Updated: Red shirts vs. army

4 09 2010

Update: A Thai/ภาษาไทย version of the Time story is here.


Time magazine’s Robert Horn has a report on the appointment of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, of the Queen’s Guard army faction, as new army chief and the response of red shirts. The article makes the point that “Prayuth’s promotion, along with the appointment of a new national police chief, consolidates power in the security forces among officers with strong royalist views.”

Many red shirts apparently view Prayuth as being similar “to past military dictators and predicting he will be tougher on dissent.” In the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, as the article notes, the use of the emergency decree (and other security laws and measures) “has shifted power over security affairs to the hands of a council that includes the army chief, police chief and prime minister.” Horn might have added that this government’s tendency has been to increasingly authoritarian means of administration and control.

Prayuth is said to have earlier pledged to return the troops to the barracks, but on coming to power stated: “As the political situation remains critical, the armed forces must take the lead in ensuring security and order for a longer period…” (see PPT’s earlier post on the extension of security measures in Bangkok).

For red shirts, Prayuth is a known royalist opponent with strong views. Prayuth is said to have “commanded the May 19 operation to clear Bangkok of the protest camps … and had been pushing for tougher action against the Red Shirts since the protest began.”

Prayuth will remain commander for 4 years, and is seen as unlikely to take the military boot from the red shirt movement’s throat.

An interesting footnote to this story relates to the way that Time refers to Abhisit specifically as “Thailand’s elected Prime Minister” and to the king as the “constitutional monarch.” PPT suspects that this is an attempt to appease those – especially in the current government – who have criticized the foreign media. A bit of toadying to the powers that be? Both statements might be technically accurate, but it is clear that neither carries the true meaning inscribed in these positions by Abhisit’s rise to his position or of the king’s political acts.

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