Brotherly military “advice”

24 02 2018

2006 coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin has, according to the Bangkok Post, “jumped on the election bandwagon, calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] to stick to its poll roadmap.”

Gen Sonthi says “he was alarmed by the NLA’s rejection of all seven candidates and believes it is a sign of the political roadmap being pushed back [again].” he added the “regime should pay heed to the people’s demands.”

Gen Sonthi has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, so we suspect he’s reflecting the views of others.

Back in 2012, now deceased Maj-Gen Sanan Kachornprasart, and then retiring as “de facto leader of the Chart Thai Pattana Party,” asked a very direct question of Gen Sonthi. According to The Nation, he asked:

Were Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond and the bureaucratic elites behind Sonthi and the coup, as had been alleged by red shirts?… Who was behind the coup?

… Was it you or did you not have any personal motivation? Please speak the truth, or else the public will continue to doubt. Before we can reconcile you must speak the truth and clear the doubt.

What was Sonthi’s response? According to the report,

He began by saying no one should ever doubt his loyalty to His Majesty the King, and then added: “I don’t think I can answer. For some questions, you can’t answer even if you are dead. When the time comes it will reveal itself.”

We doubt he’ll say who is behind his current advice.

The end of the politics of old men

31 03 2012

At The Nation Constitution Court President Wasan Soypisudh is cited on politics and reflects a gloom that has enveloped that royalist camp as Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has negotiated several challenging months and appears to have managed to get even lese majeste out of the headlines in recent weeks (without doing anything much for those already jailed on this politicized charge).

Following the 2006 military coup, the Constitution Court played a major role in  the royalist ruling class’s political strategy of destroying the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. Of course, the court’s bias was clear and also played a significant part in mobilizing opposition to the royalist rulers and their puppet regime fronted by Abhisit Vejjajiva.

So it is ironic that the the court president is gloomy in his “analysis of reconciliation process” when the court’s politicized decision-making has been central to the political conflicts of the past 6 years.

As the report notes, Wasan is “probably only echoing many people’s opinions…”. We suspect that these people are mainly the royalists. That said, there are red shirts who will also be disappointed if reconciliation means that the Abhisit regime and its military backers are not held accountable for their actions in office.

The glum Wasan says:  “I can’t see how we can achieve peace…. Maybe this generation of political rivals have to die first.”

There may be something to this view. PPT has long pointed to the problem of old and exceptionally conservative men running Thailand. Back when we posted on this in 2009, we mentioned Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda (b. 1920), the king himself (b. 1927), the old men in the Privy Council, royalist and palace favorite Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn (b. 1929 or 1930), the Democrat Party’s Chuan Leekpai (b. 1938), and we could have added plenty more in their 70s or older: Prawase Wasi, Anand Punyarachun, Banharn Silpa-archa, Sanan Kachornprasart, Dhanin Chearavanont, Prasong Soonsiri, and so on. Most of these old men are out of touch with popular politics and ideas outside their own circle.

Of course, there are younger people, especially in the declining Democrat Party, who aspire to be old men too. After all, like Abhisit, they believe and know that they were born to rule. For most of this lot, despite differences in political position, reconciliation is restoring their right to rule over the people wealthy Democrat Party elitist Korn Chatikavanij once referred to as the “great unwashed.”

The striking thing – and perhaps the reason for Wasan’s poor mood – is that the “great unwashed” are rejecting these old men and their elitist proteges. This is seen in election results and a range of other areas including the questioning of the monarchy.

Cleaning up the palace’s mess

25 03 2012

In earlier posts (here and here), PPT commented on the questions asked of 2006 coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin about who was behind the military’s seizure of power and trashing of the 1997 constitution, planning it and urging it. The following post is a bit convoluted, but this is because the current discussion of the coup is meant to obfuscate.


Of course, if one were to read the Wikileaks cables PPT has been posting, it becomes pretty clear that there were a bunch of academics, human rights “activists,” and members of the elite wanting a coup. And, as we noted in one of those earlier posts, those asking these questions now should have watched Prem, listened to the coup plotters themselves and even read Wikileaks.

The one Wikileaks “voice” that repeatedly saying there would be no coup was the military. But no one should ever believe them. That said, reading between the lines, it was also clear that Sonthi was clearing the decks for action against Thaksin Shinawatra.

Notably, also, Thai Rak Thai Party strategy advisers seemed unable to conceive of Sonthi carrying out a coup. Certainly, they seemed to underestimate his capacity for rebellion, whether of his own volition or prompted by Prem or others in the palace.

The junta, with the white-haired Prem, meeting the king and queen on the night of the 2006 coup

The current question is whether Sonthi was ordered by higher-ups to act against the Thaksin government. Most assume that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda had pushed General Sonthi into the 19 September 2006 coup. Others talk about the queen’s role.

What is the purpose of this discussion now? As ever, some royalist cynics think  that both Major-General Sanan Kachornprasart and Sonthi are in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra. Both are seen, at The Nation, denying this. Sonthi said “he wanted to rectify the damage caused by the coup, not rescue Thaksin…”, while Sanan says “he wanted to clear up any misunderstandings and was not acting on Thaksin’s behalf to take revenge on Sonthi.”

If the latter were the case, the idea would be to dump all the blame for the putsch on Sonthi alone. That seems unlikely to us, and PPT looking at the issue cynically would point out that blaming Sonthi would whitewash the palace and Prem.

It seems to PPT that the current questioning could be about a range of political maneuvering, most of it associated with the palace’s political role. It could be designed to clean up some of the post-coup mess that has been sheeted home to Prem’s meddling in politics from his position inside the palace. This could be at Thaksin’s urging, as part of his determination to get back on-side with the monarchy and monarchists that seems to hate him. It could also reflect a desire on the part of some in the palace to sideline Prem as succession draws ever closer, by hoping that his role in the coup will be further spotlighted.

What we might do, rather than join conspiracies, is just look at what’s being said and see where that takes us.

At The Nation, we hear that General Banchorn Chawalsilp has been joining in, saying that “Prem instructed his former aide General Mongkol Ampornpisit to tell Sonthi to outline the truth behind the coup…”.

As a note on this, Banchorn is seen as having been close to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, which should not have him rushing to Prem’s side.

But do Banchorn or royalists or even Thaksin really want the truth behind the coup? The truth? They can’t handle the truth. Notice that Jack Nicholson is in military uniform, ranting about honor and protecting all that is good. It seems to fit very well. Royalists don’t want the truth because it would reveal royalists like Prem manipulating politics. It may reveal more than the smoke and mirrors that are the hallmark of the palace’s political interferences.

Prem receiving the armed forces in 2009

Banchorn tells us that “Prem was concerned that he was being perceived as the mastermind behind the coup…”. Of course he was concerned, for this connection was very obvious, seen in his donning of military uniform as he traipsed around military bases, privy counselors in tow, demanding loyalty to the throne and not the government. Of course he was preparing the ground for a coup.

The current claim seems to be that Prem urged Sonthi to “reveal” a “truth” as if the “truth” will somehow and miraculously exonerate Prem of any responsibility. The problem for Prem is the public record of his actions against the Thaksin government.

Why “clear” Prem of responsibility? One reason could be simply because cleansing his record is believed by some royalists to be important in buffing the propaganda that the palace is “above politics.”

The report in The Nation could easily be seen as a part of this process, stating as it does: “After taking over as junta leader, Sonthi projected himself as a royalist and tried to justify the coup as a move to safeguard the monarchy.” And, at another place it reinforces this point:

Sanan said he had no ill intentions towards Sonthi, but wanted the public to learn the truth about the coup. Over the past five years, Sonthi has been deflecting the blame on others and the coup remains a mystery, he said, arguing that fences could not be mended if people were misled to believe that Prem was behind it all.

The implication is that Sonthi “used” the monarchy. PPT even begins to feel a bit of sympathy for the not-so-bright Sonthi, who was used for palace and elite purposes in 2006 and is now to be the palace’s fall guy again. We wonder if he’s prepared to do that?

Maybe he is, for the report states that “Sonthi initially refused to shed any light on the issue, though he subsequently conceded that Prem was not involved in the coup.”

But maybe not forever:

Sonthi reportedly completed writing six books, including his biography, before he entered politics [PPT guesses that The Nation considers running a coup isn’t about politics…] as leader of the Matubhum Party last year. It is believed that these books will be published after his death to avoid unintended repercussions on leading figures.

Sonthi might reveal the role of “leading figures”? Perhaps he’ll explain the role of those behind Prem?

Sanan is also seeking more on this, when he asks about the infamous “royal audience that Sonthi received on September 19, 2006 – the night of the coup.” Sanan says that many:

believed that Prem summoned Sonthi to see the King, hence Sonthi should clarify this meeting because Prem was seen arriving at the Palace after arrangements for the royal audience had been completed.

Would this, in the age of mobile phones and so much other public information, exonerate Prem. Absolutely not. However, the reading could be that someone else in the palace invited the respectful and loyal generals to the palace for a meeting that Sonthi has commented on at Wikileaks, in discussion with U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce:

I began by asking Sonthi about the audience with the King last night. Who had attended? He said Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda had brought him, Supreme Commander Ruangroj and Navy Commander Sathiraphan in to meet the King. Sonthi stressed that they had been summoned to the palace; he had not sought the audience. He said the King was relaxed and happy, smiling throughout. He provided no further details.

In the same cable, Boyce explains that this audience was important: ” Sonthi was relaxed and calm. Clearly the royal audience was the turning point last night.”

If nothing else, perhaps we can observe that the beneficiaries of this new discussion may not be those who began it, for the story of the coup is something that has many players and manipulators at work.

General Sonthi and the coup II

22 03 2012

Perhaps now feeling that he went a little too far in asking his direct questions – or more likely reflecting elite criticism – Sanan Kachornprasart is reported at the Bangkok Post as backpedaling and simultaneously pedaling nonsense.

Sanan said he raised his question “with the sincere intention of wanting people throughout the country to know the answer [to who was behind the coup]. Since the the Sept 19 coup the country had been plagued with violence.” He said that “The people believed from the beginning that there were some other people behind the coup.”

Of course, The People have good reason to believe that.

Sanan said that “Thaksin and the red shirts believed Gen Sonthi received an order to stage the coup. This belief led a group of red shirts to lay siege to Gen Prem’s Si Sao Theves residence and the matter escalated to affect a high institution…”. Remarkably, Sanan then added:

Not only the people in general believed the high institution was involved in the coup, even some MPs of his party also held the same belief.

Then Sanan turned to a defense of the palace and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond. He stated that Prem “had nothing to do with the Sept 19, 2006 coup…”.

He went on to “answer” the three questions:

To the question who were behind the coup, the answer is nobody.

To the question whether it was Gen Prem who lead [sic.] Gen Sonthi and his team to have an audience with His Majesty the King after the coup and whether Gen Prem was aware there would be a coup, the answer is “no.”  Gen Prem knew nothing about the coup plot.

To the third question whether he met Gen Prem before the coup and whether after the coup Gen Prem asked him twice, via Gen Mongkol Ampornpisit (a former supreme commander), to speak out the truths concerning the coup….  Gen Prem really did that through Gen Mongkol,” Maj-Gen Sanan said.

Sonthi refuses to say – if there was no-one why keep a “secret” to the grave while declaring loyalty to the king? – Sanan reveals the source of his “knowledge” on the coup: “from his own intelligence.” He doesn’t tell us anything with this. I know because I was told…. Maybe he should have watched Prem, listened to the coup plotters themselves and even read Wikileaks.

By blathering like this, his claim “that the high institution and members of the elite were not involved in the Sept 19 coup” really sounds like I’d like people to believe this with no evidence and, indeed, counter to the available evidence.

Updated: General Sonthi and the coup I

22 03 2012

The debate on the 2006 military coup has been given increased public attention in a quite spectacular way. PPT and many others believe that the palace was deeply involved in the planning and implementation of the coup. Yesterday, Major-General Sanan Kachornprasart, and soon to retire “de facto leader of the Chart Thai Pattana Party,” asked a very direct question.

Military leader at the time and junta leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who now heads a tiny party in parliament and is chair of the House Committee on National Reconciliation, according to The Nation, was asked:

Were Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond and the bureaucratic elites behind Sonthi and the coup, as had been alleged by red shirts?… Who was behind the coup?

… Was it you or did you not have any personal motivation? Please speak the truth, or else the public will continue to doubt. Before we can reconcile you must speak the truth and clear the doubt.

What was Sonthi’s response? According to the report,

He began by saying no one should ever doubt his loyalty to His Majesty the King, and then added: “I don’t think I can answer. For some questions, you can’t answer even if you are dead. When the time comes it will reveal itself.”

Interestingly, the report argues that to know the truth, “[p]erhaps you can try to read between the lines on what Sonthi said yesterday and decide.”

At the Bangkok Post, the report is a little more revealing, with Sanan asking:

“After the coup, Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda took you to have an audience with His Majesty the King, didn’t he? And was Gen Prem aware of the coup plot? Did you inform Gen Prem about the coup before you launched it?”

Perhaps the answer is not to be found between the lines but in Wikileaks cables that PPT has published on the coup. We won’t list them all here; there’s quite a few. The search function works. Alternatively readers could look at this photo in the Bangkok Post (at the link above) for clues on who might have been behind the junta.

A Bangkok Post photo

UpdatePrachatai has made a translation of the executive summary of the King Prajadhipok Institute report on reconciliation – the site of the questioning of Sonthi – and it makes interesting reading.

Monarchism or ultra-royalism for Puea Thai?

25 01 2012

At The Nation Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra again made her lese majeste position clear: “We are not doing this now. We should focus on solving economic problems.” At the Bangkok Post it is stated that this statement amounted to “[t]aking a clear stance on the issue for the first time…”.

Perhaps the Post listens too closely to its allies in the Democrat Party for this has been her position and that of Puea Thai for a long time.

Likewise, when the prime minister went further was in making a classic royalist call to “protect the institution.” She is quoted: “We must not bring the monarchy into our business. As Thais, we have to protect the institution, not exploit it…”. In the Post, the quote is more damaging. She is reported to have said that “the government is more concerned about protecting the institution than changing Article 112 of the Criminal Code to protect freedom of speech.”

While she at least acknowledges that protecting the monarchy is negative for freedom of speech, the statement is a travesty in terms of human rights.

Schoolbook monarchism or ultra-royalism?

Interestingly, Yingluck appears caught between the schoolbook monarchism that she was brought up on – as all Thais are – and simplistic ultra-royalism.

Many ultra-royalists see Article 112 and the monarchy as inseparable, a bit like the Siamese twins of old. Of course, this is errant nonsense and we are yet to see it from Yingluck. If readers think we are missing something, let us know.

Yingluck is reported in both papers as saying that:

she had asked government figures to avoid certain sensitive issues and to focus instead on rehabilitation work aimed at restoring confidence in Thailand after the recent severe floods.

She has said this before and it amounts to a kind of “ignore the law and it will go away” head in the sand approach.

Yingluck is quoted further on this:

people need to turn to one another and cooperate instead of focussing on amending the lese majeste law. “Right now, many people are still in trouble and need help so they can lead a normal life after the floods,” Ms Yingluck said. “The economy dropped in the fourth quarter of last year. We need to hurry up and restore confidence. I would like to ask everyone to concentrate and help out on this matter instead.”

When asked about “a growing number of insulting websites,” Yingluck apparently responded that “she would rather focus on campaigning for better understanding. She asked that all agencies support such a campaign.”

If Yingluck is sounding just monarchist, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung is reasserting his ultra-royalism as he attacks Nitirat:

The party will definitely not amend this article. I will oppose whoever proposes its amendment…. This is Thailand and we are happy because of the royal kindness. Don’t you have anything else to do?

At the Bangkok Post, Chalerm is cited further:

Some people seem to overreach their bounds and express their wishes to amend Section 112…. What right do they have to change it? What power? They can only talk…. The [Pheu Thai] party will never change this law. I will also oppose anyone who proposes that it is changed.

We think Chalerm all bluster on this for he knows that Nitirat, like all citizens, under the constitution have the power to bring an amendment petition to parliament. While the law may never be changed under Puea Thai, Nitirat have the power of the constitution and of the people supporting them.

And then there is aging political animal Sanan Kachorn-prasart, an inveterate party-jumper currently listed as chief adviser to the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party. He has also jumped on Nitirat but is staggeringly stupid:

Sanan said the political situation appeared to be worsening, with the Nitirat campaign likely to lead to renewed conflict. He said the group’s members, consisting of academics in their 30s and 40s, should study Thai history to understand that the monarchy contributed to society and the country’s survival.

This is an inane statement, reflecting the usual nonsense of cultural constraints on juniors and acceptance of royalist narratives. PPT reckons that it is Sanan who should get beyond comic book royalist histories and read some real history.

Not to be outdone, the Democrat Party’s Jurin Laksanavisit continued the Party’s unbridled plagiarism of yellow shirts in claiming it

appeared that Nitirat and Pheu Thai shared the goal of whitewashing wrongdoings for a particular person. He said the opposition was against amending Article 112 as it would be tantamount to reducing the status of the monarchy. He also voiced opposition to the proposal for a new head of state to take part in a swearing-in ceremony. “The requirement that kings have to be sworn in before assuming post is not compatible with the national tradition. It is more like a presidential system…”.

Exactly the same tale was told by Komsan Phokong, a law lecturer and supporter of the Sayam Prachapiwat group. If “plagiarism” seems like a harsh accusation readers might consider how often the Democrat Party does this. Indeed, the Democrat Party and the yellow shirts seem comfortable together, again back in the same political bed.

Updated: Red shirt leaders again seek bail

21 02 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that the red shirt leaders, jailed for 10 months, are again seeking bail:

UDD lawyers inititially submitted a bail request for seven UDD leaders – Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, Natthawut Saikua, Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Yossawaris Chuklom or Jeng Dokchik, Kwanchai Praipana and Nisit Sinthuprai.

Sophon Thitithampruek, the Bangkok Remand Prison commander, later asked the court to free on bail another UDD terrorist suspect, Phumkitti Sukchindathong, citing his poor health.

This brought the number of suspects seeking bail to eight.

Picture from The Nation

Lawyers and supporters believe that this request may well be upheld. Not least because:

In the afternoon session, the court heard testimony from Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart and Kanit Na Nakorn, chairman of the government-appointed Truth for Reconciliation Committee.

Maj-Gen Sanan said he went to see the UDD suspects at the prison on one occasion in an attempt to promote reconciliation and found them cooperative.

Mr Kanit said if the eight were released on bail he believed they would not pose a problem to the government’s reconciliation plan, adding that he had long called for the release of UDD core members in detention.

Update: There’s more on this story at MCOT News.