2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.

Meechai as military lackey

12 09 2018

Meechai Ruchupan has loyally served several military and military-backed regimes.

Meechai has faithfully served royalist and military regimes, being a in various legal and political positions to prime ministers Sanya Dharmasakti, Kukrit Pramoj, Seni Pramoj, Thanin Kraivichien, General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda and Anand Panyarachun. His main task in all of these positions has been to embed Thai-style (non) democracy. rather than an electoral democracy where the people are sovereign.

He also worked for Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, but when Chatichai was ousted in a miltiary coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC) in 1991, Meechai was hoisted by his military allies into the acting premier’s position before Anand was given the top job by the military, probably on royal advice.

Later, the military had Meechai appointed the leader of a charter-drafting committee, leading to the 1991 Constitution, which eventually led to the May 1992 massacre. In drafting that constitution, Meechai simply plagiarized bits of a charter that had been used earlier by a military regime. The major “achievement of that constitution was in allowing an “outsider” prime minister. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s what he has recycled into the 2017 constitution.

Like many of the “good” people, he is arrogant, practices nepotism, lies for his bosses and political allies, slithers before the monarchy, he’s a “constitutional expert” who practices and supports double standards and the retrospective application of laws. You get the picture.

Thai PBS now reports that, against all evidence, Meechai has claimed to not be a military lackey. As the report begins:

Every coup-maker of the past two decades needed his service. Seizing power doesn’t end with just toppling the incumbent governments. Coup announcements and executive orders need to be issued. And more importantly, interim constitutions need to be drafted.

And his track records have proven that nobody could have done a better job with all these necessary paperworks than Meechai Ruchuphan.

It is well more than two decades, but let’s go on.

Maybe he’s been to a fortune teller who predicts that Meechai will burn in the fires of hell for an eternity or perhaps he’s writing a self-congratulatory book. But whatever the reason, Meechai improbably claims that “he was inadvertently dragged [sic.] into a few coups despite the fact that he hardly knew any of the generals involved.”

He reckons that the multiple coup leaders just needed his legal expertise. In other words, he claims he’s just a tool for the men who repeatedly act illegally in overthrowing legal governments and smashing constitutions.

A tool he might be, but a willing and blunt tool. Willingly plagiarizing and willingly taking positions and pay from dull dictators.

But none of that means, at least in Meechai’s fairy tale, “that he would follow every marching order from the military.”

That he’s piling up buffalo manure is illustrated in his ridiculous claims about the 2006 coup.

He says the first he was ever at the army headquarters was during the 2006, which he knew nothing of. Really? Seriously? More unbelievable is his statement that he “didn’t even know at the time who was leading the coup. There were three of them there and I knew only afterward … [who] they were…”.

He is imitating the Deputy Dictator making stupid and unbelievable stuff in the belief that the public are gullible morons. That Meechai thinks anyone would believe that he, a military servant for decades, didn’t know three of the most powerful generals is laughable.

Then he lies about the 2014 coup: “His service was enlisted once again by the people he didn’t know.” Yes, that’s right, didn’t know anyone. He lies:  “I didn’t know Gen Prayut and didn’t even know what he looked like…”.

We assume that when he was President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly after the 2006 coup he kept his eyes closed the whole time so that he didn’t see NLA member Gen Prayuth.

He goes on and on with this stream of fermenting lies to claim “that even under military dictatorship … he was by no means an unquestioning subordinate of those in power.”

Meechai is unscrupulous and a military lackey. He doesn’t feel like a lackey because his ideas on anti-democracy fit the generals ever so perfectly.

The arrogance of the man is as stunning at Gen Prawit’s.

Cabinet member campaigns for Prayuth

28 07 2018

The Nation comments on the unusual scene that has Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong linking with a pro-junta political party and campaigning for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain prime minister for the indefinite future.

That Sontirat may be engaging in activity that may be illegal is not something to bother a military regime that came to power in an illegal coup, is rigging an “election,” and that engages in lying as often as it represses political opponents.

Sontirat admitted that:

he had met with politicians on different occasions, including during this week’s Cabinet retreat in Ubon Ratchathani province. He added that he had discussed with them what should be done for the country…. Sontirat said that in Ubon early this week he met Supol Fong-ngam, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for the northeastern province.

Supol has “defected from Pheu Thai and voiced his support for Prime Minister Prayut.”

The junta has gotten away with so many actions that rig and “election” that a sense of arrogance can now be seen in such brazen broadcasting of the junta’s cabinet ministers’ electoral campaigning.

Sontirat said the government – he means the junta – needs “to talk with and listen to politicians, because politicians are close to the people.”

Huh? The junta spent more than three years saying politicians were evil bastards and now needs “evil bastards” to manufacture its long-term political superiority a la the Gen Prem Tinsulanonda regime of the 1980s.

When he says that the “ongoing Input from politicians allows the government to learn about the needs of people in different areas of the country…”, Sontirat is contradicting The Dictator, but we see his point. We doubt Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator and The Oracle, will agree. Prayuth has convinced himself that he knows better than anyone else in the country.

As a footnote, “Sontirat dismissed as a rumour media reports that he was going to become secretary-general of Palang Pracharat.” Sort of. He added: “When I am ready to accept the position, I will tell the media. I have not made my decision…”.

Whether he takes a official position in that Party hardly matters. He’s campaigning for them and for The Dictator. In any case, he confirmed he is working with Palang Pracharath. Again, he’s flouting electoral law, but arrogance and power trump law under the junta.

The junta’s lock

20 07 2018

The military dictatorship has now had more than four years to lock-in its rule and its rules. In establishing control over the military, it has had longer.

Around the time of the 2006 military coup, royalist elements in the military, aligned with the palace directly or through privy councilors Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and Gen Surayud Chulanont, marked certain military officers as untrustworthy due to their perceived alliance with Thaksin Shinawatra. These officers were sidelined, stymied and seen out of the military, mostly through the efforts of four generals: Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Anupong Paojinda, Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan. Sonthi was soon discarded as too weak but the others remain, ran the 2014 coup and now plot and plan for the continuation of military guided “democracy” into the future.

That planning for the future involves something that Gen Prem did for years on behalf of the palace: managing succession in the armed forces so that loyalists are on top. In this context. loyalty means to the palace and to the junta and its regime.

It has been known for quite some time that the chosen successor for Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart as Army chief is Gen Apirat Kongsompong. Apirat is a ruthless rightist who has vowed support to The Dictator and taken a leading role in suppressing red shirts and other political opponents.

Last year, when the new King Vajiralongkorn approved the military promotion list, it was widely assumed that Gen Apirat had the king’s approval as Vajiralongkorn takes a strong interest in what happens within the armed forces. However, in May this year, there was an unconfirmed report that Apirat may have fallen foul of the erratic king. Within a couple of months, however, an announcement in the Royal Gazette saw Gen Apirat granted special special status as a member of the king’s personal security unit. If Apirat had fallen foul of the king, he must have completed his penance and/or service with flying colors, at least in the king’s eyes.

This has been followed by Gen Apirat getting plenty of media attention as the Defense Council is scheduled to meet on 25 July to discuss promotions and appointments, with the meeting chaired by Gen Prawit. Interestingly, most of the media stories are almost exactly the same, suggesting that this is a strategic leak by the junta, paving the way for Apirat and acknowledging that the king’s approval has been given.

Apirat, a graduate from Class 20 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, and in the military’s feudal system, “belongs to the Wongthewan clique and not the powerful Burapa Phayak circles of elite commanders — of which Gen Prayut and his deputy Gen Prawit are members — [yet] he is one of the regime’s most trusted lieutenants.” He has pledged allegiance to The Dictator. His loyalty has been earlier tested in 2010 and his bosses appreciate Apirat’s willingness to shoot down civilian opponents.

If the junta does decide to hold its rigged election next year, Gen Apirat will be expected to use his 200,000 + soldiers, the Internal Security Operations Command and various other resources of the state to deliver the votes needed for the “election” to appear to have been won by the junta’s parties.

Elections, populism and campaigning

12 07 2018

Current Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was an important member of Thaksin Shinawatra’s economic team, responsible for the policies labelled “populist” by opponents and “policy corruption” by the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Others considered the policies as examples of vote-buying by using state funds.

As the military junta embedded its rule following the 2014 military coup it looked to extend its time in power, Somkid was brought in as an “economic czar” to engage in policy plagiarism and improve the junta’s economic performance with doses of Thaksin’s policies.

From the Bangkok Post: Somkid and his master

Somkid adapted himself well to the military dictatorship and has now become one of the critical ministers in the junta’s efforts to “win” its rigged election. Somkid may tell himself that he’s just a technocrat but he’s become a willing tool of military dictatorship. This pattern of technocrats supporting authoritarian regimes is not unusual. In Thailand, it was a defining feature of Gen Sarit Thanarat’s regime, put in place in 1958 and extending to 1973 and the long Gen Prem Tinsulanonda regime.

Somkid has now become a junta politician, dealing with two other Thaksin traitors, organizing a political party that intends to have The Dictator continue in power for years to come.

In preparing for the “election,” Somkid’s attention is not just on organizing the Palang Pracharath Party but to ensuring that huge transport infrastructure projects (valued at almost 1 trillion baht) are in place for the Sino-Thai conglomerates to continue using state budgets for enrichment and pouring funds into the poorer parts of the population who make up the majority of voters. (As the poor spend most of the money they receive, this consumption spurs businesses, as Thaksin proved.)

As Somkid showed when he worked for Thaksin, such policies are powerful vote winners.

Generational change

21 06 2018

Associated with years of military rule and anti-democracy, the old men who have run Thailand for decades are dying off. But they are replaced another group of royalist military thugs who intend to maintain political control and repression for decades to come.

We say this after the announcement of the death of royalist policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn. Usually no one would take much notice of the death of a former deputy police chief. However, Vasit gets plenty of attention because he was seen as close to the dead king, a relationship Vasit played up.

A long time ago we wrote this of Vasit, citing Michael Montesano (where the link is now defunct):

“Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.”

His background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remained a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief. Vasit “retired” years ago, but kept popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. His royalism and extreme views were inflected with racism, extreme nationalism, support for lese majeste and the rejection of constitutional monarchy as being to constraining of his king.

He was associated with all kinds of rightist, royalist and nationalist efforts to eject elected governments.

As expected, his funeral will be a royal one, with Princess Sirindhorn presiding. That’s a sign of a man who did the palace’s work.

Several of the other old men are on their last legs, including Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, now seen in a wheel chair.

In recent years as Prem, Vasit and others schemed against elected governments and worked to mobilize opposition on the streets and in the barracks, they also managed a transition to “tough” military royalists, trusted to carry forward their preferred royalism and anti-democracy well into the future.

Think Meechai Ruchupan’s role in constitutional manipulation and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as military strongmen. This “new generation” of political manipulators are the legacy left by the departing old men.

Elections 101

5 06 2018

The Nation has an editorial worth a read. It is on the need to have an election, even if it is the junta’s “election.”

It begins with the acknowledgement that the “junta is likely to hold on to power at the polls, but its opponents must seize every opportunity for change and progress.”

That’s a bold argument for it acknowledges that the junta is bent and that the elections – whenever they are held – are rigged in the junta’s favor.

By arguing that the junta’s opponents should accept that they will lose and just work for change and progress as the junta allows it seems to us to offer little hope for anyone interested in people’s representation and sovereignty in Thailand.

The Nation argues that the “recent emergence of a raft of political parties is sending a clear signal to the ruling military junta – the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] – and to society as a whole. It is that elections are essential if the country is to continue making progress.”

It may say that. Equally, though, it simply reflects the junta’s plans and its rigging of the electoral system.

The editorial continues by stating that anti-democrats “have come to realise the necessity of an election as a genuine instrument for negotiating power.” We see no evidence of this at all. The anti-democrats were often members of parties before the 2014 military coup and they will be again.

What is clear is that they participate in the belief that the junta will retain its power and that the election will not be free or fair. That’s hardly a vote of confidence in the party system. Devil parties are simply the military’s tools.

The best The Nation seems to offer “citizens” is a “share of the power.” Really? That’s it? Well, yes, that’s what the junta intends. Scraps thrown to parties – see Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in the 1980s.

To suggest that these scraps and a junta “election” will move the “military out of politics” is wishful thinking, unless there is a landslide against the junta. Somehow we don’t see the junta allowing that.

The Nation knows it is whistling in the wind:

The downside of the coming election is that, if junta-allied parties win, it could give the generals a measure of legitimacy and the chance to perpetuate their rule. Political elements that supported the NCPO are now forming parties to contest the race in the hope of claiming enough parliamentary seats to keep Prayut in power.

The military government has put in place legal instruments to extend its rule. It has the armed forces protecting it and dissuading opposition. Public money is being spent on the very kind of populist programmes the generals once derided as a politician’s trick, a bribe for votes. And it is now creating not one political party but many in a bid to ensure it receives a mandate to continue governing.

Remarkably, the editorial the dismisses political parties as grasping and evil. That will help things a lot – for the junta – for that is their lie. Parties can be for the people, but the people have to have a fair chance. Rigging the system from the start is a not a fair chance; it is no chance. Again, the editorial writer knows this:

Generally, the political equation hasn’t changed in four years. There are new parties offering alternatives, but it’s doubtful they’re strong enough to win at the polls. The present regime will see to that. It would be naïve to think the junta would heed calls for a free and fair election. Its need to win the election to gain legitimacy and remain in power is simply too great. But it is wise to call for close monitoring of Thailand’s political developments.

The government and its supporters would use any means necessary to win an election that has to come eventually, since further delays are impossible.

Heading towards it, the rules of the game are not particularly fair and the players are hardly equal. Plus, with the junta as a player in the game, there is no real regulator supervising the polling. Despite all of this, the election is still the best choice.

At present, it is the only choice on the horizon. But the junta will ensure there is little or no choice. If, and it is a huge if, anti-junta parties can cobble something together, they have to challenge all that the junta has done. The boys in green will not stand for that.

So Thailand is stuck unless the military can be disciplined. We leave that option to better strategists than us. It is the biggest challenge facing the Thai people for 80+ years.