Thailand: Who is backing Suthep and what do they want?
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Thailand: Who is backing Suthep and what do they want?

Andrew “Zenjournalist” Marshall wrote in his epic piece in November:

Yet another terribly damaging crisis is looming. The Yellow bloc will do its best to once again incite mayhem in Bangkok in coming days and weeks. The Democrat Party has totally abdicated its duty to be a responsible parliamentary opposition that holds the government to account via constitutional methods. Instead, they intend to continue to sabotage parliament’s ability to function, and then claim democracy in Thailand is no longer working. Four deputy Democrat leaders including Korn Chatikavanij resigned from their positions on October 30 to enable them to join illegal attempts to bring down thegovernment without (they hope) jeopardising the legal status of their party. The Yellow movement also intends to create another damaging confrontation with Cambodia over Preah Vihear, to add to the chaos and rally nationalist Thais to their cause. They will attempt to mount more mass rallies in Bangkok to paralyse the city. And when they have ramped up chaos and tension to fever pitch, they intend to remove the government via a judicial coup by partisan judges. They will then seek to freeze democracy for years and instal a government probably headed by Prawit Wongsuwan with no democratic mandate.

ThaiPBS Evening News analysis on November 25:

For Puea Thai, they pointed out that the Democrats are proceeding to try to create a political deadlock by hoping that after the no-confidence debate that [they] will surround the parliament so as to prevent a resolution in the hope that they lead/push the situation to find another solution, and they disclosed that there are some people talking in secret and planning to be the new PM already and that this group is 2 ป 2 อ 1 พ  (ส่วนพรรคเพื่อไทยแถลงชี้ว่าพรรคประชาธิปัตย์กำลังเดินเกมสร้างสถานการณ์ deadlock ทางการเมือง โดยหวังว่าภายหลังจากการอภิปรายไม่ไว้วางใจแล้วเสร็จ จะปิดล้อมรัฐสภาเพื่อปิดกั้นไม่ให้มีการลงมติเกิดขึ้น โดยหวังจะนำสถานการณ์ไปหาทางออกทางอื่น และเปิดเผยว่ามีกลุ่มบุคคลอื่นพูดคุยในทางลับเพื่อวางตัวนายกรัฐมนตรีคนใหม่แล้ว และชี้เป็นนัยยะว่ากลุ่มที่ว่าคือ 2 ป 2 อ 1 พ)

Krunthep Turakit also reported on November 25 that  from within the government, they believe there are 5 people, whose initials are respectively 2 ป 2 อ 1 พ and that one of them will be PM.

Shawn Crispin in Asia Times Online on December 9:

Critics say that raises questions about whether the idea of a People’s Council has been imposed on the party from higher royalist quarters. It’s not the first time prominent royalists have pronounced their preference for an appointed government to replace an elected one.

In the lead-up to the 2008 court-ordered dissolution…Then, royal advisory Privy Councilor and known palace favorite Palakorn Suwanarat was reportedly tipped to serve as the Supreme Council’s appointed premier.

One list of proposed People’s Council members reviewed by Asia Times Online bids to balance known royalists with once-Thaksin allies who switched political sides after the 2006 coup.

The list includes: Privy Councilor Palakorn as prime minister; former Thaksin ally cum coup maker General Anupong Paochinda as deputy premier for security; former Thaksin-appointed commerce minister Somkid Jatusripitak as deputy prime minister for economics; hard-line anti-Thaksin royalist General Saparang Kalayanamit as defense minister; Thaksin-era foreign minister and royally connected Surakiart Sathirathai as foreign minister; former Thaksin and coup-appointed finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula in the same role.

BP: This is along the lines of names that BP heard of just after Crispin’s article came out and the establishment wish list also included Chatchart as Transport Minister and a role also for Sudarat (wish list as who they want and had floated).

Wassana in the Bangkok Post on December 12:

In other words, some believe this is a discreet form of coup d’etat in which Privy Councillor Palakorn Suwannarat and former defence minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon have emerged as candidates for the role of prime minister.

Gen Prawit is known as the “big brother” of the Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East) unit which is respected by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Gen Prawit was groomed as a tiger of the 2nd Infantry Royal Guard in Prachin Buri _ a position that secured his top ranking in the army.

Reuters on December 13:

The forces behind Suthep are led by former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda, towering figures in Thailand’s military establishment, said two military sources with direct knowledge of the matter and a third with connections to Thai generals.

A glimpse into Suthep’s connections sheds light on how he could prevail in a seemingly improbable bid to oust a leader who won a 2011 election by a landslide and impose rule by an unelected “People’s Council” of appointed “good people”, even as his street rallies start to flag.

Although retired, Anupong, 64, and Prawit, 67, still wield influence in a powerful and highly politicized military that has played a pivotal role in a country that has seen 18 successful or attempted coups in the past 81 years.

It is unclear how far that influence goes, or how decisive they could be. But both have close ties to army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. And all three have a history of enmity with Yingluck’s billionaire brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who they helped oust in a 2006 coup.

The military sources said that if Suthep’s protests lead to violence, the two could help sway the military to intervene or even to seize power on the pretext of national security, allowing Suthep to go ahead with his People’s Council, though analysts say such a scenario appears unlikely in the immediate term.

“Suthep is playing the game on the outside while Prawit tries to play the game on the inside,” said a senior military official who could not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “General Prawit has been clear about his aspirations to become prime minister.”

Anupong and Prawit were present at a December 1 meeting between Suthep and Yingluck at a military camp, according to three aides of military officials who attended.

One military source said Prayuth was being pulled in two directions, with Anupong and Prawit on one side, and a need on the other to restore the military’s image after the 2010 clashes and ensure an untarnished retirement in 2014

Crispin in Asia Times Online on January 30, 2014:

General Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army commander, defense minister and elite Queen’s Guard, is the most visible of what some diplomats refer to as an amorphous “council of elders” now negotiating with Thaksin through varied channels and intermediaries. Other military “elders” reportedly include 2006 coup maker Lieutenant-General Winai Phattiyakul, former National Security chief and known Thaksin nemesis Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri, and retired General Saiyud Kerdphol, a former Supreme Commander and father of current army chief of staff Gen Aksra Kerdphol.

Establishment negotiators have offered in exchange to suspend scrutiny of Thaksin’s and his family’s assets for one year, a delay that would allow Thaksin’s and his former wife Pojaman’s Damapong family members to liquidate their assets before fleeing into exile, informed sources claim. An establishment overture conveyed by intermediary former deputy prime minister Suwat Liptapanlop offered Thaksin discretion over a minority of the proposed council’s appointments. …

Unlike the deal before the 2011 elections, the now military-led establishment is offering Thaksin only lose-lose propositions.

The royal establishment’s broader unspoken agenda is to ensure that a Thaksin-steered government and legislature is not in power at the time of the royal succession. Many royalists believe Thaksin could aim to complicate the transition through control over the National Assembly, which under Thai law plays a role in the succession process, including prominently in any scenario where a princess rather than prince is put forward for the crown by the royal advisory Privy Council.

BP: Out of interest Gen. Saiyud has a connection with everyone’s favorite Election Commissioner. As noted by Saksith in January:

General Saiyud Kerdphol is the founding member of ANFREL and was previously, as chairman of People’s Network for Election in Thailand (P-Net) also vocal against the (later nullified) 2006 snap-elections, that took place under similar circumstances as next Sunday’s.

Back then, P-Net decided not to monitor the 2006 elections saying it would be unlikely to “end conflict in society” and wanted it to be postponed. That statement was made by none other than by then-coordinator Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who is now currently one of five election commissioners (EC) and the most outspoken opponent against the February 2 election date, just as the whole Election Commission isn’t so sure whether to hold one or not.

The Bangkok Post on March 15:

Leading technocrats such as former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, former central banker MR Pridiyathorn Devakul and former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak have been suggesting in the past month that a new type of leader may be needed to replace the embattled caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

A few likely names were floated early in the anti-government protest, with Palakorn Suwanrath as a strong candidate for the “neutral” premier to lead the divided country.

Nattawut in the Bangkok Post on March 25:

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Nattawut Saikuar, who is caretaker deputy commerce minister and UDD secretary-general, claimed the most likely candidate for the role of interim prime minister was Privy Councillor Palakorn Suwannarat, followed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, former defence minister and army chief, and former premier Anand Panyarachun.

Mr Nattawut said other possible nominees could be MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and Somkid Jatusripitak. Both are former deputy prime ministers and finance ministers.

Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, Arsa Sarasin, former permanent secretary for foreign affairs and foreign minister, and Vikrom Kromadit, founder of Amata Corporation, could also be dark horses for the nomination.

BP: A few different names there and over time more palatable names – to the Thaksin camp – have been put out there. However, if the Establishment intend to remove Yingluck, so they have clear control over succession, through an impeachment and have an Appointed PM, BP sees no possibility of any neutral PM being accepted by the reds. It is the height of naïvety to think that there won’t protests. BP believes this has been factored into this and why Suthep’s backers are broadly known and that they want to remove Yingluck is also known, it is taking a lot longer than initially planned. Getting someone to actually be the body that does remove her will attract a lot of attention. There is an element that it is a hot potato and no one would prefer to be the one, and it seems they are hoping the task will fall to someone else.