Army stuck in it past I

7 03 2019

Like so much of what has happened in Thailand in recent times, the sight of Army chief Apirat Kongsompong calling together some 700 officers to what was billed as “a special meeting” but was really a political rally, looks like a man of the past using the intimidating methods of the past.

With Apirat’s people saying that the “meeting” was about “the army’s role and peacekeeping responsibilities ahead of election day…”, it seems altogether too clear that Gen Apirat is positioning the Army to play a key political role into the future and to position himself to take over from Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in a few years (if the junta’s and military’s election plans pan out).

Gen Apirat Thursday meeting at the army’s headquarters is also “a show of support for the army chief after officers shared an internal memo urging one another to defend the army’s honour.”

Honor? Thety mean power. After all, what honor does a corrupt institution that has killed tens of thousands of citizens have? Oh, yes, the “honor” is being the protector of the military-monarchy alliance, which requires that murderous politics.

The (old) boys’ club that is the Army has gotten upset that its acces to the political trough and to impunity may be limited. Hence it writes in circulars to itself:

If someone, whether he is a soldier or not, does something that undermines [our] dignity, we must have the determination to protect our honour and dignity…. If someone makes inappropriate remarks about our supervisors or troops, it is an attack on the dignity of soldiers.”

The last time we recall such a show of military “honor” was back in the Chatichai Choonhavan years, when on more than one occasion, officers were called to “meetings” to demand the ouster of prime ministerial adviser Sukhumbhand Paribatra. One of those meetings was captured by The Nation on 13 August 1989 (see above).

This was followed by another intervention where Gen Apirat’s father Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong demanded that certain critical cabinet members be silenced, reported in The Nation on 8 December 1990 (see below).

We guess that rotten fruit doesn’t fall far from the corrupt tree.

The military actively intervening in the election and snooping on and threatening politicians who are not pro-junta/pro-military may appear as something from the past, but this is where Gen Apirat has positioned himself and his forces. We suspect that the next coup, should there be one, will be his and will be even more royalist and backward-looking than anything we have seen in recent decades.





Further updated: Media reprimands Gen Apirat

20 02 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has been hammered by the media today. For example, the Bangkok Post had an editorial, two op-eds and a story all highly critical of his attack on campaigning politicians as “scum.”

In the story, it was reported that “[p]oliticians demanded … the army chief remain neutral in the lead-up to the … election after he rebuked them for calling for defence budget cuts and revived an anti-communist song…”.

Actually, it is a song that belongs to extreme rightists and ultra-royalists, most recently used by the yellow-shirted royalists People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee to attack pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups and politicians.

In other words, Gen Apirat was reaffirming his ultra-royalism as an anti-democratic rightist. The notion that he will be “neutral” is farcical. The military is never politically neutral.

Commenting on this, Ploenpote Atthakor points out that one of the (false) justifications for the 2014 military coup was about eliminating political conflict. As she points out, Gen Apirat is promoting conflict. For PPT, it is clear that the military has been stirring conflict throughout recent decades. The military is the problem.

Even determined anti-Thaksinista, Veera Prateepchaikul points out:

Many people may love the song and call it patriotic. But for a person like me and many others who are old enough to have witnessed the horrors of the “October 6” massacre and heard it being blasted around the clock before that fateful day by the army-run Yankroh radio station alternating with the hateful phone-in comments against the students inside Thammasat University, this is unquestionably a far-right hate song for its association with this bloody history.

The Post’s editorial comes straight to the point:

The troubling response of the army commander to a rather benign political campaign promise has quickly escalated. Gen Apirat Kongsompong didn’t just try to refute the call to cut both the military budget and the number of general officers. He retaliated by reviving the most hateful song in Thai political history, and promised to flood military bases and the airwaves with it. It is a move with an ironclad guarantee of major political and national division.

It continues to condemn Gen Apirat, saying what was:

hugely disappointing and inappropriate was Gen Apirat’s instant and ill-formed leap into the political campaign. The decision of the highest ranking army officer to step into the election debate was questionable. What is indefensible is his order to revive and propagandise his soldiers with the noxious and odious 1970s song Nak Phandin.

Yet it is hardly out of the ordinary. Gen Apirat, like his predecessor Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have made their careers by being palace loyalists, rightists, and murderous military bosses.

Perhaps the most interesting commentary, however, was at Thai Rath, which outlines Gen Apirat’s family story. His father, Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, a diminutive rightist also known as “Big George,” was a corrupt leader of the 1991 coup. The paper points out that, following a dispute between Sunthorn’s wife and mistress in 2001, people were stunned to learn that the property under dispute was valued at over 3.9 billion baht.

Thai Rath goes through the whole story of this corrupt general, the father of the current military commander. Being a powerful military boss has been lucrative, but for the Kongsompong clan, the wealth siphoned was conspicuously huge. We have no evidence of who shared in that huge wealth.

Update 1: It is not just the media that has gone after Apirat. As Prachatai reportsAs Prachatai reports:

… student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, along with other members of the Student Union of Thailand, also went to the Army Headquarters to read an open letter to the Army Commander in Chief protesting Gen Apirat’s comment on ‘Nuk Paen Din.’

Following that:

… political activists Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Chokchai Paibulratchata held a demonstration at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in response to army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s order to broadcast the controversial Cold War anthem ‘Nuk Paen Din’ (‘Scum of the Earth’) on all army radio stations and over the intercom at military headquarters.

Update 2: As might be expected, the military and its rabid response to politicians has been defended by what the Bangkok Post describes as “Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn…”. Panitan is neither a “political scientist” nor an “academic” in the true senses of these words. Rather, he is a toady of the military and in its pay. He’s a propagandist for the military, lying that “army chief Gen Apirat spoke out in response to the proposed defence budget cuts because he intended to defend the interests of rank-and-file soldiers who would be affected by any spending cuts.” It is a ludicrous fabrication. Defending the murderous military is nit the work of serious academics.





The other Vichai story

31 10 2018

With all the eulogies for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha being wholly laudatory, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan is in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He said: “As opposed to the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… family man…”.

Nusara has been described as a “[f]ormer beauty queen who was runner-up in Thailand’s Miss Universe.”

Fans of Leicester City attacked Roan, variously describing him as despicable and an enemy of the club. He was told by some that he was no longer welcome at the club. These fans lauded Vichai and hated the fact that the BBC editor had, well, told the truth.

The claims by others were uncritical and blur truth. It was Britain’s Prince William who stated:

My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and all the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City Football Club…. I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years. He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of important charitable causes.

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red

There’s no evidence that Prince William’s claims are anything other than a repetition of the spin that has been associated with Vichai and King Power in recent years. The BBC mistress slip is just one aspect of this.

Lauding Vichai as something of a hero in the context of Leicester and Leicester City is understandable. Spin from a royal polo partner are also no surprise.

But the failure of the media to investigate more is disappointing.

After all, Vichai’s business history is of virtually inexplicable, very sudden and huge wealth. Yes, King Power is known, but the company and its founder are secretive. What is known suggests he may have grifted his way to great wealth, not least by polishing the right posteriors. Once he had great wealth, he selectively polished his own posterior by carefully managing his and the company’s limited media profile.

On the mistress claim, it is not at all odd to learn that a Sino-Thai mogul would hire an “assistant” who is a former beauty queen. That she might be a mistress is also pretty much “normal” in Thailand. Most Sino-Thai tycoons have a stable of mistresses.

And, of course, not just tycoons and not just Thailand.

But in Thailand, there’s a normalization of such relations. Politicians and military types are good examples. Gen Sarit Thanarat had a bevy of mistresses. Whispers about other leaders are only sometimes revealed, usually in squabbles over their ill-gotten gains. Examples included Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, Chatichai Choonhavan and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

And, of course, there’s the massive official silence in Thailand about the current king’s “troubled relationships with a succession of wives and mistresses.”

It is about power. For the tycoons, wealth means power and having a mistress is “normalized.” But that link between wealth, power and mistress should not be ignored.





For king and junta

29 09 2018

In the “tradition” of dullards and political allies, the new boss of the Army is Gen Apirat Kongsompong, son of the corrupt 1991 coup leader Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong. For more on the 1991 coup, see PDFs here and here.

As a political ally of The Dictator and Deputy Dictator, Gen Apirat has vowed to “strengthen the army…”. We hadn’t noticed it had weakened. In fact, it is the most significant and best armed political “party” in the country.

Gen Apirat was speaking at one of those dopey loyalty ceremonies that the brass love so much and where he made sure to express “his great gratitude to His Majesty the King for appointing him…”. And that seems a real rather than mechanical genuflection. Being a military man himself, the king matters in deciding who leads the military.

Gen Apirat gladly accepted the expanded role of the army that the junta has provided it.

He praised “the empowerment of the army, which has leading roles in solving major problems affecting national security and order and is always ready to be there for people…”. Gen Apirat means that the military will continue to play the leading role in controlling the country and its politics.

Gen Apirat has played a significant role in defeating and demobilizing the red shirts following the 2014 coup. He is described as “one of the movers of the May 22, 2014 coup when he supervised the 1st Division, King’s Guard, which was a key unit in the putsch.”





Supporting the junta’s political agenda

3 03 2018

New political parties are emerging from the junta’s primeval electoral rules slime.We apologize for all the square brackets and inverted commas that follow, but these are necessary to indicate the contrived nature of politics arranged by the military dictatorship.

According to a Bangkok Post source at the Election Commission, several parties “want their party names to include the words ‘Pracharath’ (people-state partnership) or ‘Thai Niyom’ (Thai-ism) — from the government’s [they mean the junta’s] key [populist-electoral] development schemes which are now becoming popular catchphrases among the people [sic.].”

In other words, following the junta’s lead and its rules, a bunch of parties look like forming to support the junta and its dismal political objective of maintaining “Thai-style democracy” – i.e. no democracy at all – into the future.

These “parties” – really just junta factions and political opportunists – reckon that the junta’s dishing out of populist-electoral cash will have an “impact on voters as there are many who benefit from these projects.” The “parties” also want voters “to believe that the newly-registered parties have the backing of the government…”. Some do and others are hoping that they can suck up the loot that might result from a military-backed coalition government following an “election.”

The EC source particularly pointed to survey “parties” set up with the “clear intention of supporting the National and Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta]…”. These are the devil or Satan parties.

One is the Pracharath Party “which is speculated to include key figures from the government [junta + a few trusted anti-democrat civilians] and the NCPO [the junta – those civilians]. Speculation is rife that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatursripitak, who is the head of the government’s economic team, will be the party leader.” Somkid is one of those +/- civilians.

Then there’s the “Muan Maha Pracha Chon Party pushed by Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee is also meant to back Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator] to return as an outsider prime minister after the general election…”. Recall Suthep’s faux denial but remember his long alliance with the junta and the military coupsters.

Former senator and extreme yellow shirt Paiboon Nititawan is establishing a devil party to be “registered as the People Reform Party and will also support Gen Prayut making a comeback as premier.”

Then there are a bunch of hope-to-be-Satan-parties. These are micro-parties that have a hope of “joining an NCPO-sponsored government after the election.” They are presumably setting up money-laundering arrangements as we write this. One is the “Pheu Chart Thai Party. The group is led by Amphaphan Thanetdejsunthorn, former wife of the late military strongman Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, who led a coup that seized power from the Chatichai Choonhavan government in 1991.”

Then there’s the New Palang Dhamma Party (NPDP), inaugurated on Thursday. Apparently a self-proclaimed devil party, it seems likely to throw its support to Gen Prayuth “if he bids to become an unelected, outside premier.” The party vows to fight corruption. It isn’t clear how supporting Prayuth and fighting corruption fit together. But, hey, this is the junta’s Thailand.

The real link between the junta and the reconstituted party is anti-Thaksinism:

[Rawee] … played an active role in bringing down two Shinawatra governments. Most recently in 2013 with the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State, or PCAD, aka the People’s Democratic Reform Council. Before that, Rawee was once a member of the former People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Yellowshirt party which played an instrumental role in opposing both Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

In summary, the formation of a myriad of minor parties supportive of The Dictator is in line with the junta’s script for post-“election” politics.

Yellow shirted “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of Walailak University, observed “there is nothing new to expect and the next election will not bring any change.” Sombat’s own role in creating this neanderthal political system is not mentioned.





The junta’s destruction of electoral politics

12 02 2018

The clamor for an “election” under the junta’s rules might be good politics but it is also a recipe for a post-election politics that is likely to be unstable. This is because the junta’s constitution and all of the related laws it has put in place are deeply flawed. The junta’s rules, put together by advocates of Thai-style democracy, is meant to limit popular sovereignty. As every anti-democrat and military leader knows, the people can’t be trusted.

An example of such flaws is seen in how political parties – both extant and in formation – are reacting to the junta’s laws.

Several groups have shown interest in setting up new political parties. In fact, more than a hundred have expressed “interest.” The reason for this has to do with the junta winding back the political clock to a period where strong governments were not the likely outcome of an election. Rather, coalitions of multiple parties were the rule and these government coalition parties fought over cabinet seats and the spoils of these positions to be doled out to keep the party going and MPs on side. Funds were also needed for vote-buying and MP-buying.

Meanwhile, an “outsider” premier would do what he wanted, relatively insulated from the parties and their squabbling. When the outsider PM was a military man, there were pro- and anti-military parties, but what mattered most was where the military leadership and palace stood.

When the Election Commission (EC) held meeting last Friday to provide guidelines for potential party founders, we gained an insight into the future of political parties as 291 people from 114 groups registered for the meeting. We don’t expect all of these groups to form a party that contests junta “elections,” but the nature of party entrepreneurs is revealed. Some of these were existing parties that preferred to set up new ones as this was easier than tracking down their “existing members.”

Some parties are angling to be part of the junta’s group of parties. One was reported to be Ampapan Thanate-dejsunthorn, a former mistress of 1991 coup leader and friend to dark influences the unusually wealthy Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong who died some years ago. Known as Big George, his son is Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Assistant Commander in Chief of the Army, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Government Lottery Office, director at Bangchak Petroleum and member of the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. He shot to fame and up the military hierarchy after he took pot shots at red shirts back in 2010.

Ampapan said she would set up the Pheu Chart Thai party, promoting junta-style “reconciliation,” supporting delayed elections and an outsider premier.

Vichit Dittaprasop, leader of National Progressive Democracy Party, said that setting up a new party was “easy,” adding “[a]ll that is required is a 1-million-baht seed fund and 500 founding members.” Presumably the military could assist with that. He said his party would look to winning party-list seats.

Fragmentation was also seen in existing parties; this is something the junta has worked on. “Samphan Lertnuwat, a former Pheu Thai party MP, said he was forming a new party called People’s Power Party [Phalang Phonlamuang] with 10 former MPs.” He also bid for pro-military alliance saying “his new party had no objection to an outsider prime minister so long as he was a good man.”

“Good” men are almost all anti-democrats.





Father and son

25 02 2017

On roughly the anniversary of the 1991 military coup, another supported by Thailand’s middle class, dependent on the military and monarchy to keep them above the feared masses, it is interesting that the Bangkok Post does a feature on the son of that coup’s leader, General Sunthorn “Big George” Kongsompong.

Dad dies in 1999, having been held in low repute following the blood-letting of May 1992. As might be expected, Sunthorn was well-heeled and split his time between Thailand and France after the coup group was disgraced.* For more on the 1991 coup, see PDFs here and here.

His son, First Army Region commander Lt. Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, has been on the up and up since he proved himself a red shirt hater in 2010, shooting at protesters in one of the first “hot” clashes of that uprising.He’s been rewarded by the coup group with promotions and cushy money-making positions.

apirat

Apirat

The Post gives him glory with its headline: “Army chief in the making?”

It notes that this year “tension is building on several fronts” for the military junta, “which needs a commander it can trust to help iron things out.” That seems to be just the deal for Apirat, who is making the news more often than he should. Yet, as the story correctly observes,

The NCPO and the armed forces, particularly the army, are one and the same. Naturally, when the going gets a little tough on the political road, the council looks to the army to to steer a course of action required for pacifying heated issues, which could potentially spiral out of control.

Within the army, it says, Apirat is “one commander stands out from the crowd, who is known for his combat skills.” He can be relied on to wage war against anyone seen as a threat to military and monarchy.

The Post also notes his role in seeing off the lads from the south complaining about a coal-fired power station. That group seemed to like him and saw him as a factional leader facing off against the old guard in the junta. That’s unlikely at present as he owes the big boys leading the junta.

On the coal dispute, this:

Lt Gen Apirat said it was necessary to end the protest peacefully and quickly, citing an intelligence report of a third party and anti-government elements attempting to politicise the protest and whipping up an undercurrent for their own political benefit.

That’s buffalo poo, but you get the picture. Apirat knows that his protesters are political allies.

Apirat is positioned for higher position because he heads up Bangkok’s military garrison. He’s got a finger in the funeral stuff at Sanam Luang and his men are backing up the troops and police at Wat Dhammakaya.

When the “election” comes around, you can be sure that Apirat and his troops will be busy arranging the result in Bangkok. Apirat seems likely to emulate his father at the head of undemocratic forces.

____

*Some accounts suggest that Sunthorn was close to Thaksin Shinawatra.