Khaosod has a particularly interesting story on General Prem Tinsulanonda, the 94-year-old chairman of the Privy Council, who has been full in his praise of the 2014 military coup.
That is certainly as anyone who follows Thailand’s fractious would expect. Apart from the attempted coups against him when he was unelected premier, Prem has supported all actions by his beloved military against civilian politicians. Like his boss of many years, the king, Prem hates democratic politics and elected politicians.
On this occasion, Prem “has praised the 2014 military coup as a necessary action that saved Thailand from chaos.” The aged general “also lauded coupmaker and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for his decision to seize … power from the elected government on 22 May 2014.”
Prayuth took all of his junta and its puppet ministers to “visit to Gen. Prem at his official [taxpayer-funded] residence in Bangkok … wishing him well for the new year…”.
Prem’s “praise of the 2014 coup is therefore considered the most high profile endorsement of the military takeover so far.” Of course, the palace and Privy Council were fully supportive of the coup for it served their interests, which were little different from those that prompted Prem to collude with coup masters in 2006.
What is noteworthy in the Khaosod report is that it analyzes Prem’s role.
Prem, a former military commander, went on to assert that the Thai “people are ‘very proud’ of what the military did on 22 May 2014.” We think that Prem, who lives in a tight circle of the rich and powerful, speaks for them. It is the rich and powerful who are thankful of the military for its intervention, even if they admit that most military leaders are dolts.
In speaking for the rich and powerful, Prem shows his total support for military interventionism:
“That day shows that the military and the army … came out to do the action when necessary. They came out to take care of the country. We must be proud of all the actions we have done…. 22 May [coup] is a noble action. It’s like repaying debt to the country. It’s a great display of loyalty. I think most of Thais agree, accept, and feel pride of Prime Minister Uncle Too [Prayuth’s nickname] ‘s action.”
… “Uncle Too has rescued the nation and brought peace to all Thais. We have done the action, and will continue to do so. I want to tell all of you that this opportunity is an important one. It is the opportunity that shows that when the nation is in crisis, when there is no reconciliation, we will always step in and take care of it. That is our duty.
“We have come out. We cannot retreat. We have to keep pushing forward with valour and bravery. We will move forward like gentles. We will move forward as the true Thais. We will move forward for the sake of our children. It is a good opportunity to show that we will not abandon our brethren to their suffering.
We imagine that these are exactly the things that Prem told the military leadership prior to the coup. It speaks volumes about the mentality of the military and those in the palace who want to deny their “children” electoral politics in favor of the preferred “Thai-style democracy” (that is a royalist and military fascism).
Prem goes even further, indicating his and the palace’s total support for the anti-democrat movement and the rollback of politics that the military dictatorship erroneously calls “reform”:
“I know that all of you [Gen. Prayuth and his government] are tired. We are all tired. But we are tired for the sake of the nation, for … the King, and for all Thais. These things will relieve us from the exhaustion and lift our spirits to fight for everything.
PPT understands that Prem is careful in including himself in this statement of support and collective collusion in the restoration of “Premocracy“:
“I’d like to ask all members of the armed forces to give their support to our dear Prime Minister and the government, who are working for the country. Because we are friends and comrades who have sworn to die for each other, we have to help take care of each other.”
The old general’s call for the military junta for “the blessing of His Majesty the King…” could be taken as an indication that the king is already dead. But let us assume that he is still alive [see Update below] and that Prem has decided that the card trick of the coup, where Prayuth tried to keep the monarchy’s role hidden, is no longer a facade worth having. He declares:
“I hope that everyone will help take care of this country…. And I wish that all goals of the NCPO and the government will be achieved.”
Khaosod adds an appropriate observation:
Although Thailand’s Constitutions do not permit Privy Councilors to convey their political opinions to the public, Gen. Prem has a long history of giving remarks that are favourable toward pro-establishment factions and expressing skepticism toward elected governments in Thailand.
Prem’s support of anti-democratic political options is a prime reason for the country’s failure to embed electoral politics. He and the king have repeatedly and resolutely opposed political progress in Thailand, protecting the existing royalist social, political and economic order.
Update: Khaosod reports that the king is wheeled out once more. And literally wheeled out in a wheelchair, for a novelty run to the supermarket at Siriraj Hospital, to pick up a few things. We say this is a novelty, for we doubt the king has ever troubled himself with shopping or understands what a supermarket is. Most royals avoid such plebeian haunts. But in this case, “on wheelchair and flanked by dozens of officials and medical personnel,” the king allegedly “bought” items like “milk, ice cream, and fruits” from a store that is “operated by the Royal Palace…”. So the owner was “shopping.” We can’t help wondering if this wheel-out isn’t directly related to Prem’s statements of support for the military coup and the dictatorship. It seems like a kind of royal exclamation mark to the old man’s anti-electoralism.