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:
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:
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.