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.





Lese majeste and repression

7 06 2016

In this post we wish to draw attention to two recent articles discussing lese majeste and its impacts both personal and society-wide.

It has become “natural” for royalist Thais to “defend” the monarchy in recent years. Of course, royalists have always done this – the restoration of the monarchy after 1932 and more especially after WW2 was about defending the monarchy and recalibrating to again rule. The latter kind of failed, except in the ideological space, but it was royalist generals Phin Choonhavan and most especially Sarit Thanarat who forged an alliance with the palace (and Seni and Kukrit Pramoj) to make the palace-military alliance that has been so powerful and handsomely rewarded generals and the royal family.

Much of the history of this remaking and partial restoration is unknown to average Thais who have been indoctrinated in schools and universities and by the use of mass media. This is attested in an article at the Bangkok Post, by Achara Ashayagachat, where her account of lese majeste and various kingly anniversaries seems to be one of a gradual political eye-opening.

On the spike in lese majeste cases, she says: “Observers attribute the increase of cases to intense political polarisation, following the 2006 military coup and concerns over the King’s health.” This is only a partial story, for as she states, lese majeste is “more often than not, it is used — or abused — as a political tool in cleansing or taking revenge on individuals or political opponents.”

It is a tool used by the royalist elite and its military allies, and not always for political opponents in the usual sense, but in a kind of “traditional” sense as well. This is seen in the post-2014 coup list of “68 lese majeste cases relating to opinions, poems, cartoons, and comments online during the last two years, excluding the 37 fraud cases that are linked to names of the royal family.”

These “fraud” cases have been made lese majeste cases, and we assume that it excludes the two men who mysteriously died in custody.

The second story is a long account of the anti-coup poet and cyber activist Sirapop who writes as Rung Sila, apprehended on 24 June 2014 and still imprisoned without bail, charged with various “crimes,” including lese majeste. The report is of Rung Sila’s case – until now, little known. He denies all charges and affirms that he will continue to fight the charges. He is being tried in secret before a military court. It took almost two years for his case to go before that kangaroo court.

His arrest was for failing to report to the junta. Even today, still jailed, he refuses to bow before that lot: “I did not believe that the coup makers, or, if you will, the traitors, would remain in power for long and I chose to defend rights, freedoms and the constitution peacefully and nonviolently, avoiding aggression, by simply not cooperating with the traitors.”

One aspect of the story that is revealing of events we at PPT had never previously heard was of the junta’s own involvement in the interrogation of Rung Sila:

There was a major session on the final evening in military custody with 50 officials led by an admiral with the NCPO. The admiral told him that he had been constantly monitored and that there were many items that had come to the attention of military war rooms during multiple periods of unrest…”.

He was interrogated by dozens of thugs, but the involvement of “an admiral with the NCPO” – the junta – is another eye-opener. (The only admiral in the junta at the time of the coup was Admiral Narong Pipatanasai.)

Both articles deserve attention.





Old men renewed

7 10 2015

What is that statement by a dead philosopher? George Santayana, reflecting his times and his political conservatism, stated:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Marx put it this way when referring respectively to Napoleon I and to his nephew Louis Napoleon in The Eighteenth Brumaire:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

In Bangkok, it is arguably a little different as we see a sorry repeat of past farces as tragedy, as if The Dictator and his flunkies have no memory of their own past.

The appointment of Meechai Ruchupan to chair the new 21-member Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is not a surprise for anyone. This appointment of a loyal servant of the military was predicted as soon as The Dictator got rid of Bowornsak Uwanno and his lot when the military dictatorship became fearful of a referendum and elections.

Meechai has worked on several constitutions, for the military, in the past. The Nation has quite a matter-of-fact account of Meechai’s career as a conservative, royalist servant of various military regimes.

Meechai, who is a member of the junta (NCPO), has faithfully served royalist and military regimes, being a in various legal and political positionsto prime ministers Sanya Dharmasakti, Kukrit Pramoj, Seni Pramoj, Thanin Kraivichien, General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda, Chatichai Choonhavan and Anand Panyarachun.

Chatichai was ousted by a coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC) in 1991 and Meechai slithered into the acting premier’s position before Anand was hoisted into the top job by the military, arguably on royal advice.

In 1991, the military had Meechai appointed the leader of a charter-drafting committee, leading to the 1991 Constitution, which eventually lead 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.

This, when the Bangkok Post reports that “[g]ood elements from past constitutions will be collected to include in the new constitution,” it is quite possible that “good” simply means the reproduction of military desires for control. That it is claimed that “a first draft is expected in January which would then be presented to the public for feedback” is no cause for celebration. Meechai has yet to accept the idea of public consultation, With it or not, we expect Meechai to produce royalist rules that suit the current junta; that’s his track record.

The Dictator, General Prayuth has already told Meechai what he wants. Meechai denies this, but the general has stated it as a fact.

Chaturon Chaisaeng is right to point out that “the new CDC is made up of several legal experts, its weakness is that none of its members have had experience in drawing up constitutions that uphold the principles of democracy.”

Prachatai reports that “[p]ro-democracy activists” have already “rallied in front of the parliament to protest against the new batch of constitutional drafters hand-picked by the junta.”





King and constitution

26 04 2015

Back in 1947, royalists attempted to use a military coup and the subsequent constitutional drafting process, monopolized by military and royalists, to turn back electoral democracy. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary, emphasizing the role of the military, Democrat Party and palace:

The military overthrew the elected government of Admiral Thamrong Navasavat in 8 November 1947, amid the political chaos that followed the official finding that the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol was not due to suicide. The coup restored power to Marshal Plaek [Phibun], and was supported by Phin Choonhavan, Seni Pramoj, and the palace. The coup leaders alleged that government corruption had demeaned the sacredness of King Ananda’s 1946 Constitution….

The Regent, Prince Rangsit officially accepted the coup within 24 hours and immediately promul[g]ated the new charter the coup leaders had drafted. The King, who at the time was studying in Lausanne, endorsed the coup and the Charter on 25 November, noting “Those who were involved in this operation do not desire power for their own good, but aim only to strengthen the new government which will administer for the prosperity of the nation and for the elimination of all the ills suffered presently.”

The new charter gave the palace a persistent demand: a permanent Supreme State Council (later to be transformed into the Privy Council) to advise the monarch and handle his personal affairs. The Council would be composed of 5 members, appointed by the monarch and acting as a regency council in his absence. The Supreme State Council had been banned after the 1932 revolution. The palace was also given increased control over its own operations, including the Royal Household, the Privy Purse, and the Royal Guards. The King was given several emergency prerogatives, such as the ability to declare war and martial law.

A monarch-appointed Senate was established, and, with 100 members, equal in size to the House of Representatives. Like previous Constitutions, the monarch still did not have an absolute veto. However, the monarch-appointed Senate could, through a simple majority over the combined houses of Parliament, sustain a royal veto. The chairman of the Supreme State Council had to countersign any royal orders in order to make them official (when the constitution was announced, Bhumibol Adulyadej was still a minor and the Privy Council performed the king’s regnal duties on his behalf; thus in practice, the Supreme Council of State itself selected and appointed senators and had the power of veto). … A multi-member constituency system replaced the single member constituency system which had been in effect since 1932. …

Surprisingly, the Palace/Privy Council rejected the slate of Senate appointees proposed by the military. It instead filled the Senate with princes, nobles, and palace-friendly businessmen, leaving only 8 appointees from the military’s slate. With control over palace operations, the palace purged nearly 60 officials, clearing out earlier appointees from previous governments.

[The Democrat Party’s] Khuang Aphaiwong was appointed Prime Minister, and it was agreed that a new constitution would be drafted following House elections, which occurred on 29 January 1948. The Seni Pramoj and Khuang Aphaiwong-led Democrats won a majority and appointed a Cabinet packed with palace allies….

There are many parallels with the recent situation. The palace and royalists never cease in their efforts to expunge 1932, with the military now firmly royalist.

We should not be surprised when royalists again raise issues about the monarchy and the constitution. In considering the 1997 constitution, details about the sections on the monarchy were discussed in a secret session.

This time, looking at the draft 2015 constitution, the anti-democrat “monk” Buddha Issara proves he is no historian but a devout royalist by raising the role of the king, his “royal power” and the possibility that nasty constitution drafters are seeking to “diminish” those powers.

The “royalist monk … expressed alarm over a clause in the charter draft that permits Parliament to pass legislation without the King’s signature.” The report states:

According to Section 157 of the current draft, the Parliament must submit legislation to His Majesty the King for a royal signature. However, if 90 days pass without a signature, Parliament can re-submit the bill to the king with support from two-thirds of the chamber. In the event that the King does not sign the bill in the next 30 days, the Prime Minister will be authorized to enact the bill as a law.

The monarchist monk managed to consider this a clause to “allow politicians to limit the [k]ing’s power…”. He demanded that the clause be removed.

Royalist and miltiary puppet constitution drafting chairman Bowornsak Uwanno “explained that Section 157 has been included in Thai constitutions since 1949, including the recent 2007 constitution that was dissolved by the military junta who seized power last May.”

The 1949 constitution is explained at Wikipedia as yet another royalist intervention:

The Constitution of 1949 was promulgated on 23 January 1949, a permanent instrument to replace the temporary 1948 Charter. The drafting committee was headed by Seni Pramoj and dominated by royalists under the direction of Prince Rangsit and Prince Dhani.

The 1949 Constitution elevated the throne to its most powerful position since the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. The Supreme Council of State was transformed into a 9-person Privy Council. For the first time, members this council would be selected by the King alone. A 100-member Senate would also be selected by the King alone. The President of the Privy Council, rather than the Prime Minister, would countersign all laws. The King’s veto was strengthened, with a 2/3’s vote of Parliament required to overrule it.

The King could issue his own decrees with equal authority to the government. The King also gained the power to call for a plebiscite – the ability to amend the constitution via public referendum, bypassing Parliament and the Government. At succession, the Privy Council would name an heir – not the Parliament.

Referring back to that royal constitution means that Bowornsak is right when he states that “it is extremely difficult for politicians to decrease the [k]ing’s power.” He is also absolutely right when he states that the draft constitution “gives more power to the King than the British [constitutional monarchy] system.”

Royal power is one of the principal limits on Thailand’s democratization, and has been so for more than 83 years.

This is why Khaosod is wrong to state that “[f]ollowing a revolution that overthrew absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932, the Thai king has been granted largely ceremonial powers through the constitution.” As even Wikipedia shows, the constitution has long been a site of conflict over political power, and the royalists have largely won out since 1946.





The military should be controlled

1 07 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that former Prime Minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has been critical of current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for taking on the role of Minister for Defense.

According to this report, Abhisit reckons that the premier “wanted to interfere with military affairs” and in particular the upcoming military reshuffle.

Somewhat surprisingly, Yingluck defended her new role saying “holding both positions will allow the government to better support the military…” and reportedly babbled about the military and government having “independence in carrying out their tasks.”

Both political leaders are confused.

In general terms, Yingluck is apparently confused by even claiming that the military should have independence from the government. Modern militaries – and yes, we know the version in Thailand is a throwback – are meant to be under civilian control. Elected governments are elected to govern and that includes the military. Without civilian oversight, military leadership become politically interventionist, have impunity in all kinds of areas and generally become corrupt in their administration.

Supporting each other?In fact, the Thai military is a textbook example of a military that is all of this. Of course, Yingluck must tread carefully for this very situation means that Puea Thai government is always worried that the military will destabilize or overthrow it.

Abhisit is wrong for all these reasons and more. His view that the military should be “independent” is a rejection of earlier Democrat Party positions that civilians should control the military. After all, it was, briefly, Democrat Party premier Seni Pramoj and then Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai who were the first two civilians to hold this post.

The only other two civilians in the position were Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, at the head of pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments, and who were both in political positions similar to that now faced by Yingluck.

Abhisit’s position on military independence from civilian control is determined by the fact that the Democrat Party is a pro-military, royalist party that owed its last stint in government to the military’s interference in politics. When Abhisit was premier, he was a virtual puppet for the military, and his regime presided over the military’s violent crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2009 and 2010. He is opposed to civilian control of the military because he and his party benefit from military interference.





Palace involvement in coup planning (1957)

12 03 2013

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has managed to find yet another critical cable (reproduced, left and right; click on them to get a larger image) for understanding the role of the current monarchy in Thailand’s politics and especially in the planning of military coups.dhani1

Many readers will know that the palace was deeply involved in the planning of the 2006 military coup. There is no doubt that palace figures were very closely connected with the cabal of plotters who schemed to get rid of Thaksin Shinawatra’s government. Likewise, Privy Council President  General Prem Tinsulanonda actively campaigned against the government. Academic Kevin Hewison summarized this planning and scheming in a set of articles from the Journal of Contemporary Asia that can be downloaded as a large PDF:

… the palace’s footprints litter the trail to the coup. Prem’s critical role has been noted, and it is impossible that he would act without palace approval. Indeed, through Prem, the palace knew of the coup well in advance: “The coup plot was known within a tight circle of people, among them Gen Prem Tinsulanonda … and his close aides…, Air Force Commander … Chalit Pukkasuk and Lt-Gen Anupong Paochinda, commander of the First Army Region” (Wassana, 2006).

Often this deep involvement is portrayed as a “slip” in the king’s constitutional role, “necessary” for returning Thailand to the conservative hands of the ruling elite, delivering it from the “populist” and “authoritarian” Thaksin.

Interestingly, what the document uncovered by Marshall shows is that the palace has been involved in earlier coups – in this case the royalist putsch by General Sarit Thanarat – that was to result in a catapulting of the monarchy back to political and economic centrality.dhani2

In Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles, mention is made of the Sarit gaining “palace backing” by February 1957 and that “the palace aggressively undertook to undermine the prime minister” (p. 136). Later, Handley notes that the king called on Prime Minister Phibun to “resign to avoid a coup” (p. 138). Phibun refused and Sarit threw him out.

A missing link in this trail of palace politicking is the cable that details the planning of the coup. In the cable, British Ambassador Berkeley Gage writes on 17 April 1957 about a remarkable meeting the previous day in which a gaggle of royalists, including the President of the Privy Council, Prince Dhani, and the royalist agitators Seni and Kukrit Pramoj, amongst others. This was effectively a meeting of royalists and opponents of the 1932 political revolution, planning a coup, to reinstate royal power and wealth.

The presence of Prince Dhani is highly significant as this prince was the motivating political force in the palace and could not have occurred without the king’s approval or even suggestion. Clearly the palace was deeply involved. As the cable states:

Sarit

The palace’s footprints litter the trail to the coup in 1957, as they did in 2006.





With a major update: Zen Journalist on death of Ananda

6 03 2013

LandonAndrew MacGregor Marshall has posted another installment in his search of documents regarding the death of King Ananda Mahidol. PPT won’t post anything from it as readers can get to the account here. The new information is Margaret Landon‘s account, written in 1971, that has the current king shooting his elder brother. She claims this information is from a source close to the royal family.

PPT imagines that many will discount Margaret Landon as a reliable reporter based on her earlier and greatly debated accounts of things royal in Thailand.

Update: At the version of this story posted at Zen Journalist (ZJ) blog, more detail is provided. The author makes this statement:

The [official] investigation deliberately excluded a fourth possibility: that Ananda was accidentally shot by somebody else. This fourth possibility is the truth. Ananda Mahidol was shot and killed by his brother Bhumibol. It seems inconceivable that the killing was premeditated. It was a terrible tragic accident or aberration, and it has haunted Bhumibol Adulyadej ever since.

He notes a cable from the U.S. representative in Bangkok:

The Prime Minister spoke to me very frankly about the whole situation and ascribed the King’s death to an accident, but it was obvious that the possibility of suicide was in the back of his mind. He was violently angry at the accusations of foul play levelled against himself and most bitter at the manner in which he alleged that the Royal Family and the Opposition, particularly Seni Pramoj and Phra Sudhiat, had prejudiced the King and especially the Princess Mother against him.Doll

Part of the reason for suspicion being directed to Pridi, apart from simple prejudice against a leader of the 1932 revolution, is mentioned in a British document (right). (If the clips look small in your browser, just re-load the page and you should be able to view it.)

In addition, in a later cable this is stated:

The Department may also be interested to know that within 48 hours after the death of late King two relatives of Seni, first his nephew and later his wife, came to the Legation and stated categorically their conviction that the King had been assassinated at the instigation of the Prime Minister. It was of course clear that they had been sent by Seni.

SangwanSeni, like the royal mother, hated Pridi, not least for his pivotal role in 1932. Her view is shown in the snippet, right, from a British document, reproduced in the ZJ post.

The discussion which follows is important for understanding how the death of the king was politicized in quite remarkable ways. It has long been known that the Pramoj brothers and the nascent Democrat Party used the death to oust Pridi. However, at least for PPT, the claim that follows in new and plausible:

Meanwhile, increasingly alarmed about Bhumibol’s refusal to return from Lausanne, and concerned that his complicity in Ananda’s death would disastrously weaken him as a monarch, leading royalists including Democrat Party leader Khuang Aphaiwong, and the Pramoj brothers Seni and Kukrit, hatched a plan to announce that Bhumibol had killed Ananda. They hoped to force him to abdicate in favour of Prince Chumbhot.

The source for this is Kenneth Landon. ZJ then states:

The plan was foiled by military strongman Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, who deposed the Khuang government in a coup in April 1948. Pibul wanted to keep Bhumibol on the throne, believing that the secret of his accidental killing of Ananda could be used to manipulate him.

The account then moves to Margaret Landon’s note mentioned above.