Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.


The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:


The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.

O brother, where art thou?

17 04 2020

Criminals, oafs and grifters escaping a prison chain gang, the 2000 film of our headline by the Coen brothers had comedy and strange turns in the plot going for it, not to mention hillbilly music.

When it comes to the post-junta military-dominated government, however, there’s little comedy, much confusion and no music as criminals, oafs and grifters all escape prison and continue with more of the same.

As the poor struggle under the state of emergency – how much of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s time in power has relied on such exceptional powers? – the post-junta gets on with its nepotism and repression.

We know where Gen Prayuth’s grifting brother is because Khaosod reports that:

Clean hands?

More than half of the newly-appointed Senate Committee on Tourism are military officers turned senators – including PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s younger brother.

The list of 23 members, among them Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha, was announced in the Royal Government Gazette on Thursday. Besides Gen. Preecha, other 14 military generals named to the post include former deputy PM Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, who will chair the senate committee.

Of course, Gen Preecha has a sordid past in nepotism and corruption. One can only imagine that a committee with 14 generals (Prachatai says 13) only exists for the meeting allowances and, perhaps,in the future, overseas junkets. No one could seriously think that such a committee would be of any public use or value. As we know from past “performance” Gen Preecha seldom shows up.

Meanwhile, the military and police are arresting thousands for alleged curfew violations. Now before the frightened middle class get huffy at PPT’s characterization, telling us how dangerous it is for people to be outside when the virus is lurking, consider that the reported arrest toll under the emergency decree is already over 8,500. Then consider how harsh the sentencing is, especially for the poor.

Par for the course when it comes to brothers-in-arms.

Updated: Cheats cheating I

12 06 2019

As everyone knows, Thailand remains a military dictatorship and no government has yet been formed to replace it. Indeed, in a recent ranking, Thailand was determined as “unfree,” ranking between absolute monarchy Brunei and troubled countries with Zimbabwe and Iraq. The “unfreedom” will continue, with dozens of junta orders being converted into laws that will apply into the future, backing a backward constitution that permitted a rigged election.

That rigging has been a vast and expensive project that could, if unchecked, allow the odious cheat Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain as prime minister for another eight year as the unelected Senate he selected will vote again in four years if Thailand has another election.

The selection of the Senate has been a closely-held secret for months simply because of the thoroughgoing cheating it involved. Because the junta has gotten away with a coup, political repression, corruption, a fake constitutional referendum, a rigged and stolen election and more, it figures nothing can derail it now, so it has released some details of its cheating.

In the selection of The Dictator as premier, we know that every single unelected puppet senator voted for their boss (the Senate president abstained, but would have voted for his longtime boss if necessary).

We now also know that the “reserve list” of 50 senators, “publicized in the Royal Gazette, include Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma, foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, former deputy governor of Bangkok Pol. Lt. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, and former member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Prapan Koonme.”

The listing of the EC’s secretary-general indicates how just how flawed the EC is, run by junta puppets and automatons. Rigging an election requires a cheating EC. Having delivered the junta its “victory,” this puppet secretary-general will likely get his reward.

More cheating is confirmed by junta legal thug Wissanu Krea-ngam. It is reported that “[u]nder mounting pressure from transparency activists and political parties,” he has released “the identities of the selection committee who contributed to filling the 250-member junta-appointed senate.”

It should be surprising – but, then nothing is surprising any more – that:

Among the committee were six senators: former deputy PM Gen. Chatchai Sarikulya, former deputy PM Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, former deputy PM Thanasak Patimaprakorn, deputy junta head Adm. Narong Pipatanasai, former labor minister Pol. Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, and former president of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

Wissanu has made unbelievable claims about the committee was “politically neutral” and that the secrecy about membership was to prevent “lobbying.” Of course, all the “lobbying” was actually the junta pulling all the strings.

He has also insisted – again unbelievable – that “members of the selection committee abstained from voting or attending the voting session if their name came up in the candidate roster,” while their brothers voted for them, saying “I can confirm that no member ever brought up their name in the selection process. Everything is on the record…”.

While we have no doubt that if he released “the record,” it would confirm his account. After all, the junta has scribes who can fabricate any record it likes. How Wissanu can say such things with a straight face is a measure of how low the junta – and Thailand – has sunk.

Now the cheating cheats have to ensure their continuing political domination for another eight years.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a few more details on the great Senate scam. The junta’s fixing panel that put the scam together had 10 members becoming nine when Pornpetch resigned. Six of them (see above) became members of the Senate they selected for the junta. The other four were Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Wissanu, Gen Anupong Paojinda, and deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, all of whom are likely to be ministers in the “new” government. In other words, every one of the junta’s panel are now holding positions – or soon will be – in the junta’s “new” government as well as holding such positions under the junta. What can we say? The whole thing is a massive scam foisted on the nation by the junta. It seems there is no way of holding this bunch of election crooks accountable for any of their cheating.

Further updated: Thanathorn’s future bleak

23 05 2019

Future Foward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is is trouble. With the Constitutional Court deciding 8-1 [see update 2] to hear the case against him, Thanathorn’s political future looks bleak indeed.

Having done so well in the junta’s election, pro-junta supporters and the junta itself identified Thanathorn as a potential threat to their order, seeing him as a second generation of popular politicians promoting popular reforms. That is, a politician who looked to political troglodytes like a new Thaksin Shinawatra. They have decided to be rid of him sooner rather than later.

The Constitutional Court has agreed to hear the complaint filed by the Election Commission “which accused him of breaching election laws by owning stakes in a media firm.”

If he is found guilty, Thanathorn could face up to 10 years in jail and lose his seat in parliament.

But even before that, the Court has “suspended Thanathorn’s MP status, effective immediately, while the judges deliberate on the case.”

There are a bunch of other junta and “activist” inspired cases pending against Thanathorn and his party.

We expect him to be found guilty and that the party will eventually be dissolved. These were the junta’s aims even before the election.

Crystal-balling, one knock-on from this decision is that the wavering middle-sized parties would now seem more likely to flop to the junta’s side in a coalition government.

Update 1: PPT watched Thanathorn’s defiant speech after this announcement. This speech is briefly reported at Khaosod. Thanathorn said the EC/Constitutional Court case “appears to have been rushed under suspicious circumstances.” He declared: “I do not agree with the decision of the court…. I want to ask the public … am I being afforded justice?” He claimed that the EC “subcommittee tasked with investigating the matter had yet to conclude its inquiry when the main commission forwarded the case to the court for deliberation.”

Defiantly he emphasized that he remains “a prime ministerial candidate for his party.” And he remained defiantly anti-junta.

Update 2: Prachatai reports that “9 judges of the Constitutional Court decided unanimously to accept a request by the Election Commission of Thailand, which accuses Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of violating the law by holding shares in V-Luck Media Company. In accepting the ECT request, the Constitutional Court also ruled 8-1 to suspend Thanathorn’s MP status until the case is settled.” This suggests that the Court will likely find against Thanathorn when it hears the case.

This report also points to double standards: “On 29 April, the Pheu Thai Party, Future Forward’s ally, filed a complaint with the Election Commission to investigate if Chanwit Wiphusiri and Somsak Sukprasert, MPs of the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party, also hold stakes in media companies. However, the Election Commission still has not taken up the complaint.”

Further, “The Ombudsman requested the [Constitutional] Court to investigate if it is a violation of the Constitution for members of the Senate Selection Committee to appoint themselves to the Senate, including Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn (Deputy Head of the NCPO), Adm. Narong Pipatanasai (Deputy Head of the NCPO), ACM Prajin Juntong (Deputy PM and Deputy Head of the NCPO), and Pol. Gen. Adul Sangsingkeo. However, the Court announced on 23 May not to take up the case.”

Dumb II

17 06 2016

In our previous post we noted there were two stories in the media that gave us cause to pause. Here’s the other one, which caused us to look at a calendar to ensure it was 1 April.

The Bangkok Post has reported on the latest turn in the long-running saga of the military junta wanting a high-speed railway project with China. This report is a doosie.

Some background first. Back in December 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited as the most prominent foreign leader to visit the country since the military coup. The junta used the visit as propaganda, declaring the country “normalized.” Minister Li’s visit result in two MOUs, one a rail project, requiring an investment of $10-12 billion investment. Deputy Prime Minister, General Thanasak Patimapragorn soon declared that construction would begin by the end of 2015. In line with this, a “ground-breaking” ceremony was held in December 2015. Nothing happened. The negotiations were not complete and the Chinese and Thai negotiators could not agree on the terms of loans and more.

If a “ground-breaking” ceremony before an agreement was reached was weird, the latest “news” on the Thai-Chinese high-speed train scheme is reported by the Bangkok Post as having “entered a strange phase where officials of the two countries agreed on Thursday to kick-start the construction of a short section, although they have not settled on the overall project.”

Bizarrely, it has been agreed, so the report goes, to build a “3.5km section [of track and a station] in tambon Klang Dong of Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district to be constructed first, while leaving the entire project to further negotiations.”

Seriously? Really? Apparently so, as Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said: “We will build the short section in line with the aspiration of the leaders of the two countries…”. said the minister.”

Boys do like toys. Taxpayers pay for it.Train


Updated: The Koh Tao “conspirator” revealed

29 12 2015

A couple of days ago we posted on the quite ridiculous claims by various members of the military dictatorship that “someone” was behind large demonstrations in Myanmar against the death penalty handed down to two Burmese migrant workers for the murder of two British tourists.

THAILAND-POLITICS-CORRUPTION-THAKSINNow it is revealed – and who is surprised – who the balmy army thinks is responsible. No, not the United States, but Thaksin Shinawatra. For the jittery and conspiratorial dimwits running Thailand, the devil in Dubai is behind everything they don’t like and that they fear.

Yellow-shirted, royalist media is alight with these claims, and it is clear that the generals buy the nonsensical claims. In one report in the Bangkok Post it is stated: “Myanmar’s armed forces chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing … asked Thailand for a ‘review of the evidence’ against the men, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Sunday…”.

We hear the question, “So what?” After all, isn’t Gen Min Aung Hlaing a buddy of General Prayuth Chan-ocha? Isn’t that the two of them embracing in the photo, just a couple of months after Prayuth’s coup? When Prayuth was greeted by Min Aung Hlaing with a bear hug, he was delighted when the Burmese military boss “praised Thailand’s ruling junta, saying it was right to seize power…”.

Fascist hugAt the same time, Min Aung Hlaing claims to be like a son of the great old political meddler and palace posterior polisher General Prem Tinsulanonda, President of the king’s Privy Council.

Prem reportedly “had close ties with Min Aung Hlaing’s father when Prem was the Thai Army commander in the late 1970s.” The Nation reports that when Min Aung Hlaing met Prem in 2012 he asked the old soldier “to adopt him…”. Prem loves him so much that he “gave him gifts that included a portrait of HM the King with Privy Council members.” The Myanmar general, sounding like a Thai general, has been heard babbling about the sufficiency economy and how the 1988 uprising in Myanmar was a threat to the nation.Prem and fascist friend

According to the Post, before the coup last year, “Gen Min Aung Hlaing regularly visited both former Supreme Commander Tanasak Patimapragorn and Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was then serving as army chief.”

Despite all of this, the devil has been identified. As the Post puts it:

A source said Gen Min Aung Hlaing has close ties to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. A clip in which Thaksin was in conversation with former defence minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa in Hong Kong was noted as proof…. In the clip, Thaksin was heard saying: “If there are any problems, you can tell Min Aung Hlaing. We are close [friends]…”.

For the royalist conspiracy theorists, it has to be Thaksin at work. Forget all the other “evidence.” Any anti-junta activity must be motivated by Thaksin, and the dopey general seem to believe that if it wasn’t for Thaksin and his money, they really would have 99% support in Thailand and everywhere else in the world.

These dictators are delusional.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the military dictatorship is attempting to discredit both Yingluck Shinawatra and the Puea Thai Party over protests in Myanmar. Meanwhile, “National Security Council secretary-general Thawip Netniyom Tuesday said the NSC is looking into claims that the Myanmar protests were instigated by others to disrupt the government’s work.” To do this, Thawip said “he had instructed intelligence agencies to work with the Thai embassy in Myanmar and foreign intelligence agencies to gather information on the matter.” It seems that the Thai embassy is spying on Myanmar citizens. The is no end to the dimwittedness of this lot nor the madness of the royalist conspiracy makers.

Which morals?

3 11 2015

The military junta beggars belief. Prachatai reports that the military thugs who control and repress the country “have drafted a master plan to promote ‘morality’ based on sufficiency, honesty, and responsibility as a national agenda.”

Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, allegedly a Deputy Prime Minister, is also the boss of the quite ludicrous National Committee to Promote Morality under the risible Culture Ministry. This absurd bunch have concocted a draft plan for 2016-2020.

Sufficiency – the balmy royal idea – honesty, responsibility will bring peace, harmony, and happiness and make Thailand “a leading country on morality in ASEAN region and in the world.”

If the military junta was doing anything more than expelling hot air perhaps they could have asked themselves if morality extends to a military that murders, maims, expropriates, extorts and represses its citizens.


Updated: Rumors of a military coup are exaggerated

6 06 2012

A few days ago there were strong rumors, in both red shirt and yellow shirt camps, that a coup was possible.

The Bangkok Post assesses these rumors and suggests that “there appears nothing to compel the military leader to resort to such drastic action, at least for the time being.” Why?

It is claimed that one reason is that the brief People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) activism “has irritated army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, prompting him to rule out the possibility of another coup.” He is said to have been “bothered [by]… the pressure piled on him by the calls from some demonstrators for the military to resolve political conflicts by staging a coup.” None of that sounds like a reason for not running a coup for the Army will always have its own perspective and timetable.

The Post adds that the “rumours [of a coup] came as Gen Prayuth held a meeting with the heads of the army units, all military generals, on the morning of June 1, and then chaired another meeting with military colonels in the same afternoon.” Further, “[t]he same day, an order to transfer 67 colonels was circulated among the army, reminding many of the transfer of 179 colonels prior to the 2006 coup.”

The Post also observes that “Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat decided to cut short his trip to attend the Shangri La Dialogue, an annual international security forum in Singapore, and returned to Thailand on June 1, two days ahead of schedule.”

Prayuth’s ongoing exercise in strengthening the position of ultra-royalist commanders continues as the military splits and army-on-army killing in 2010 spooked him. If the meetings and transfers were routine, Sukumpol should not have been so obviously spooked.

It seems Sukumpol had to call Prayuth to find out about the meetings, so he seems uninformed on important military events. Clearly the government is out of the military loop, and that is a sure sign of antagonism and more.

Another reason for saying there won’t be a coup has to do with public statements by military brass: “Red shirt TV channels speculated that Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, not Gen Prayuth, would lead a new coup. Gen Thanasak later strongly denied this.” Further, “Gen Prayuth thinks the military should remain neutral when it comes to politics.”

Of course, as everyone knows, military leaders virtually always deny coup rumors until the tanks roll. Readers can go back to the period before the 2006 coup and find similar denials. And, Prayuth’s words about neutrality are meaningless as his actions and speech in the recent past make this claim an outright untruth.

A third reason is that: “[i]n the past, classic factors that have driven the military to stage coups were political interference, such as politically motivated reshuffles or an attempt to remove the army chief from his post.” That’s only partly true, for there have been many other factors motivating coups. PPT believes Prayuth when he says that his Army will never countenance an action he sees as against the monarchy. The 2006 coup was in part about the monarchy and the palace was deeply involved.

The debates and action this week have been about the monarchy, so there is reason to believe that the Army boss was aroused and there is no reason to think that he and other commanders weren’t in the PADocrat loop this past week. Being in the loop does not mean a coup was planned, but it was one element in piling pressure on the elected government.

Indeed, the Post notes that coup rumors “have shaken the government’s confidence, and [Prime Minister] Ms Yingluck [Shinawatra]’s assertions that she was capable of reconciling with Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and Gen Prayuth do not seem so convincing any more.”

In the end, the Post story has as many reasons for discounting coup planning as it does for believing that the military is scheming.

It is at this point that PPT thinks speculation of a military coup is rather too specific. One thing the military has learned is that its will can be done without the tanks having to roll. We saw that ever so clearly in the last half of 2008.

Red shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong is also quoted in the Post story. His claim is that the “Democrat Party and PAD had been in contact with senior officers to carry out a plot to topple the government.” Korkaew believes that:

[i]f the parliament debates a proposed constitution amendment bill, defying a Constitution Court order to suspend proceedings on the issue, the Democrats will ask the court to remove those MPs and senators who voted to pass the bill and seek the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party.

This claim seems to carry some weight. For a start, it is in line with 2008 strategy. It is also based in an assessment of military fear that anything that involves the monarchy can eventually destroy the royalist state. And finally, it is about judicial coup backed by the monarchy rather than a tank-rolling and potentially bloody coup of the “traditional” kind.

In the end, rumors of a military coup are exaggerated, but rumors of a (judicial) coup seem entirely plausible. Indeed, reports of royalist legal experts backing the Constitutional Court give the rumor considerable credence.

Update: Readers will find the stories in the Wall Street Journal and at Bloomberg of interest as they discuss the judicial coup. One thing that is not asked to loudly anywhere, but worth throwing in the mix is related to the palace. Does the king’s recent appearance have any connection to the current crisis. Who interpreted or heard a message in his and the queen’s visit to the provinces? Just another coincidence?

Coup talk and Nitirat

9 02 2012

Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post has a column worth reading. It is about the “threat” apparently posed to the military leadership as the custodians of  “royalist democracy” by a few academics asking that parliament consider amending the lese majeste law.

She recounts the time sequence of military threats to the small Nitirat group:

1) General Boonlert Kaewprasit: “chairman of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School Foundation and leader of Class 1, who recently urged all soldiers to protect the monarchy. He warned of a possible coup if there was no respect for highest institution of the land.”

2) Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha: against any attempt to amend Article 112. He infamously declared that anyone who supported the Nitirat call should “go and live abroad” and asked: “Were you born in Thailand?” He promised Nitirat: “If you guys play hard ball, I’ll have no choice but to do so, too.”

3) Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn declared: “The armed forces are against amending Section 112. Personally, I strongly oppose it.” Joining the nasty attacks on Nitirat, he “criticised overseas-educated academics who support the amendment.” He warned them “not forget that they are Thai.” And, he wondered aloud “whether they [Nitirat] have any hidden agenda.”

4) “[T]he army has also deployed officials from the Internal Security Operations Command to play a “behind-the-scenes” role in countering Nitirat.”

5) Prayuth came out again to declare: “The armed forces are duty-bound to protect the monarchy. We will not stand still. I myself am against the amendment or any attempt to touch Section 112, because Thailand and the royal institution cannot be separated.”

Wassana observes that with “Pheu Thai in power, the armed forces seem to be the only hope left for the anti-Thaksin groups, including the yellow shirts, to end Thaksin’s political influence.”

But is a coup on the agenda? Wassana seems to think it would just be too much trouble, with the Army having learned a hard lesson after 2006. She also says that “Pheu Thai is wary of a coup but believes the armed forces will not do it this time because they would face public opposition which could turn the coup into a bloody tragedy.”

PPT’s view is different, and we think a coup remains on the agenda, but that getting rid of Puea Thai by “other means” a la 2008 is also on the agenda. But let’s continue with Wassana’s view that the “only thing the armed forces can do is not to turn to using force. They are using only their voice to tame those trying to put an end to the monarchy.” We assume she means: “They are using only their voice to tame those they believe are trying to put an end to the monarchy,” otherwise she’d be clearly biased.

She then adds a neat tidbit:

And it is not surprising that this campaign is led by the two generals: Thanasak and Prayuth. Gen Thanasak is a Special Guard for Her Majesty the Queen and Gen Prayuth has been a member of the Queen’s Guard for all of his military career, as an alumni of the 21st Infantry Regiment of the Queen’s Guard in Chon Buri.

She concludes, and we agree: “But do not blink, as anything can happen in Thai politics.” Especially when the military and palace are in play.

General out of line

4 02 2012

In a democratic country, the relationship between the government of the day and the military is usually one that is governed by constitutional rules and practice. This has never been the case in Thailand. Never.

The Thai military is essentially a lawless institution in the sense that it does what it pleases on politics, orders governments and people even ordinary about and if it is really upset, it intervenes in politics. It has done this time and time again, virtually on a daily basis. Coups are just the times when the military uses its arms to get what it wants, for there are countless other, less obvious interventions.

In recent years, the justification for many of these interventions is glossed as loyalty to the monarchy and protection of what is the country’s largest capitalist conglomerate and symbol for hierarchical and authoritarian rule. Readers will likely know that an earlier generation of military bosses didn’t have such a justification for their political interventions and coups.

This is why no one should be surprised that the so-called Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn has demanded that the “government should rein in the debate on the monarchy … voicing opposition to the push by the Nitirat academic group to amend the lese majeste law.”

PPT had a post on this general when he was appointed to this post based on his links to the Army leadership and his royalist credentials.

Thanasak went on to declare: “As a soldier of the King, I strongly oppose the Nitirat…”. Sounding like a violent father waving a big stick at his cowed children,  Thanasak warned “every Thai citizen should know what to do, or not to do, regarding the country’s revered institution.”

In other words, if you don’t do as the military bosses say, you are in trouble and likely to be beaten to within an inch of your life.

This warning and threat is directed at the government and Nitirat and its supporters. The general thinks an elected government should close down a political debate and limit political space. This is a reflection not just of the general’s lack of democratic understanding but a view that all governments should order society about. In other words, it is quite simply an expression of the royalist, authoritarian and anti-democratic mindset of the military command.

Because the palace has never supported democratic governance and its rules, it has never spoken out against military interventionism, now always conducted in the name of the monarchy. Given Thanasak’s claimed close links with the queen, we can only draw the conclusion that his comments reflect a palace perspective.

Of course, in a democratic society, this military boss would be sacked for bleating about things he has no right to be saying and for interfering in politics. That won’t happen in Thailand and the government and people are expected to get the message: watch out!

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