Prem, military and monarchy

3 01 2011

In the annual year-end round of events, it is reported that the military top brass made their annual pilgrimage-like visit to see the old war horse and President of the king’s politically powerful Privy Council General Prem Tinsulanonda. For an early comment on Prem and the monarchy, see this PDF.

Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda

Led by Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan armed forces commanders went “to convey well-wishes” to Prem at his Sisao Theves residence.

Adding the political spice to the mix, the military brass was joined by the “co-founders of Ruam Chat Pattana Party, Suwat Liptapanlop and Pinij Jarusombut, and Pheu Pandin Party executive Pairoj Suwanchawee…”. The two parties are said to be about to merge to “create a new stronger group capable of resolving the country’s problems.” Hence this meeting suggests Prem’s support for the move.

Prawit complimented Prem “his strong allegiance to the Monarchy and pledged that the military will work for the overall good of Thailand.” Prem, of course, thanked his loyal troops and “urged them to protect public interest and the Monarchy.” For Prem, the two are indivisible. Hence he also urges “plac[ing] priority on tasks of maintaining the country’s peace and protecting the nation’s sovereignty.”

The puppet master can’t keep his hands off the strings.

Military top brass today carry out their year end tradition in wishing the Privy Council president a happy New Year. 

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan led armed forces commanders to convey well-wishes to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda at his Si Sao Thewes residence.

Prawit paid a compliment to the Privy Council chief for his strong allegiance to the Monarchy and pledged that the military will work for the overall good of Thailand.

In his reply, Prem thanked the military top brass for their well wishes and urged them to protect public interest and the Monarchy.

The Privy Council chief also asked the military to place priority on tasks of maintaining the country’s peace and protecting the nation’s sovereignty.

Together with armed forces leaders, co-founders of Ruam Chat Pattana Party, Suwat Liptapanlop and Pinij Jarusombut, and Pheu Pandin Party executive Pairoj Suwanchawee also joined in the well-wishing.

Paijoj told Prem he will serve the country at his best and help rebuild national unity.

Pairoj also said it is still not the appropriate time for his party to merge with Ruam Chat Pattana, saying the two parties need more talks about the issue.

He sad a merger of political parties is possible if the move can create a new stronger group capable of resolving the country’s problems.

 

Military top brass today carry out their year end tradition in wishing the Privy Council president a happy New Year. 

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan led armed forces commanders to convey well-wishes to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda at his Si Sao Thewes residence.

Prawit paid a compliment to the Privy Council chief for his strong allegiance to the Monarchy and pledged that the military will work for the overall good of Thailand.

In his reply, Prem thanked the military top brass for their well wishes and urged them to protect public interest and the Monarchy.

The Privy Council chief also asked the military to place priority on tasks of maintaining the country’s peace and protecting the nation’s sovereignty.

Together with armed forces leaders, co-founders of Ruam Chat Pattana Party, Suwat Liptapanlop and Pinij Jarusombut, and Pheu Pandin Party executive Pairoj Suwanchawee also joined in the well-wishing.

Paijoj told Prem he will serve the country at his best and help rebuild national unity.

Pairoj also said it is still not the appropriate time for his party to merge with Ruam Chat Pattana, saying the two parties need more talks about the issue.

He sad a merger of political parties is possible if the move can create a new stronger group capable of resolving the country’s problems.





More corruption claimed in flood relief

12 11 2010

More than 200 people are now dead in Thailand as a result of the horrendous flooding. PPT’s earlier posts on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tardy, seemingly unconcerned, and incompetent response, the royal family’s apparently mean response and others here, here and here ).

Government relief efforts continue to be plagued by claims of corruption as PPT pointed out some time ago. Now a Puea Pandin parliamentarian “has accused the government of abusing an emergency cash payment scheme for flood victims, saying the money was distributed primarily in districts where by-elections are scheduled to take place next month. Anuwat Wisetjindawat, of Nakhon Ratchasima, told the House yesterday he suspected foul play in last weekend’s cash hand-out scheme by certain cabinet ministers in Nakhon Ratchasima.”

As we indicated earlier, PPT thinks he’s pretty much right in this claim. He says that the “government resolved to pay cash of 5,000 baht to about 632,000 affected families nationwide via the Government Savings Bank as initial assistance. He said the cash payment and distribution were concentrated in six districts of Constituency 6 which would see by-elections on Dec 12 after deputy interior minister [and from Newin Chidchob’s Phum Jai Thai Party] Boonjong Wongtrairat was stripped of his seat in parliament.” Anuwat later claimed “that cabinet ministers who inspected the flood in Nakhon Ratchasima canvassed votes for the Bhumjaithai candidate.”

PPT has checked with several sources in the Northeast, and these claims are accurate, with some in Korat still sitting in water and being told “the government doesn’t have the money for them.”

Abhisit says “he would ensure all victims received proper assistance” and that the “government was working to improve its disaster mitigation and management plan to ensure prompt and efficient relief.” Efficient is hardly the word to use, but Abhisit is now chief propagandists for his own government.

It’s propaganda because the claims being made are confirmed. For example, “flood victims in Phatthalung were taken by surprise when they saw the names of politicians in the Commerce Ministry’s rice sacks…. Some flood victims also reported that they found the name of a senator in the Commerce Ministry’s rice supplies.”





Updated: Caravan fallout

22 03 2010

Update: “Reconciliation” seemed to last only a few minutes. By the evening of Monday, the main state media outlets were attacking the red shirts quite vigorously. Thai Television included a long “news analysis” that would have been at home on ASTV. Indeed, it included several unattributed references to the ASTV’s publications attacking the red shirts.

*

It does seem that the enormous red shirt caravan and the support it achieved in Bangkok has had a considerable impact. It has been baffling and challenging to pro-government groups for all kinds of reasons – see the excellent Chang Noi column.

Immediately after the caravan, there were reports of bombing, and this could have been a sign of a darker force at work to undermine the red shirt leaderships’ determination to be non-violent. These threats could have come from a range of disgruntled or determined or wildly worried sources. There were some red shirt affiliates who wanted a more aggressive approach. It could have come from disgruntled military and intelligence types who have long employed these kinds of unsettling tactics. It could have been a government strategy. What seems clear at the moment is that there has been a stepping back from this strategy. It could easily return.

The military-backed government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva seemed determined to get tougher. Abhisit himself went on the offensive, attacking the red shirts as Thaksin Shinawatra-dominated and money dominated. He blanketed television. He was supported by a range of yellow-hued attacks o the red shirts. The determination to denigrate the rallies and caravan as the actions of the paid-off, duped and ignorant was seen amongst Democrat ideologues and was all over the ASTV/Manager and yellow-shirt twitters and blogs. That continues. On the English-language blogs, the determined yellow shirts returned in heavy posting, demeaning and damning the red shirts in tones almost identical with those used to damn rural voters when the People’s Alliance for Democracy wanted them effectively disenfranchised. Letters to the English-language press have been dominated by outrage against the red shirts from supposedly foreign readers.

However, the government and its backers seem to have gradually seen the message of the past days and week as representing a serious challenge. Increasingly, there seems to have been a lot of pressure for Abhisit and his backers to return to “reconciliation.” That term was originally the rhetoric of the 2006 coup leadership and the governments that followed, but the Abhisit government seemed happy enough to abandon it. This pressure began before the caravan on Saturday, but has since increased. Some of the Thai-language press has been gradually more willing to consider a red shirt view (see here and here).

The pressures included the rallying of Peua Thai parliamentarians and leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to the red shirt leadership. Initially, some Peua Thai leaders seemed reluctant to be openly associated with the red shirts, but as the movement has achieved successes, that reluctance has melted away. The pressure from parliamentarians for the government to seek a way out was also significant. So too was the pressure from coalition partners and the usually government-supporting groups.

Initially, Abhisit seemed intent on putting out “let’s talk” signals, but maintained conditions that the red shirt rally leadership rejected. The Nation (21 March 2010) reported that Abhisit held out the possibility of a general election this year. That was significant for the coalition still feels that it will lose, meaning that the strategy has long been to avoid an election for as long as possible. This year has problems. For one thing, this government and its supporters want to control the military reshuffle due in October to ensure the “right” people get control for the next few years. That would at least ensure that a pro-Thaksin government would not have much free reign.

Abhisit somewhat foolishly suggested that two of the most anti-red shirt Democrats be negotiators – propaganda chief Sathit Wongnongtoey and Korbsak Sabhavasu. Abhisit seems to trust these men, but they have low ratings amongst red shirts. Abhisit soft-pedaled, saying these guys wanted to negotiate the terms of negotiation with the red shirts rather than to negotiate ways out of the “crisis.”

The red-shirt leaders insisted they would only talk directly to Abhisit about any truce prospects.” They added that dissolving parliament was the main demand.

Abhisit continued to reject this in a familiar statement that there would be a House dissolution only when the country is ready for a free and fair election so that the public will benefit from such a move.” He added: “we have to cut a deal that we would do it [house dissolution] for the public interest with no Thaksin issues involved…. This is seen by many red shirts as a return to a position of 2008, where after winning the 2007 election, the then People’s Power government was prevented from dealing with any constitutional or other issues that the PAD and its backers considered “Thaksin-related.” Abhisit is agenda-setting for a feared “pro-Thaksin” government.

Coalition partners Puea Pandin and Chart Thai Pattana were far more supportive of talks with the protesters. The Nation reported that “Watchara Kannikar of the Chart Thai Pattana Party said both the government and protesters should reduce their preconditions so that there could be a deal.

Now a cynical PPT would see much of this as an attempt to regain the political driving seat by a visibly disturbed government. Indeed, Abhisit was forced to call all of the coalition party leaders to his army base “government house” for an all channels live broadcast to redisplay coalition unity. It looked like a shaky strategy and ended remarkably abruptly. The point of the media event was to announce some stepping back. The Nation (22 March 2010 – reported that The coalition parties agreed negotiations should begin today with mediation by the National Human Rights Commission or senators…”. The meeting appointed “Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat [and] … Korbsak Sabhavasu as negotiators [to]… meet with red shirt leaders Dr Weng Tojirakarn and Jaran Ditthapichai today to set the terms of talks.” The red shirts quickly rejected Chinnaworn and opened the possibility of dealing direct with the smaller coalition parties.

Abhisit was also forced to agree that he might have to lead negotiations with the red shirt leaders. But positions remain quite a way apart. The red shirts know that the government could return to a strategy of waiting out the red shirt protest or worse.

Interestingly, the impact of the red shirt caravan has been sinking in for government supporters. The Nation has a Page 1 comment alters its political language to talk again of “reconciliation.” In a classic piece of Nation doublespeak, it is stated that politicians are the problem: “We can’t let those with political stakes exert a grip on our hearts and souls for their own interests. It’s as simple as that.” PPT observes that The Nation has been heavily involved in a strident campaign of political hate for several years so this is the equivalent of a racist calling for inter-racial harmony. The born-again reconciliationist as the Nation calls for a middle path: “An independent person must be able to loath Abhisit but love those who adore him at the same time. An independent person must be able to scrutinise Thaksin and understand why others think highly of the man.” The editorialist seems to think the way out may be in a slimy political deal.

Maybe it will be a slimy compromise in the end. Cynically, if the establishment already controls the judiciary and many of the so-called independent bodies, can maintain the 2007 Constitution, controls the military, has the senate in its pocket, and can set an agenda in advance for a pro-red shirt government, then as that government comes to office it is totally hamstrung. And then there is the threat of PAD or worse. More cynically, a darker outcome of destabilization and military intervention is possible. A darker 1976-like right-wing crackdown on opposition may have faded for the moment, but not the forces itching to crack heads.

A few things are clear: the red shirts and their innovative political tactics are something that might scared the blue bloods out of the morning latte and croissant with imported preserves and served by the red shirt maid (“Will she now be emboldened enough to murder me and loot the house?”) but they have been a raging success amongst those millions who understand double standards, inequality and the power of the amart. These things are sort of new and sort of old. Who would have thought that in a supposedly post-industrial world, a movement of peasants and workers would rise? Scary enough to get an elite deal perhaps? But also scary enough to prompt the darker forces also.








%d bloggers like this: