What is happening between Yingluck and the military?By Bangkok Pundit Dec 26, 2011 12:00PM UTC
In a previous post, BP looked at the relationship between Yingluck and the military and mentioned three issues, namely (1) the possible amendment of the Defence Ministry Administration Act, (2) the Military and the floods: Trying to be unified with the government, and (3) polls show military outshining the government.
Since then you have the issue of lese majeste with the new Chalerm committee coming one day after he met with Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and the other senior military brass. On this and other issues, you have Achara in the Bangkok Post:
Mr Panitan [Wattanayagorn, former secretary-general to ex-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and once again a member of Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science] also commented on the apparent closer ties between the prime minister and military top brass, noting that history showed weekly or monthly breakfasts between the government and armed forces did not prevent coups.
“The army chief [Prayuth Chan-ocha] has made things clear concerning lese majeste [that the army will fight to the end],” said Mr Panitan.
He [Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Thammasat University's political science lecturer and adviser to the Truth for Reconciliation Commission (TRC)] said despite better conditions, the relationship between the government and the military was still volatile.
….Suranand Vejajiva, a political and social analyst and former cabinet member in the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, said that the flood crisis has eventually led to a collaboration between all sides, particularly the military and the government.
“The relationship is quite cosy now,” Mr Suranand said, “but we need to see how issues regarding truth and reconciliation will be handled and how the military will react in the future.”
BP: Suranand noted that the basis of trust was there because the military had been very cooperative, but this trust may not be there in the future.
As reporters repeatedly asked if she was really sure there would be no coup d’etat against her government, Ms Yingluck said she was confident of this. She then had Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimaprakorn answer the question too.
“We confirm that the armed forces are ready to do our best to support government policies for national unity and progress. Everyone can be assured that we can support the government at full capacity,” Gen Thanasak said.
He also said if the government assigned the armed forces to do the right things, then they would deliver beyond what the government expected.
Reporters then sought Ms Yingluck’s comments on moves by MPs from her Pheu Thai Party to amend the Defence Act to allow politicians to influence military reshuffles. In response, Ms Yingluck said she did not raise the matter with the top brass yesterday.
She said she did not want to discuss the issue for the time being as she was focusing on working with the armed forces to relieve the people’s hardship.
Meeting military top brass for another day, the prime minister voiced confidence in the mutual trust between her government and the military, ruling out concern about being ousted by a coup like her brother Thaksin.
In her policy statement given to the military, Yingluck emphasised two security priorities: safeguarding the monarchy and bringing about reconciliation.
Regarding the push to amend the Defence Ministry Administration Act, she said she had not had time to review the issue and did not expect the debate on the provisions on military appointments to come up at this juncture.
“My priority is to work with the Armed Forces in addressing the people’s grievances,” she said.
Although certain Pheu Thai MPs might have wanted to amend the military provisions, the Cabinet would have the final say on whether to sponsor the proposed amendments, she said.
“We have to differentiate between people’s rights to say things they like and the fact that the final decision on such matters rests with the Cabinet,” she said.
BP: Then you have this statement by Yingluck where she states – in response to question about the military – that “Yes, today [I/we] are not suspicious [of the military]. We work together with trust” (“ใช่ค่ะ วันนี้ไม่ได้หวาดระแวง เราทำงานด้วยกันเราเชื่อใจกันค่ะ). Clearly, the key word there is “today”.
Thai Rath’s political analysis of December 19 entitled “การเมืองล่อกันเพียวๆ” which stated that Yingluck visited all three branches of the military where the highlight was her visit to the tiger’s case [lion's den] of the army. As part of the reciprocal/mutually dependent situation, the PM praised the military has been main helper of the government during the floods and where Yingluck could call on Prayuth’s services 24 hours a day (กับปรากฏการณ์ที่นายกฯยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร เดินสายตรวจแถว 3 เหล่าทัพ โดยเฉพาะไฮไลต์อยู่ที่ “ถ้ำเสือ” กองทัพบก ตามอารมณ์ถ้อยทีถ้อยอาศัย ฝั่งนายกฯหญิงก็เอ่ยปากชื่นชมทหารเป็นตัวหลักในการช่วยรัฐบาลกู้วิกฤติน้ำท่วมใหญ่ ขณะที่อีกฝ่าย “บิ๊กตู่” พล.อ. ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา ผบ.ทบ. ก็แบะท่า รัฐบาลสามารถเรียกใช้บริการทหารได้ตลอด 24 ชั่วโมง). This happens at the time where Puea Thai have put the brakes on amending the Defence Ministry Administration Act (ในจังหวะที่พรรคเพื่อไทยก็แตะเบรก ใส่เกียร์ถอยคิวรื้อ พ.ร.บ.กลาโหม)
Thai Rath‘s political analysis of December 22 entitled “หนทางอยู่ที่เกมสภา” states that Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has put out the condition that if there is no touching/getting involved with the institution, the military are ready to stay in the barracks (ในอารมณ์ที่ “บิ๊กตู่” พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา ผู้บัญชาการทหารบก ยื่นเงื่อนไขไม่ให้มีการแตะต้องสถาบัน ทหารก็พร้อมกลับเข้ากรมกอง) and will not get involved in politics and will leave everything for the election (ไม่ยุ่งกับเกมการเมือง ปล่อยให้เป็นเรื่องของนักเลือกตั้ง).
Finally, Wassana in the Bangkok Post:
It is premature to conclude that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the leaders of the armed forces have mended fences as others saw in her high profile, first visit to their head offices last week.
She showed respect to all top brass and gave them hope about all of their proposed projects when she said: “Pou [her nickname] will take care (of your projects).” Ms Yingluck even counter-proposed she have lunch with all armed forces leaders every two months to strengthen ties.
Unfortunately, all of this is only acting on the part of Gen Prayuth and Ms Yingluck.
The army and other forces have been suspicious about Ms Yingluck since she became prime minister including her visits because she has never made clear her position on the issues about which all military leaders feel uncomfortable.
Gen Prayuth’s position also never changes. He is still a blue blood with unquestionable loyalty to the monarchy and dislikes the red shirts. What he has done since Pheu Thai rose to power is avoid interviews on political issues, especially those involving Thaksin, amnesty and the charter amendment as much as he can.
But the army leader sometimes has had to act as if he has changed due to the convincing victory by Pheu Thai in the elections last July.
One thing which is unacceptable for Gen Prayuth, who is a loyalist and a Queen’s guard since his early days in military uniform, is any challenges to the monarchy and attempts to amend Article 112. He lashed out at those behind the move, saying that “they should stay overseas”.
His position is clear that they can express opinions on this controversial lese majesty law but should not go beyond that.
Gen Prayuth has already sent the message to the government through Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa that it should seriously take action against all anti-monarchy elements and websites attacking the highest institution.
BP: So a kind of mutual détente as long as the government doesn’t amend amend Section 112, but takes tough action against those who commit lese majeste. In addition, don’t touch the Defence Ministry Administration Act. Will this actually keep the military in the barracks? It seems that Puea Thai and the military have entered into a Faustian pact – who is the devil?? – and will not rock the boat to allow them to proceed with constitutional amendments and to stay in power.