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.





Wolves in charge of “reconciliation”

7 02 2017

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been in jail since 30 April 2011. In a long and deliberately tortuous trial, the labor activist was convicted of lese majeste in a sham trial. Because he refused to plead guilty, the “justice” system has deliberately treated him badly.

Despite all of this, a brave Somyos “has denounced the junta’s political reconciliation plans.” He declared:

If the regime is really serious about reconciliation, asserted Somyot, all parties to the political conflicts since the 2006 coup d’état must be invited to the negotiation table. This includes controversial figures such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Suthep Thaugsuban, Yingluck Shinawatra, Jatuporn Prompan, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sondhi Limthongkul and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

He made the good point that the junta’s “reconciliation plan … is like a story of wolves trying to solve problems about grass for cows and buffaloes. [The wolves] portray themselves as the protagonists but they have hidden agendas. It’s like a soap opera…”.

He’s right.





Updated: Tanks, streets and judges I

11 12 2012

[Update: we have fixed several typos in this post]

Voranai Vanijaka at the Bangkok Post noticed that 10 December is Constitution Day. His comments deserve a couple of PPT posts, and here is the first.

Voranai begins with this: “but with 17 charters since 1932, we can call Dec 10 the day when Thailand celebrates 80 years of fickleness. Charter changes to accommodate the times are one thing; 17 constitutions and counting in 80 years is an entirely different matter.”

The problem with this characterization is that getting rid of constitutions is not about fickleness at all. Rather, getting rid of constitutions has been a task undertaken by the military mainly in the interests of protecting a royalist political system and the privileges associated with it, usually with palace support. Maybe Voranai who, just a few days ago, joined the uncritical adulation of the supposed great monarch, needs a bit of a history lesson to loosen the royalist scales from his eyes.

Pridi

Pridi

The first constitution in 1932 was rejected by the king who demanded that it be “interim,” with royalists thinking they could win back some of the powers they had lost to the commoners who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The “permanent” constitution of 1932 stayed in place until 1946, when it was replaced by what is sometimes said to be Thailand’s most democratic constitution. It was put in place by Pridi Phanomyong supporters.

Soon after, in the 1947 constitution, a coterie of royalist generals and their anti-democratic supporters decided to hand back a set of powers to the monarchy while dealing a death blow to the civilians associated with the People’s Party. It was the People’s Party hating regent, Prince Rangsit who accepted the coup within 24 hours and the new royalist 1947 charter the coup leaders had drafted (the king was back in Switzerland not finishing his studies).

The 1949 charter was drafted by a committee that was headed by the royalist Seni Pramoj and dominated by other royalists beholden to Prince Rangsit and Prince Dhani. As might be expected, this document returned considerable power to the throne and Privy Council. This saw a kind of last gasp effort by the military faction from the People’s Party era, which rolled back some of these powers in the 1952 constitution.

Then the royalist military under General Sarit Thanarat took over in 1957 and ruled by decree until 1959 when there was a “temporary charter” announced that was the shortest in Thai history and stayed in place – temporarily – for nine years. It was put in place and mutually supported by king and military as a highly repressive document that allocated almost untrammeled power to the premier (always a military man). There was a “parliament,” but it was appointed and packed with military men and did the bidding of the premier.

Sarit

Sarit

When the military finally came up with the 1968 constitution, it gave sweeping powers to the military. The senate was royally appointed and could delay legislation. The king approved Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn’s entire list of mostly military nominees to the senate.

Not surprisingly, this parliament looks a little like the “Thai-style democracy” promoted by modern-day royalists who hate the idea of elected politicians actually ruling. Not even this was adequate for the military bosses, who ditched the 1968 charter in November 1971, declared martial law, and ruled with little legal or political constraint. Thirteen months later, the military brass drafted the 1972 constitution, pretty much the same as the royalist-Sarit version of 1959, banning political parties and appointing legislators, with 200 of the 299 appointees being military and police.

King and prince

King, prince and PM Thanom

When this lot were finally booted out in October 1973, the king appointed a constitutional selection committee which, unexpectedly, came up with a very liberal draft of a constitution which was vigorously opposed by palace and royalists, who managed to water down many of the liberal aspects of the 1974 constitution before it was promulgated. Of course, as the palace and military grew weary of democratic politics and incessant political squabbling, the constitution was ditched following the bloody events of October 1976 and the coup supported by the king. The king appointed the rightist royalist Thanin Kraivixien as premier and his government produced a remarkably reactionary and royalist constitution in 1976 that allowed the king to appoint the entire National Assembly made up of almost entirely bureaucrats and and military men, with the king given the unprecedented power to propose legislation to the assembly.

So repressive was the king’s premier and his regime that the military threw it out in a coup led by General Kriangsak Chomanand.  The king objected to Kriangsak’s coup and refused to sign the new 1977 charter even though it was pretty much the same as the 1976 basic law. Kriangsak proceeded to draft a barely more liberal constitution in 1978, that moderated royal powers. The palace was not amused.

Kriangsak

Kriangsak

The problem the king had with Kriangsak was only solved when royalists managed to engineer his replacement by General Prem Tinsulanonda, a palace favorite, who stayed in power without ever seeking election but with remarkably strong palace support, but did permit the gradual evolution of tame political parties. Eventually, in 1988, an elected prime minister took the prime ministership, only to be ousted in a military coup in 1991 that ditched the 1978 constitution.

There was considerable debate on what became the 1991 constitution. To cut long story short, the military junta to monopolize power. In the end, it was the king who provided the support for the junta when he received the draft constitution by fax, made some minor changes, faxed it back, and then  stated that the junta’s constitution wasn’t “fully adequate,” but should be promulgated because it was “reasonable.” Again, the king had intervened for an undemocratic junta constitution.

The result was the May 1992 uprising that eventually saw the development of the so-called people’s constitution in 1997. When Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by yet another military coup supported by the palace, that charter was unceremoniously dumped.

That military junta headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin set in place mechanisms to develop its own 2007 charter. The major innovation was a referendum. When approved, the Asian Human Rights Commission described a “heavy-handed undemocratic atmosphere…”, stating that the “… junta … coerced, threatened, bought and cajoled part of the electorate…”. Even the Bangkok Post (1 August 2007) claimed the process had a “facade of being a democratic choice… ”, adding “[t]his is not democracy, this is not the rule of law.”

General Sonthi

General Sonthi

This account shows that Voranai’s story of “fickleness” is nonsense. Worse, it can be seen as obscurantist as it deliberating conceals the central roles of the monarchy and military in the story of “serial constitutionalism.” It obscures the fact that it has been the monarchy and military that have worked assiduously to prevent democratization and to throw out  constitutions as it suited them.

Now that the Puea Thai Party-led wants to amend this undemocratic constitution, Voranai says the obstacles are “First, tanks in the streets; second, protesters in the streets; third, Constitution Court judges on the bench.” As can be seen above, tanks – meaning the military – have been the most usual method of opposing constitution reform that is liberalizing. They have most usually done that with or for the palace.





Updated: The old gang regroups

26 10 2012

Prasong

The Nation reports that former intelligence boss Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri has agreed to join the anti-government rally nominally organized by old soldier General Boonlert Kaewprasit and his Pitak Siam royalist front. Prasong is one of those who claims to have been a coup plotter in 2006 along with senior military figures. Palace insider Prasong has explained that a cabal of serving and retired military leaders, including then Army boss Sonthi Boonyaratglin, began planning the coup in July 2006. As in previous coup-plotting, Prasong says he “wants this administration ousted.”

Prasong knows quite a bit about coups. He has been involved in a range of political campaigns over many years. Prasong has a short entry at Wikipedia that mentions his role as head of the National Security Council. The entry finishes by noting that “Prasong was a central figure in the 19 September 2006 Thai military coup that overthrew Thaksin Shinawatra’s elected government…. A palace insider and favorite of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prasong was later appointed by the junta to the National Legislative Assembly.” Prasong has also been a strong supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and a strong opponent of Thaksin. Also close to the military brass, Prasong acted as a palace and junta lackey in being chairman of the committee which drafted the 2007 constitution.

Pitak Siam is boosted by Prasong’s decision to again emerge from the shadows and push for extra-judicial and extra-constitutional politics. The paper also reports that the infamous Dhamma Army is going to show up. These royalist militants are rabid supporters of the PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang and the Santi Asoke sect.

Also rejoining his old anti-Thaksin allies is General Pathompong Kesornsuk, said by the report to be a “former chairman of advisers to the Armed Forces.” That’s a pretty innocuous way to describe a man who is a rabid nationalist and royalist who appeared, in uniform, on the PAD stage back in 2006. Close to the yellow elements of the Democrat Party, like Boonlert, he has repeatedly made the unconstitutional call for the military to carry out coups, laced with neo-fascist ideology.

Boonlert

Boonlert, Prasong and Pathompong all have close relations with figures in the palace.

This group has stated “that they could no longer stand the rampant corruption and moves to defame the monarchy.” The latter is a nonsense claim, but one that will always be used even against the monarchy-timid Yingluck Shinawatra regime. They criticized Yingluck for having “failed to heed criticism from academics.” Shame on her! Heavens, the “academic” is just so very significant! While that hardly seems like a battle cry, this is a dangerous group that is able to mobilize like-minded neanderthals.

Interestingly the old gang’s almost all here! The gang that conspired to bring on the 2006 coup and then engineered the judicial coup in 2008 is coming back together. Sure, Sonthi Limthongkul is absent, but there are plenty of yellow shirts and he can make a grand entrance later. The question is how much of the old palace, military and capitalist support is also there.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a story on the participation of The Dhamma Army. Describing it as an “ultra-conservative religious group allied to the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy,” the Dhamma Army is one piece of the conservative apparatus that must come together if they are to achieve yet another unconstitutional royalist overthrow of an elected and popular government.

As another story in the Post points out, “Gen Boonlert is also trusted by Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and by Gen Prem’s inner circle.” It is that inner circle which will be watching this test of the political waters.





Wikileaks: Panitan on the South and Thaksin

14 09 2012

As regular readers well know, PPT has little time with academic-for-hire Panitan Wattanayagorn. In this Wikileaks cable dated 6 January 2006and referring to a meeting on 28 December 2005, the U.S. Embassy details discussions with Panitan on events in the south under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.

Panitan and army buddy working on a “story.”

The cable introduces Panitan as “a well-regarded academic.” We are not sure who held Panitan in high regard at this time. For a start, his academic work was (and is) thin, so he has little of the usual credibility that comes with being an academic. Perhaps it was only in “the military and the palace,” with whom the cable says Panitan has “close ties to.”

The cable states that a coterie of political counselors and political officers from the Embassy met with Chulalongkorn University’s Panitan “to discuss the South.”

Panitan, who is described as “a longtime Embassy contact” is also said to be an “adviser to both the military and the palace.” Moreover, he is introduced as having landed a “a visiting fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies in Washington,” usually reserved for those considered somehow “influential” in Thailand and/or with whom the U.S. government wants to curry favor.

Panitan began by criticizing the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) set up by Thaksin Shinawatra and chaired by Anand Panyarachun. He reckoned that “its members remain overly fixated on a ‘utopian’ solution, and need to develop alternatives grounded in the ‘reality’ of the South.”

Of the Thaksin government, it was said to be “bedeviled by overly intense and erratic attention from the leadership in Bangkok. Efforts by the PM and his top advisers to micro-manage government operations in the South lead to new, big overarching plans to solve the violence but there is rarely any follow-through.” The problem seemed to be not with the government, although it was undoubtedly “erratic,” but with the fact that Panitan’s buddies in the military didn’t trust the government.

Of course, Panitan big-noted the then military boss (and future coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin for political acumen. That’s not something usually associated with the rather dull-witted Sonthi.

Much of the strategic and tactical stuff that Panitan advocates is all water under the bridge now, but it is interesting to see a junior “academic” being so knowledgeable (or at least claiming to be) about military operations. One point he makes is revealing:

Panitan believes that the military also needs to undertake more aggressive jungle operations against the separatists, but such operations require more trust between officers and enlisted personnel. Many junior officers do not have the experience yet to inspire their men to take the needed tactical risks.

Panitan also commented on the “suspicion and lack of trust between the army and police on the ground.” Interestingly, while many had criticized Thaksin’s decision to “give the police the lead role in the South,” he “admitted that local police are more effective than sometimes given credit for…”.

The Embassy’s final comment is that “Panitan is one of our most thoughtful and well-connected interlocutors on the South. That said, his influence lies with the army and palace–two institutions which do not always see eye-to-eye with Thaksin’s southern policy.” The links between Panitan and the U.S. Embassy deserve more scrutiny.





A coup missed?

12 06 2012

Jim Taylor from the University of Adelaide in Australia, sends us this post, which kind of links in odd ways to an earlier post on “couping.” We reproduce it as received:

The 1st June Coup that was, or was not?

Imagining coups? Everyone bored of hearing about coups? In the past few years we have often anticipated coups, based on rumours, innuendo and speculation. The last one (doing the rounds) was supposed to have taken place on 1st June, plotted at the end of May in Ayutthaya. At the time the king, dressed in military uniform, went to receive 1.7 ha “donated” land at Thung Makham Yong from PM Yingluck on 25 May.

Not that we should give much credence to signs or symbolic gestures. The coup organisation was in place with Admiral Tanasak Patimapragorn, Thailand’s Chief of Defence, selected as leader. General Wasit Dechkunchon, former Deputy Director General of Thailand’s national police, came out in the media and said, somewhat ambiguously given the current tensions, that the king was prepared to lead “the war” (songkhraan)…What war? The Burmese invasion at the site which, as myth has it, Queen Suriyothai was killed in defense of her husband?

General Daopong volunteered to assist Tanasak and was prepared to take a risk because he was believed to be firmly behind the massacre April-May 2010 and had everything to lose if he were called to account. If the coup proved successful, it would of course clear him from earlier charges. Anyway, they were ordered from somewhere above and had little choice – not that they needed one. Prayut has too much at stake, many career years ahead of him and even a tentative compact with PTP. He does not want to be involved in high risk stakes. At the same day in Ayutthaya, when the King and Queen were there, a meeting was held among top military brass at the royal Siriyalai Villa in that township. This was designated as the “war room”. The day after his Ayutthaya visit the King called in the Administrative Court; while the Queen sponsored feasting for military personnel. The coup plotters were told (by whom?) to finalise the coup before 24 June.  The period 30 May to 1st June was a crucial time for PTP.

Interestingly, the army sent field units to the “community” (around Bangkok) to ask people how they would feel if the army were to take care of country instead of politicians. This was after DP’s planned fracas in parliament over the Reconciliation Bill and amendments to the constitution (in fact PTP was only interested in one Section 291, on Amendments and in setting up a Draft Constitution Committee). The Constitutional Court was then ordered (by whom?) to act on 30 May. This was part of a well articulated plot among the amaat situated in various strategic positions of power to discredit the government. Contra to Somsak’s thesis (http://thaienews.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/blog-post_6844.html) that the five levels of the amaat regime function autonomously it is a well oiled single machine.

The coup plot initially planned for 1st June was leaked out and thus the amaat had to immediately use the powers invested in the Constitutional Court. That day Prayut called a meeting and announced to the media that there would be an important announcement that afternoon at 1 PM. The army in fact was going to detain Yingluck at Regiment 11.  The Queen’s personal aid Thanpuying Jarungjit Thikara and DP’s Suthep Thaugsuban went to Regiment 11 for talks with the army. Arresting Yingluck would destroy the government and prevent her, as head of government, from fleeing overseas and creating a legitimate government-in- exile (she would then also be a hostage to negotiate with Thaksin). That was also the day when PAD and Dr Tul Sitthisomwong’s mob/multicolours blocked the entry of PTP parliamentarians. A signal was sent to Yingluck of the intended coup plot and she cancelled all her appointments around this time.

DP brought in people from “blue” areas in Petchaburi and Prajuab Provinces to help Chamlong/Santi Asok and PAD surround parliament. The air force had also been called to prepare for the coup; while the special airborne unit of the Thai police had pledged its support to government/UDD in case of violence.

In fact, the 2006 coup leader Sonthi “Bang” Boonyaratglin’s first Reconciliation Bill was a clever earlier ploy to discredit PTP and include Thaksin in the amnesty along with those responsible for the massacre in 2010. Prem around the time also called in Yingluck for talks to give an impression of collusion. It worked! Thaksin was then told to back off support to red shirts in a new deal with the amaat. He thought he could gain some mutual benefits not only for himself/family but for PTP’s graduated reform process in negotiating with elites who seemed amenable to dialogue with the elected government (hence the row among red shirts, and Thaksin’s recent regrets made at a mass red shirt gathering last week in Muang Thong Thani after realizing [if he was not aware before] that he was utterly deceived by the amaat).

In the next step the government will have no alternative but to press ahead and pass the amendments on 12 June, or else wait until end of Parliamentary sitting. It must make a move to reform the constitution and replace all the stacked independent bodies (e.g. courts, NCCC, & EC), which were established with connivance of high level amaat and the military to bring down Thaksin and stifle emerging democracy with social and economic reform. This is something the amaat never wanted to see ever since 1932 as it took power away from them.  Thailand’s problem may be because, especially during the period of economic modernization, Thailand’s political institutions were not allowed (by the royalists) to mature and thus maintain tension of instability where the military could always step in and justify its regrouping of power and control over society and the economy. In its justification the army would always refer to a higher authority above the elected institutions of the state.

If PTP overrules the Constitutional Court, the latter will of course now refer to Article 216, Clause 5, to say that deliberations are final and Parliament committed to follow the court’s ruling. If it does not accept the court ruling it will say that the Party is not respecting the constitutional law and that consequences would follow. This scenario, along with the anticipated final decision over Phra Vihaan (Preah Vihear) by the International Court of Justice (anticipated to be in Cambodia’s favour) will see far-right (ultra-nationalist) elements inside and outside Parliament attacking the government’s “sell-out” of the nation, and will thus allow a space for the military to finally take control – the next and final coup:  Enter the Falangists.

Jim Taylor

10 June 2012





Washing the palace’s coup laundry

5 06 2012

At The Vancouver Sun, Jonathan Manthorpe seems to want to rewrite history when he states:

Although there has never been any suggestion that King Bhumibol approved the 2006 coup, Thaksin [Shinawatra]’s supporters have accused the head of the king’s privy council, Gen. Prem Tinsunalonda, of masterminding the takeover.

Yes, Prem has been accused of deep involvement in planning the coup, not least in preparing the ground for the coup through his multiple visits to military units from April 2006, demanding that they be loyal to the king and not the government.

However, the claim that “there has never been any suggestion that King Bhumibol approved the 2006 coup” is simply wrong. In fact, there has been huge controversy, even in recent days, about the king’s meeting with the junta and his express approval given to the coup and junta. And, of course, the role of the queen shouldn’t be forgotten.

One of the interesting debates surrounding coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin’s so-called reconciliation bill has been centered on this palace meeting. At the time, the visit and associated royal decree got plenty of attention as it was part of the process of justifying the illegal actions of the royalist junta. They soon realized that this meant that the king was implicated and began a different discourse, amounting to posterior covering.

The appropriate Wikileaks cable, referring to the meeting between the junta and the king and queen, has Ambassador Ralph Boyce reporting on a meeting on the afternoon after the 19 September coup and stating:

2. (C) 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.