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.

(In)security beefed up?

13 07 2012

AFP reports that “security” is being increased “ahead of an incendiary charter amendment case that could lead to the dissolution of the ruling party, with judges given special police protection.”

The Puea Thai government has warned that the Constitutional Court’s verdict could “to rip open the kingdom’s bitter political divisions” and  “could trigger violence.”

The report refers to about “2,000 police officers are to be deployed around the Constitutional Court…”.

Defense minister Yutthasak said “the military were prepared to step in if needed,” adding that “[a]ll Constitutional Court judges will be protected by military officers and on standby for evacuation if the situation deteriorates…”.

Does that explain why there are reports of truckloads of military personnel, in plainclothes, heading down to Bangkok from the Northeast? They passed through Korat early this morning.

Puea Thai failing red shirts I

28 04 2012

This post could have been titled “Puea Thai failing red shirts on justice III,” yet as the focus is moved away from justice and is more on the failure of the Puea Thai government, we have chosen a slightly reduced headline.

A report at The Nation alludes to the remarkable capitulation of the Puea Thai Party to the interests of the royalist elite.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said of her “non-political,” red shirt deserting visit to “pay homage” to the near-devaraja “elder statesman”:

We talked and exchanged views about the many projects under General Prem’s various foundations. There was no talk about politics. General Prem is not involved with politics….

This “talk” more or less guarantees that even more taxpayer money will go down a royalist rat hole.

Perhaps more significant was Deputy Premier Yutthasak Sasiprapha’s comment that “he thought Yingluck was likely to have discussed national reconciliation with Prem,” although he wasn’t privy to the personal talk the premier had with the privy councilor. He swore he didn’t even ask her afterwards. Because he didn’t ask, she didn’t tell, so he could not:

confirm speculation that Yingluck had apologised to Prem for her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who earlier had identified the elder statesman as his arch-rival and had accused him of political interference.

He could confirm that “the government would seek Prem’s advice on problems in running the country.”And he added that the “prime minister respects him in a way a young person does a senior person.”

Yutthasak could also affirm that the almost supine Puea Thai government had:

offered to revive Prem’s Love Thailand sport project. Yingluck also offered government support to Prem’s projects in the deep South, including one that provides scholarships to local students.

This capitulation to a person who planned a coup, backed it, and worked vigorously to have red shirts defeated, jailed and incessantly supported the overturning of pre-Puea Thai governments and parties, represents a remarkable insult to all of those who supported Puea Thai because they considered it was the alternative to the royalist version of Thai-style democracy.

If it is possible, party spokesman Prompong Nopparit makes matters worse by treating red shirts as fools when he “dismisse[s] media reports that many red-shirt supporters of Pheu Thai were unhappy about Yingluck meeting Prem.” He knows this is a huge lie and stating it is adding injury to insult. One thing that red shirts have wanted is an end to lies and double standards and Prompong’s party has betrayed them.

At least deputy premier Yongyuth Wichaidit was more truthful when he said “that it was normal for some red shirts to be dissatisfied.”

Even opposition leader and inveterate dissembler Abhisit Vejjajiva got it right when he observed that Puea Thai’s sudden embrace of Prem meant “red-shirt supporters [of the party] were confused…”. PPT would add that Abhisit and his lot are probably just as confused, seeing “their” royalists dealing with Thaksin, Yingluck and Puea Thai.

It is interesting to note that red shirt leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn was clear when she said the red shirts were still firm about “fighting against the ‘elitocracy’ to achieve a democracy in which the sovereignty really belongs to the people”. Her view is that:

her movement still adhered to its “two-leg strategy” – one leg being the Pheu Thai Party and the other the red-shirt group – with the two legs moving independently and not obstructing the other, in a bid to achieve the ultimate goal.

While Thida added that “a number of red shirts disagreed with government figures meeting Prem,” she might have also observed that one of the so-called legs was now withered and essentially useless.

At the Bangkok Post, there is more assessment of the “homage” paid to Prem, noting red shirt opposition and more. It begins with a comment by red shirt leader Chinawat Haboonpat who:

said that many of his cohorts had phoned him to complain about the Prem meeting. He said the red shirts were severely disappointed about the meeting because they had lost their jobs, their husbands and children during their past political battles and many of them remained in jail.

Political scientist Kasian Tejapira said “the visit represented a symbolic reconciliation among the two main rival groups in Thai politics of recent years, arguing that it was a:

culmination rather than the start of this process, which seemed to have begun late last year in the aftermath of the big flood. Each side has to yield somewhat and give up the non-essential parts of their interests….

If ditching and demobilizing red shirts is the “non-essential” part of Puea Thai’s interests, then the party is probably doomed to be just another elite party.

Kasian thinks that the “deal” bringing Thaksin Shinawatra/Puea Thai and the royalist elite back together is “a raw deal” for red shirts but that it is the “only feasible political deal at the moment, given the present balance of political forces…”. He argues that real justice will be achieved if the red shirts break from “the current Thaksin-directed Pheu Thai Party…”. That break, he says, will take time.

Another political scientist, Puangthong Rungswasdisab declared that “Yingluck was compelled to walk the reconciliation path with Gen Prem because of Thaksin’s need to return home.” She a split between Puea Thai and its “large support base especially from the red shirts.” She declared that:

since the red shirts have become politically aware, it will not be easy for a few individuals in leadership positions to strike a deal and impose peace on the people…. “The red shirts are no pawns. They exist in large numbers. They could topple a leader if they unite. People in leadership positions must consider this factor.”

Tellingly, it was the royalist Gothom Arya who “hailed the meeting between Gen Prem and Ms Yingluck and said the meeting could be seen as a political symbol of some kind.”

Of course, there are plenty of other rumors about what’s happening: the palace is split, Prem feels that he can still control succession even with Thaksin “reconciled,” it’s all about Thaksin’s return, it’s the deal that was made early in 2011, and so on.

In our next post, PPT turns to the meaning of the betrayal perpetrated by Thaksin and Puea Thai.


I’ve told you once….

8 02 2012

A couple of days ago PPT had  a post  on Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha and his repeated demand that Nitirat stop its Article 112 amendment campaign. In another post, on Nitirat vowing to continue, we concluded by saying that “The Army and its chiefs don’t usually accept such defiance.”

This is why the support given to Prayuth by a couple of right-wing cabinet members should not come as a surprise. But it is the terms used in the support that is telling.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa seems to confirm the position expressed by Robert Amsterdam when he claimed the military had a veto over government. The General states that “the army would never allow the Criminal Code’s Section 112 to be amended.” Yutthasak added: “Any act demeaning the monarchy or Thai people’s feelings should be stopped.”

Navy chief Surasak Roonroengrom declared: “I think that the armed forces are watching to see if the movement will affect national security.”

Backing up the boss, First Army chief Udomdej Seetabutr said “the monarchy deserves the utmost protection because it brings about national security.”

Clearly, the military leadership is again asserting that it has the right to continually intervene in political issues. Amsterdam expressed it best: “The Yingluck [Shinawatra] administration is not fully in charge of this country. We all know it. We all know the Army has a veto over what happens here.”

As usual, the military couldn’t care less about election results and, in the words of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, owes no allegiance to any (elected) government.

Further updated: More on U.S. navy departure

25 10 2011

Thanks to a reader for pointing to a (belated) response from the U.S. Navy on the withdrawal of its carrier group from an area where it might have provided support for relief operations as flooding continues with almost 360 deaths to date.

Stars and Stripes, which is a

Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community. Editorially independent of interference from outside its own editorial chain-of-command, it provides commercially available U.S. and world news and objective staff-produced stories relevant to the military community in a balanced, fair, and accurate manner. By keeping its audience informed, Stars and Stripes enhances military readiness and better enables U.S. military personnel and their families stationed overseas to exercise their responsibilities of citizenship.

It’s as close to official as it gets. It has a story that seeks to “explain” the withdrawal of the “George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other Navy assets” that PPT posted on yesterday, citing AFP. Stars ans Stripes says that the “assets”

have been released from the waters off Thailand where they were positioned to offer humanitarian assistance after the country was stricken by its worst flooding in decades….

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and destroyers USS Dewey, USS Wayne E. Meyer, and USS Kidd had been in the area for port visits and exercises in Singapore and Cambodia when the order came Oct. 15 to head towards Thailand – still reeling from three months of heavy monsoon rains….

7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Anthony Falvo told Stars and Stripes: “The response efforts of the highly capable and competent Thai government and military have been sufficient in alleviating immediate concern.” At the same time, “Officials stressed the ships could be recalled to the area should the Thai government make a request for help, and U.S. personnel will continue to monitor the situation…”.

That’s the official story. It’d still be interesting to know which agency – government or military or both – reckon that these potentially large resources were not required and could be sent off across the sea.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has a report where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs comments on the withdrawal of the U.S. ships. If there was confusion between U.S. and Thai government agencies, there is also confusion in the report. As far as PPT can ascertain from the report, the MFA sheds no light on the issue at all. But perhaps that is exactly the point of the “statement.”

Update 2: Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa says he has cleared up misunderstandings over this event. He says that Thailand didn’t need helicopters but “sandbags, dried food or even donated money.” Hmmm.

Prem, military and monarchy (again)

27 08 2011

In the Bangkok Post, Privy Council President, former prime minister and titular chief of the royalist faction, Prem Tinsulanonda is reported to have received his usual birthday visit from the military leadership. This visit is always meant to demonstrate that the military’s true loyalty is not to the government, but to Prem (as mentor and royalist kingpin) and the monarchy.

As usual, Prem “called on military leaders to do their utmost to uphold and protect the monarchy…”. What else would he do?

Joined by Puea Thai government Defence Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapa, the bosses of the army, the navy and the air force paid a “courtesy call” on the 91 year-old political meddler.

Yutthasak said “Gen Prem had asked him and the leaders of the armed forces to ensure the King and Queen are free from worries and cares.” PPT believes that means political stability, reverence for the royal family and ensuring that the right amounts of taxpayer funds go into supporting the royal family for their planes, cars, security, pet projects, funerals and so on.

Yutthasak claimed that “Gen Prem’s remarks are already my concern. I confirm that I will make a total sacrifice to do what I have been asked to…”. Hopefully the correct solemn music was playing as Yutthasak got out the posterior polishing rag.

In the report it is also stated that “Defence Ministry spokesman Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng said after the meeting [of the Defence Council,] Gen Yutthasak had laid down policies to be implemented within four years. These are protecting the monarchy, backing national reconciliation efforts, staying out of politics, helping end southern unrest, developing the armed forces’ capabilities, and strengthening military cooperation with foreign countries.”

We can’t think of anything to add to what we said yesterday: PPT can’t help wondering if the new government is going to have to out-lese majeste the previous one to “prove” a loyalty to the throne and wheedle its way back with the royalist elite. That would be a mistake for the latter group and the palace never forgets and doesn’t forgive.

Updated: The army and Yingluck

20 08 2011

If readers haven’t seen it, the article in Asia Times Online by John Cole and Steve Sciaccitano is worth a look. The authors are introduced as having “spent several years in Thailand while on active duty with the US Army. Both were trained as Foreign Area Officers specializing in Southeast Asia and graduated from the Royal Thai Army’s Command and General Staff College. They are now retired and the views expressed here are their own.” There views are likely to reflect some inside knowledge and connections.

It is a long article, so PPT isn’t about to summarize it here. Rather, we wish to highlight a few points.

The article makes the all-too-obvious point that new Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s cabinet selections had to be sensitive to the poor relationship between it and current Army boss, royalist and Democrat Party-supporting General Prayuth Chan-ocha as well as other military leaders and factions:

The two most important cabinet appointments … are that of deputy prime minister for security, retired police General Kowit Wattana, and the minister of defense, retired army General Yuthasak Sasiprapha. The selection of Kowit and Yuthasak reflects very careful political consideration, and undoubtedly indicates a desire by the new government not only to appoint trusted allies to critical posts, but also not to threaten overtly either the military establishment or royal palace.

The authors seem to think that despite all of the discussion about watermelon soldiers and different political affiliations for the military and police that:

many observers of Thai politics, including much of the international media, tend to overestimate greatly the seeming monolithic nature of the Thai military. The false impression is often given that Thai military and police officers are more or less unified in their views and goals….

The story then discusses the patronage system and different loyalties associated with different classes in academies. They add that: “[l]oyalty to the monarchy has been a given…”.

PPT isn’t so sure. Loyalty to the monarchy has really only been established since the 1960s. Even then, loyalty was not to be taken for granted. Indeed, one of the major tasks of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda from his time as prime minister has been to ensure that palace favorites were in the senior military positions.

Looking at affiliations and loyalties, the article notes Kowit’s career as a “graduate of both the AFPS [Armed Forces Prep School] and the Police Academy” and in the Border Patrol Police (BPP), stating that “the BPP has always been under the operational control of the Thai military…”. The author’s add that “the royal family was and is still the major benefactor and patron of the BPP,” with “[v]irtually every BPP senior officer, as well as most of its rising stars, were in the BPP’s early days all personally well-known to members of the royal family.”

Continuing the royal connection, Kowit attended the “Royal Thai Army Command and General Staff College (Class 56). This was the same staff college class attended by Crown Price Vajiralongkorn…”.

Finally it is noted that, for a short time, Kowit was a somewhat reluctant member of the 2006 junta.

The 74 year-old Yuthasak should probably be out to pasture but has been recalled to face the challenge of the Army’s relationship with the new government. He is said to have:

… graduated from the CRMA [Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy] (Class 8 ) and exemplifies what might be called the traditional elite side of the Royal Thai Army (RTA). He is married to one of the three daughters of the late national leader [and, PPT points out, one of the “three tyrants” thrown out of Thailand in 1973] Field Marshal Praphat Charusatien and is the son of a famous three-star army general.

His career was associated with the “Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division (King’s Guard), then the most prestigious unit in the RTA and the choice assignment for sons of generals and important politicians.” He’s close to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh but not to Prem, the palace or the current Army leadership.

Even so, he appears to have respect as a military man who is senior to the current batch of leaders.

The article assumes that conflict with the military will always be a threat to the Yingluck government, noting especially that

… the members of AFPS Class 24 and their supporters throughout the Thai military have neither forgotten nor forgiven the killing of their classmate Colonel Romklao Thuwatham … during the army’s suppression of pro-Thaksin protests on April 10, 2010. Romklao’s death was an important factor in strengthening and unifying the Thai officer corps before the final May crackdown on protesters, a development not fully appreciated by most in the media.

The first big test of the relationship is the military reshuffle, “which will become effective on October 1” but already being considered. Another test will be:

the procurement of new weapons and equipment by the various military services. The new government’s likely decision to reemphasize the existing system that centralizes the process for all equipment and weapons acquisitions at the ministry of defense and the defense council will likely be strongly resisted…. While in recent years the principle of centralized procurements has been well-established, the reality has been that only under Thaksin was the procedure strictly implemented and adhered to, with the prime minister having the final say…. Following Thaksin’s 2006 removal, the process lapsed into a structure without an effective government veto. Individual commanders-in-chief of the three armed services were almost always able to push through their preferred deals – with sometimes disastrous results.

Other  potential sticking points are mentioned. PPT just wonders how long Prayuth can hold his tongue reasonably in check; he’s known for flying off the handle. The article is worth reading.

Update: Although looking at the issue more broadly and with a quite different ideological perspective, this article at World Socialist Web Site is worth reading too. PPT noted this comment:

In her first speech as prime minister, Yingluck called on Thais to rally around King Bhumibol Adulyadej and declared that he would serve as her “guiding light”. This public kowtowing to the monarchy is aimed at appeasing staunch royalists, including those in the military high command, who have accused Thaksin and particularly the pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protest organisation, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), of disrespect for the king.

The compensation question

16 08 2011

Achara Ashayagachat at the Bangkok Post has a very thoughtful story regarding red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan’s call for the new government to consider compensation of 10 million baht to each family of the 92 people killed during the clashes in April and May last year. Not surprisingly, the proposal has created considerable controversy.

PPT doesn’t intend to summarize the article. There’s plenty of room for debate on this topic and the comments made by still-grieving families seeking truth, justice and answers deserve attention and for the injured seeking proper and affordable care. However, we were somewhat taken aback by what some of the critics have said.

For example, retired Chulalongkorn University sociologist and director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the university, Surichai Wankaew, goes on what seems like a rant, saying “it is only appropriate for the legislative branch to be responsible for discussing reparations to victims. But it should not be left to only certain politicians, who might try to exploit the issue…”. He added that: “If we allow politicians to abuse the deaths issue [for their political gains], all of society will not feel that it shares the loss and concern [of the victims]…. The result is that the tragedies will become the issues of one group only, not a collective social pain. It might worsen the conflict between groups.”

Then he continued: “Baiting the [families of] red shirt victims with financial packages is a dangerous, misplaced and misled move…“. That might be true if it wasn’t for the fact that the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration has already had the Ministry of Social Development paying compensation.

The article states:

According to the Social Development Ministry, it has paid out 400,000 baht in reparations to each family of the 92 people killed during the April-May 2010 violence, for a total of 36.8 million baht. Each of four people who were physically disabled received 320,000 baht, while each of the 86 people seriously injured (requiring more than 20 days of hospitalisation) received 100,000 baht apiece. Each of the 599 people who were injured, but not seriously, received 60,000 baht compensation. The government also paid 984 people who sustained minor injuries 20,000 baht each. One special case requiring ongoing medication received cash assistance of 423,209 baht.

Fair-minded observers would look at this and see it as wholly unsatisfactory. It was a pittance compared with the compensation the Abhisit government handed out to businesses in the Rajaprasong area, which had reached 14 billion baht in May this year.

Where was Surichai when the previous government “baited” red shirts – in fact, the 92 dead figure includes officials killed in the period – with a pittance and left the families to carry huge bills for the deceased and injured? Did he complain then? Are far as we can tell he was silent. Is the suggestion that compensation to the families of the dead be increased by 25 times really as bad as Surichai suggests?

It seems that it is Surichai who is playing politics. After all, PPT has posted on the support Surichai gave to the Abhisit regime and his earlier support for the 2006 coup and his role as a military junta-appointed legislator. Surichai’s politics are again to the fore as he simply opposes any initiative that he considers “political.” That seems to mean anything from red shirts or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties.

In another Post report, the new Defense Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa shows his age by immediately getting Jatuporn’s proposal wrong. The rport states:

In response to the demands of red shirt leader and Pheu Thai list MP Jatuporn Prompan that each family of red shirt demonstrators and security officers who were killed during political protests receive 10 million baht compensation from the government, Gen Yutthasak said if the government wanted to put in place a reconciliation process, it should award compensation to victims in all political camps, not only the red shirt movement.

As far as PPT can recall, Jatuporn was speaking about April and May 2010 and, as the quote makes crystal clear, he included security officers. So the only addition proposed by Yutthasak is for compensation for yellow shirts killed in political violence. This may have some merit. However, it means he’s talking about two (?) further deaths, one in Bangkok and the other in Chiang Mai (we exclude the car bomber who blew himself up). Correct us if we are wrong. There were many more injured in PAD events, including many police.

We have no idea what to do with the comment by a Democrat Party MP that the “red shirt movement should instead demand compensation from Thaksin Shinawatra, not the Yingluck administration.”

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