Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Royalist Coup?

In Bad Excuse for the Coup University of Michigan historian Thongchai Winichakul quoted from an opinion piece he had recently published in a (non-Thai) newspaper:
"Thaksin threatened the royalist plan. To the royalists, he seemingly sought to adopt for himself the role of kingmaker. The royalist coup consolidates power to General Prem and the royalists, putting their plan on track. Will Thailand return to democracy under the guidance of an unelected Privy Council? The constitution that the royalists put in place will reveal the character of government and parliamentary system they have in mind. The anti-Thaksin coup is ultimately the re-assertion of the royalist rule for the transition."

This is perhaps the more important reason for a coup despite signs of weakening "Thaksin regime" before the coup. The coup is not as much about toppling Thaksin as for "Premocracy".
So who exactly is General Prem?
Today he serves as president of the Privy Council. And he was prime minister of Thailand on-and-off from 1980 until 1988. Here is some info about the Thai Privy Council -- the Thai king's "inner circle." Under the "General Prem" topic in Wikipedia it is written: "Some analysts believe that Prem is still one of the most important people in Thai politics due to his influence with the king, and that he was involved in the September 2006 military coup against his political opponent Thaksin Shinawatra. General Prem has a website. Colum Murphy wrote about General Prem's relationship with Thaksin in the September issue of the Far East Economic Review:
Mr. Thaksin’s speech on June 29, in which he accused a “charismatic, extra-constitutional figure” of interfering with the country’s democratic process, has only made matters worse. Later, when pressed by reporters, Mr. Thaksin refused to elaborate on his provocative remarks. Most analysts agree that he was referring to the president of the Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, himself a former prime minister and former commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army. Gen. Prem is also the king’s right-hand man.

Murphy says Gen. Prem followed up with a speech to Naval officers:
Subsequently, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the general told a gathering of naval officers that: “Individuals who have no ethics and morals are bad people who are full of greed. They may want to live comfortably with a lot of money. But if they have acquired wealth through illegal or unethical means, they no longer deserve to be in this country.” Again, while no names were mentioned, there was little doubt among commentators that the general was referring to Mr. Thaksin.
From the Wikipedia article on King Bhumibol
On 14 July 2006, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda addresed graduating cadets of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, telling them that the Thai military must serve the King - not the government.
Later in the Summer, Gen. Prem spoke to air force officers. Blogger Andrew Walker posted this clipping from a Bangkok Post story of September 1, 2006 entitled “Prem: Disasters will befall the ill-intentioned":
"Disasters always befall people with ill intentions of exploiting the nation for their own benefit," Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda said yesterday. He made the remarks to conclude a 40-minute lecture at the Air Force Academy attended by a 640-strong audience including senior air force officers. "The nation is sacred. People who think about using it for personal benefit or group benefits will be met with misfortune," said the elder statesman. "Phra Sayam Thewathirat (the nation’s guardian spirit) always protects good people and condemns bad people to a life of suffering," Gen Prem said.
Finally, bringing us up to date on Gen. Prem's activities, the previously mentioned Wikipedia article noted:
The King's role in the coup was the subject of much speculation... The King had an audience with Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda at the same time the first Special Forces troops were ordered mobilized.

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