if he is independent. He was one of the academics appointed by the military junta to the National Legislative Assembly in 2006. He earlier approved of another petition to get rid of Thaksin.

Charas Suwanmala has never hidden his yellow shirt, and was most recently seen changing it to pink, along with other royalists.

We mentioned Pramote Nakornthap above in respect of the Finland Plot. He was also one of those said to have helped arrange and been at the dinner at the Sukhumvit residence of Piya Malakul, chairman of Pacific Intercommunications company, in early May 2006, and attended by big shots including judges, businessmen, and Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont where there was allegedly discussion of how to get rid of Thaksin.

“Academics” doesn’t seem like the appropriate description of their work.

Palace politics

11 05 2009

Yesterday, PPT commented on Thanphuying Viriya Chavakul’s interview (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2009: “Thanphuying speaks out on Sondhi and Thaksin”) that seemed to indicate that politics in the palace was increasingly divided.

We missed it, and thank Bangkok Pundit for the excellent analysis of Shawn Crispin’s latest article at Asia Times Online (7 May 2009: “My friend is my enemy in Thailand”). Because of Bangkok Pundit’s excellent commentary, PPT won’t add much, except to link to the issue of divided and divisive palace politics.

Crispin claims that Thaksin Shinawatra is trying to enhance his “negotiating leverage” over his seized assets by attacking privy councilors for “orchestrating the 2006 coup and recently alleged in an interview with the Financial Times that King Bhumibol Adulyadej had foreknowledge of the putsch. Before that, Thaksin is also known to have lost touch with Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, reaffirming the notion that neither is the monarchy a static institution with its relationships.” Now, Crispin claims that he has been told by unnamed “diplomats and a well-placed palace source, [that] Thaksin had on several occasions after returning from exile in 2008 met with Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok via his trusted associate, Sino Thai Engineering and Construction Company chairman Anutin Charnvirakul. The two had also met on at least two separate occasions when Thaksin was in exile in London after the 2006 coup and Vajiralongkorn spent nine months of calendar 2007 in Europe.”

Crispin then observes that, “It was lost on few seasoned observers that the UDD’s April 12 assault on Prime Minister’s Office secretary general Nipon Prompan’s car at the Ministry of Interior had particular symbolic value because of the senior bureaucrat’s known close ties to Vajiralongkorn, including formative years together at a European boarding school. Some diplomats have interpreted that assault and the UDD’s public criticisms of top privy councilors as a strong signal that Thaksin and his allies could complicate the impending royal succession, where Vajiralongkorn is the heir apparent to the throne. At the same time, many believe Thaksin may have overstepped the mark by mentioning the widely revered 81-year-old Bhumibol in recent political remarks to the foreign media.”

He also refers to Sondhi Limthongkul’s attacks on army chief Anupong Paochinda andarmy chief of staff General Prayuth Chan-ocha over the failed assassination bid, that Sondhi is taking “hard aim at Anupong and Prayuth, [who are] both established royalists who served in Queen Sirikit’s Royal Guard Infantry Regiment…”. This has caused “diplomats and analysts wonder whether Sondhi will continue to mobilize defense-of-the-monarchy themes at any future protests, including ones that potentially target top military officials or royal advisors.”

Crispin also mentions Sondhi’s allegations against Thanphuying Viriya and Crispin adds another name associated with the queen, mentioning the: “apparent fall from favor of top royal advisor and Sondhi ally Piya Malakul, who according to one royal insider hasn’t attended functions at the palace for over a month. Piya is known to be close to Queen Sirikit and was often the lone advisor to accompany Bhumibol when he previously took outdoor walks around his seaside palace in Hua Hin. One palace insider says that Piya was the top advisor who suggested that Queen Sirikit attend the funeral services of a PAD protester killed during a melee with police last October 7, indicating to some tacit royal backing for the PAD. Piya was also accused by Thaksin of playing host to a dinner at his residence in May 2006 where the coup against his government was allegedly planned. Piya has strongly denied the charges, claiming no military officials were present at the meeting.”

It seems that Thailand’s political conflicts are shaking up the palace.

Surayud, the Privy Council, Piya Malakul and the 2006 coup

29 03 2009

Reports flowing from deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s accusations regarding moves to oust him, which eventually led to the 2006 coup, are coming thick and fast. PPT reports them here because they are revealing details about the political events of 2005 and 2006 that have resulted in both deep political divisions in Thailand and the increased use of lesé majesté charges in highly political ways.

In his denial that he was involved in planning Thaksin Shinawatra’s downfall, Privy Councilor (at the time and again now) General Surayud Chulanont (in the Bangkok Post, 29 March 2009: “Surayud says Thaksin coup claim untrue”) is reported to have said that he had “no desire nor was in any position to plot the overthrow of Thaksin.” Even so, the report states that Surayud is considering the call from General Panlop Pinmanee for him to quit the Privy Council.

The Post report has more details than the one in The Nation, mentioned by PPT in an earlier post, and reveals that “he had met prominent judges at the Sukhumvit residence of Piya Malakul, chairman of Pacific Intercommunications company, in early May 2006 as claimed by Thaksin.” It is added that Surayud stated that those at the dinner “never discussed any plan to organise a coup.” The General also “conceded [that] Panlop Pinmanee, the former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) – whom Thaksin claimed had leaked the coup plot involving Gen Surayud to him – was also at the meeting.” Surayud says that “everyone was exchanging views on national affairs over dinner…” but “We never drew any conclusion about seizing power…”. He also is reported to have said that he went to the dinner because, “As a privy councillor, he needed to be well-informed, meet people and seek out information.”

Further, General Surayud is reported as denying “Thaksin’s allegation he had informed His Majesty the King that Thaksin did not respect the monarchy. The accusation was baseless, as were claims he volunteered before the King to topple the government, Gen Surayud said, adding Thaksin was always paranoid about a coup…. He had no idea why Thaksin attacked him and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.”

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Pachun Tampratheep, an aide to General Prem, said “Thaksin often made veiled references to Gen Prem as a person behind moves to remove him. He said he was not worried those accusations would paint the Privy Council in a negative light as Thaksin loyalists never viewed the council positively anyway. Many people still had faith in Gen Prem, said Vice-Adm Pachun.”

In a related report in The Nation (29 March 2009: “Piya defends Surayud”), Piya Malakul has defended and supported General Surayud. Piya is reported to have claimed that “It was just ‘a dinner among friends.’ It wasn’t, as alleged by former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a ‘secret meeting to plot the Sept 19, 2006 coup.’ Piya said. Piya told Matichon Online that he had hosted the dinner after His Majesty the King had on April 25, the same year, urged the judges … to find a solution to the country’s political crisis at the time.” Piya added, “I only wanted to hear what the country’s top judges who happened to be my friends had to say about the situation…”. Surayud, in the Post reports, claims that he only personally knew Supreme Administrative Court President Ackaratorn Chularat.

The Nation links to one of their blogs, Thai Talk, by Suthichai Yoon (29 March 2009: “Piya Malakul, the dinner host, said there was no talk of coup”). Drawing from Matichon (29 March 2009: “ปีย์ มาลากุล เปิดตัวยัน สุรยุทธ์ ถก 3บิ๊กตุลาการ”ปัดวางแผนรัฐประหาร แค่ดินเนอร์-แม้ว-อ้อ ก็เคยมา”), the report continues: “He [Piya] first invited Mr Akrathorn Chullarat, President of  the Administrative Court, and Mr Chanchai Likhitchitta, President of the Supreme Court, to the dinner. ‘I had known Mr Akrathorn since we were both boys,’ Piya said. He then called up Gen Surayud and Mr Pramote Nakhonthap, an academic, to invite them to join the dinner. Mr Charan Pakdithanakul, then secretary general of the Supreme Court’s President and currently a member of the Constitutional Court, also joined the dinner.” Piya is adamant: “I can confirm that there was no talk of a coup or about who was going to get what position. There was not a single military officer there. How could we discuss a coup?”

According to Matichon, the 7 attendees at the dinner were Piya, Surayud, Panlop, Ackaratorn, Charnchai Likhitjitta, Charan Pakdithanakul and Pramote Nakornthap. Each of these persons has had particularly high profile roles that have impacted political developments since April 2006.

Piya Malakul na Ayuthaya is a 72 year businessman with close palace connections. Matichon includes extensive details about Piya, in Thai. Other available information on this seemingly colourful and influential figure:

Paul Handley (Asia Sentinel, 8 September 2008: “The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt”) refers to Piya’s role in 1992 and calls him the “king’s media adviser” and a “palace agent.” In the agitation over Thaksin’s letter to President Bush, Piya is mentioned as one of those who perhaps leaked the letter and promoted the response against Thaksin.

In a note to the McCargo and Ukrist book, The Thaksinization of Thailand, Piya and Pacific Intercommunications are mentioned. The company lost valuable contracts with the army after Thaksin reorganized the military hierarchy in late 2003 (also here). In the struggles for control of iTV, Piya, who was iTV’s vice chairman in charge of news operations, “was removed from the editorial board after he criticised the ‘politicisation in favour of the owner and candidate’,” referring to Thaksin.

When Pramual Rujanaseri’s controversial book (Phrarajaamnat or The Royal Prerogative) came out, the author stated that Piya, an editor at Advance Publishing Company, stated that the king liked his book. The book was very popular, not least amongst PAD leaders like Sondhi Limthongkul.

During his short time as prime minister in 2008, Samak Sundaravej claimed that a “half-bald man” he called Ai Terk was undermining the government and country. It is believed that he refered to Pin.

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