Thailand: 17 killed in 3 army helicopter crashes

2011 07 25 thailand helicopter

The AP notes that:

A third Thai military helicopter has crashed near the country’s forested border with Myanmar in just over a week, killing three soldiers Sunday and bringing the toll from all three accidents to 17

AFP also has a story.

The Bangkok Post says the Bell 212 fleet has been grounded.

A third helicopter crashed near the Thai-Burmese border yesterday killing three people on board, forcing the army to ground its Bell 212 helicopter fleet.

The Bell 212 transport helicopter crashed in the morning while on its way to pick up the bodies of the nine victims in the Black Hawk helicopter crash on Tuesday.

The Black Hawk crashed in a Burmese forest opposite the Kaeng Krachan National Park during an operation to retrieve the bodies of five soldiers who had died in an earlier air crash involving a Huey helicopter.

The Post also notes that some believe “spirts” are to blame:

With three army helicopters crashing in just eight days, questions are being asked as to whether the tragedies were the result of accidents, a conspiracy — or supernatural powers.

A number of soldiers, officers and civilians working or living in Kaeng Krachan National Park, the site of the initial stranding of a group of officers, journalists and encroachment suspects which prompted the disastrous chain of fatal rescue and retrieval operations, believe bad omens are to blame.

“The guardian spirits here are very fierce,” said one resident of Ban Panern Thung village in Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan district.

(Image: @lekasina on Lockerz.)

Thai politics

Yingluck, the army, and a “grand bargain”?

The Wall Street Journal points out that:

With Ms. Yingluck leading opinion polls, analysts said the key question is whether Thailand’s conservative armed forces will accept an outcome that places the youngest sister of exiled populist billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra—a former prime minister whom the army ousted in a coup five years ago—in Thailand’s top job.

And there’s this, later in the piece:

“Mr. Thaksin is pursuing a dual strategy,” Marc Saxer, Bangkok-based director of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation wrote in a research paper this week. “Puea Thai is supposed to collect the necessary political capital with a victory in the elections, with a view to prepare a ‘Grand Bargain’ with the traditional elites afterwards.”

The idea that Thaksin and members of the Thai establishment have reached a compromise about what happens after the election — assuming Puea Thai wins and is able to form a government — has been much discussed here in Bangkok in recent days.

Today’s Bangkok Post says:

Pheu Thai party list MP Wattana Muangsuk has dismissed a news report that he struck a deal with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to allow the party to form the next government without fear of opposition from the military.

And elsewhere, Wassana Nanuam, who covers the military, writes:

So, it came as no surprise when a news report emerged that Thaksin had sent Wattana Muangsuk, a former commerce minister in the Thaksin administration, to meet with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in Brunei in February.

(All emphasis mine.)

Stay tuned.

By the way, a programming note: I will continue blogging — and posting to Twitter — through Sunday’s election.

Future posts will cover news as it emerges, as well as a summary of resources for following the vote online.

In the meantime, Thailand watchers: What do you think about the state of play? Email me: newley AT gmail DOT COM to share your thoughts.

Thai politics Thailand

Thai army chief on upcoming election

2011 06 16 prayuth

Yesterday I tweeted about his comments, which appeared in a Bangkok Post story:

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has called on the electorate to turn out in force for the July 3 general election and vote “good people” into parliament to protect the monarchy and change the country for the better.

The WSJ says:

The gloves are 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.

The story appears on page three of today’s print WSJ Asia, and includes a “Key Players in Thailand’s Election Drama” sidebar, which is also online here. The item features Prayuth, Thaksin, Yingluck, and Abhisit.

Meanwhile, the AP says:

Thailand’s powerful army chief, who helped oust former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has urged voters not to repeat the outcome of past elections in next month’s balloting — an apparent warning against supporting Thaksin’s allies

VOA also has a story.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Thai politics Thailand

Al Jazeera: “Thai-Cambodia clashes continue despite truce”

Al Jazeera English today:

Thai-Cambodia clashes continue despite truce

A brief cease-fire between Thailand and Cambodia has broken down, shattering hopes for a quick end to the border conflict as the two sides exchanged fire for an eighth day and the death toll rose to 16.

Thai politics Thailand

WSJ editorial: “Thailand Going Rogue”

Just briefly, following the story I pointed out yesterday, here’s more from the Wall Street Journal. This is an editorial today on the ongoing Thailand-Cambodia clashes and Thai domestic politics:

Thailand Going Rogue

Fighting over the disputed territory surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple along the Thai-Cambodia border resumed last Friday, with both sides trading artillery fire and accusations of targeting civilian villages throughout the weekend. The Associated Press reports 12 soldiers confirmed dead.

The world may never know which side started the latest clash, since Thailand continues to resist allowing international observers to monitor the area. And both countries deserve some blame for stirring the pot at various times. Nevertheless, it has become increasingly clear that the Thai military is doing nothing to ease the tension.

Thai politics Thailand

WSJ on Thailand-Cambodia clashes and Thai elections

Today’s WSJ:

Thai-Cambodia Border Dispute Adds to Election Worries

A simmering border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia has killed at least 10 soldiers over the past three days and also threatens to complicate a heated political environment in Bangkok, where rumors are swirling about military coups or other ways to block planned elections.


The conflict also might complicate Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s plans to dissolve Thailand’s parliament next month and pave the way for elections to be held as soon as June. The 46-year-old, Oxford-educated economist is counting on the vote to end five years of instability and violence and enable Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy after Indonesia, to build on its rapid recovery from the global economic slump.

But some analysts say there is still a risk the vote might not take place at all.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thai politics Thailand

AP story on today’s TV outage and coup speculation

An AP story from this evening:

A brief interruption in some television broadcasts Thursday stoked fears of a military coup in Thailand, where an election is expected to be called within weeks, but the government said a satellite glitch was the problem.

Worth a read.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand’s military continues to make headlines

I’ve mentioned, in previous posts, Thai media coverage of coup rumors — and denials that coups are imminent. So I wanted to point out that the army is once again in the news today.

That’s because the military conducted exercises here in Bangkok yesterday, the Nation and Bangkok Post are reporting.

First, an image from the online version of today’s Nation:

2011 04 20 nation

From the story:

The Army’s First Infantry Division of the Royal Guard yesterday organised a mock exercise billed by its commander Maj-General Kampanat Ruddit as a show of force to uphold the monarchy.

Next, a screen grab from today’s Bangkok Post online:

2011 04 20 bkk post

From the story:

Soldiers have thrown their support behind army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s stance to protect the monarchy, with more than 1,000 infantrymen gathering for a military exercise in Bangkok.


In his speech to the troops, Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the 1st Infantry Division of the King’s Guard urged all soldiers to uphold discipline and the integrity of the uniform and to serve the country and His Majesty the King.

“All from the 1st Infantry Regiment are the King’s soldiers. Hence, you must be ready to act on commands of your superiors,” Maj Gen Kampanat told the gathering of infantrymen.

He told them to have faith in their commanders and to strictly obey their orders, and insisted that all soldiers should share the army chief’s stance.

His remarks followed Gen Prayuth’s order for the Judge Advocate General Department to file lese majeste charges against Puea Thai party-list MP and United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) co-leader Jatuporn Prompan, Puea Thai MP for Udon Thani Wichian Khaokham and former Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima Suporn Atthawong after speeches at last Sunday’s rally marking the first anniversary of the April 10, 2010 clashes between protesters and soldiers at Kok Wua intersection.

What does this all mean?

For one analyst’s take, see Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s op-ed in today’s WSJ: “Thailand’s Military on the Offensive.” It begins:

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised to dissolve parliament next month, meaning a general election will likely be held in late June. But Mr. Abhisit’s insistence on restoring Thailand’s battered democracy has infuriated his backers in the army. They are worried that proxies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will win the election, thus jeopardizing the army’s interests.

And here’s a column from Pravit Rojanaphruk in today’s Nation: “An army chief who dons too many hats.”

In most democracies, the role of the Army and its chief are rather limited. However, it’s different in Thailand, where the Army chief has been busy donning too many hats lately.

Here are just some of the hats that Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has put on over the past few weeks…

He lists “top diplomat,” “election chief,” “not-so-convincing denier of coup rumours,” “That of an adviser to all Thai voters,” and “That of chief censor and promoter of the lese majeste law.”

And here’s another story in today’s Bangkok Post with quotes from Prayuth today:

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday said he had performed his duty to protect the monarchy by seeking legal action against three United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on lese majeste charges.

(All emphasis mine.)

And finally, as a reminder, here are previous Nation and Bangkok Post front pages. The Nation image is from earlier this month, and the Bangkok Post pic is from Jan., 2010.

2011 04 06 nation no coup

2011 04 06 bkk post coup rumors

Thai politics Thailand

Once again, coup rumors — and denials

Here’s the front page of today’s Nation, via @LeroyNewsDesign on Twitpic:

2011 04 06 nation no coup

Here’s the accompanying story:

In an unprecedented move, top commanders came out yesterday to declare there would definitely be no military overthrow of the government.

“We ask you not to believe the rumours that soldiers will stage a coup. The Thai Armed Forces strictly abide by the Constitution under constitutional monarchy. Soldiers will not get involved in any political affairs,” supreme commander General Songkitti Jaggabatara told a news conference together with the chiefs of the three armed branches.

(As Saksith Saiyasombut noted on Twitter, it’s impossible to ignore the below-the-fold story, “Cabinet to consider approving pricey military gift list,” as well…)

Here’s more coverage:

  • AP yesterday: “Thai military chief rejects coup rumors”

    Thailand’s top military brass has issued a joint statement saying there will not be a coup, seeking to dispel rumors as politics heat up ahead of expected elections later this year.

  • Bangkok Post: “Military leaders unified against a coup”

    The military’s top brass have vehemently rejected rumours about an imminent coup d’etat sparked by a recent meeting of leading political figures.

    The statement was made yesterday by Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara in the presence of the commanders of all the armed forces _ army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, navy commander Kamthorn Phumhiran, and air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong _ at a press conference called after the monthly meeting of senior officers.

And finally, just noting for the record: a related post and photo of the the Jan. 27, 2010 Bangkok Post front page:

2011 04 06 bkk post coup rumors

No bigger point to make at the moment, but just wanted to note the seemingly ever-present discussions/whispers/speculation/denials of the prospect of a military coup here in Thailand.


Reuters: “Are cracks appearing in Thailand’s military?”

Given my recent posts on the subject, I wanted to point out a story that Reuters ran yesterday. It’s called “Are cracks appearing in Thailand’s military?

Here are the first few graphs.

A grenade attack on the office of Thailand’s army chief this month is stoking fears of a worst-case scenario in Thailand’s political crisis — a possible fissure in the military along fault lines that have divided the country.

Analysts, diplomats and military sources say it is premature to talk of a split in Thailand’s powerful and politicised army but that festering ideological differences show signs of broadening in one of the most charged climates in decades.

A divide in an institution central to Thailand’s power structure would deepen uncertainty over the outlook for Thailand’s export-dependent $260 billion economy, Southeast Asia’s second-largest, and raise the prospect of instability in a country seen as a gateway to the region for foreign companies.

Large numbers of soldiers of lower ranks and some senior officers, analysts say, are sympathisers of Thailand’s rural, grassroots anti-government, red-shirted protest movement.

In contrast, many of the military’s top brass are at the other end of the political spectrum, allied with royalists, business elites and the urban middle classes, who wear yellow at protests and largely support the present government.

The red-yellow divide is growing increasingly intractable.

(Emphasis mine.)

Worth a read.