Politics: “It is acceptable” says Yingluck to Thai army chief provocative TV address

 

  • By Ranger, Thai Intel’s political journalist

Yesterday, the Thai army chief, Prayuth, went on TV and spoke about Thai politics, in what Voice of America, said was in support of the Democrat Party of Abhisit and what the Wall Street Journal said called “Thai General Weighs In on National Election.”

Today, Yingluck, the sister of coup ousted Taksin who is running a strong campaign against Democrat Party of Abhisit, said quote: “The speech is acceptable.”

A recent poll in Thailand said the Thais would like to see political parties contest based on policies and not mud-slinging. Many Thai political analysts, said the main reason the Pheu Thai Party is leading in the election, is because the Thai establishment, represented in politics by the Democrat Party, mis-judge the mood of the Thais and started off with negative campaign-attacking Yingluck.

Yingluck latest respond to Prayuth’s TV address, to which there is a great deal of mud-slinging against Pheu Thai Party and herself, appears to be conforming with the Pheu Thai Party policy to run a campaign to address the concern of the Thai people for solutions and recommendations to solve Thailand’s problems.

“I intend to solve everyone problems,” said Yingluck, who often stress that she is not seeking revenge against the establishment.

The following is from Voice of America:

Thai Army Chief Issues Veiled Election Endorsement

Daniel Schearf | Bangkok

Thailand’s army chief has weighed in on the country’s election, urging the public to vote for “good people” who support the monarchy.

In a late night nationwide broadcast Tuesday, Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thai people should come out and vote.

But he warned if people repeat past voting patterns, choosing the same parties or not voting at all, the country will see no changes.

Prayuth urged Thailand to vote for “good people” who support the monarchy.

He said security services found widespread evidence of attacks on the monarchy, specifically naming at least one supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

He says there are increasing illegal actions concerning lese majeste, especially during the election campaign, with links to groups of people living overseas. He says he can say this because they are guilty of many charges, trying to insult the monarchy, and having links to many other groups of people. He says the authorities cannot let them violate the law.

Thailand’s strict law against insulting the monarchy, lese majeste, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years, has been criticized as being abused for political purposes.

Prayuth has charged a number of opposition Red Shirt leaders who last year organized street protests against the Democrat-led government with lese majeste.

The general helped lead the military crackdown that ended the protests. Fighting between the military and the protesters, some of whom were armed,  killed 90 people, most of them civilians.

Thaksin’s parties won Thailand’s last four elections but the military ousted him in a 2006 coup and accused him of being authoritarian, corrupt, and disloyal to the monarchy. He denies the charges.

Thaksin fled into exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, leads the opposition Pheu Thai party. 

Thai political commentators have voiced concerns if Pheu Thai wins a majority the military could stage another coup.  The army chief has repeatedly denied this possibility.

Despite his political commentary, Prayuth said the army will remain neutral in the July 3 polls.

Thailand’s military has a long history of interfering in politics, having mounted 18 coups or attempted coups since the country moved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.

The following is from the Wall Street Journal

 JUNE 15, 2011, 1:22 A.M. ET

Thai General Weighs In on National Election

By JAMES HOOKWAY

BANGKOK—The gloves are coming off in Thailand’s hotly contested election, with army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha stepping into the ring to indirectly discourage voters from electing the younger sister of the man he helped oust in a military coup five years ago, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Gen. Prayuth made a television appearance over two national networks late Tuesday in an apparent bid to portray Mr. Thaksin and his backers as a threat to the survival of the country’s revered monarchy, raising the political temperature in a country which often reaches a boiling point. Yingluck Shinawatra, a 43-year-old business executive, is leading many opinion polls in the run-up to the July 3 vote.

Although Thailand’s monarchy has limited official powers under the Thai constitution, the institution remains central to Thai culture, and any threats to it are often interpreted as challenges to the stability of the nation.

While not directly mentioning Mr. Thaksin, who now operates from Dubai to avoid imprisonment on a corruption conviction he says is politically motivated, there was little doubt within Thailand about the intended target of Gen. Prayuth’s remarks. Saying there was an antimonarchy undercurrent in an election campaign run by “Thais living overseas,” he urged voters to “do their bit to help protect the monarchy,” though he didn’t specify which party they should vote for.

“We have to safeguard the institution that has made such a contribution to the country,” Gen. Prayuth said, claiming that army investigators had found evidence of some unspecified politicians breaking strict laws against criticizing 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family.

Thai army leaders have repeatedly attempted to justify the 2006 coup that ejected Mr. Thaksin, a popular civilian leader, by saying he has long harbored ambitions to reduce the importance of the country’s constitutional monarchy. Since the 1950s, the army has helped build up the institution as a bulwark against what they perceived as a Communist threat from other parts of Asia.

Since the end of the Cold War, Thailand’s heavily militarized establishment has continued to promote the monarchy, and in recent months has filed several lese majeste investigations against politicians allied with Mr. Thaksin—though Mr. Thaksin insists he is loyal to the country’s royal family.

Gen. Prayuth’s latest remarks will likely deepen concerns among diplomats and investors about what might happen in this coup-prone nation if Ms. Yingluck wins the vote and tries to form a government. Army leaders have said in recent weeks that they have no intention of leading another coup, despite public rumors one could happen.

Army officials couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment.

Last year, tens of thousands of protesters descended on Bangkok from north and northeastern Thailand in a bid to force fresh elections and warn the army and conservative bureaucrats from intervening in the country’s political system. Clashes between security forces and protesters killed 91 people as the mass rally and the army’s efforts to contain it degenerated into pitched battles on the streets of Bangkok.

At the same time, anti-Thaksin activists are preparing a legal challenge that potentially could block Ms. Yingluck from becoming prime minister by accusing her of breaking the law by falsely testifying that she owned some of her brother’s assets while he served as premier before the 2006 coup. Ms. Yingluck denies any wrongdoing, and prosecutors haven’t taken up a case against her.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other top members of his ruling Democrat Party, meanwhile, have stepped up their campaign rhetoric in recent days, telling voters that by voting for Ms. Yingluck’s Puea Thai party they risking putting into power the Red Shirt activists who allegedly torched shopping malls and the country’s stock exchange headquarters at the peak of last year’s violence.

Some political analysts such as Pavin Chachavalpongpun at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore say Thailand’s anti-Thaksin forces might be preparing a variety of strategies to prevent the divisive politician from regaining a hold over the country.

A self-made telecommunications billionaire, Mr. Thaksin has been compared with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi for the way he used his business skills to create a powerful electoral machine. His blend of free-spending populist policies and an uncompromising, authoritarian stance on law and order won him unprecedented levels of electoral support. The 61-year-old politician remains the only Thai leader to have completed a term in office, let alone be re-elected.

Yet Mr. Thaksin’s growing power and demagogic style of government grated with many influential Thais who accused him of using political office to further his business interests. When he began trying to fast-track the ascent of his supporters in the armed forces to further consolidate his power, top army generals decided to move against him, ousting Mr. Thaksin while he attended the United Nations’ general assembly in New York in September 2006.

Since then, Mr. Thaksin has continued to loom over Thai politics, even as he moved from country to country to evade arrest on the 2008 corruption conviction.

Now one of the opposition Puea Thai, or For Thais, Party’s key policy platforms is to pass an amnesty law that would enable Mr. Thaksin to return home to Thailand a free man. In addition, its main campaign slogan is “Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Acts,” and in a recent interview in Dubai Mr. Thaksin confirmed he intends to serve as his sister’s economic adviser should she win the election. He has already devised a series of populist measures including a sharp increase in Thailand’s minimum wage and guaranteed incomes for rice farmer to lure working class and rural voters.

Some analysts warn Thailand could be heading for a repeat of 2008, when, after winning an election in late 2007, two pro-Thaksin premiers were forced to quit for breaking election and political laws and their party was disbanded, paving the way for Mr. Abhisit to take power after a series of defections in Thailand’s Parliament.

“Compromises and reconciliation are not impossible, but everything we have learned since the coup of September 2006 suggests that Mr. Thaksin remains uniquely unpalatable to some of Thailand’s most powerful forces,” says Nicholas Farrelly, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian National University.

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