Thaksin’s Fear of the Eastern Tigers

From Red Power, August 15, 2010

The headline reads: Burapha Payak [moves] – Democrat Party nods [in agreement]
[This refers to the ascendancy of the Burapha Payak military click in the military reshuffle. Officers in this group are generally very anti-Thaksin. The desire to prevent the military from being reshuffled and filled with anti-Thaksin generals was what was behind the Red Shirt insistence of immediate government dissolution and elections during their 2010 occupation of Bangkok.]

The rest of the headlines read: The great duck queen of the Office of the Auditor General – The wicked scheme before the failure of the nation
[The “duck queen” refers to Auditor General Jaruwan Menthaka, criticized for alleged corruption in her organization’s performance and for staying on in the position after her retirement age. The auditor general was to be one of the independent checks on a sitting government enshrined in the 1997 constitution. This concept of an independent check on Thai governments was an unprecedented innovation and has been a very hard one for the political system to accept. The Thai Rak Thai-led government immediately tried to replace Jaruwan with their own appointee (as well as making a concerted effort to co-opt the other independent checks and balances). The current Democrat-led government has seemed eager to be rid of Jaruwan as well.]

This image originally from this page

[2014 comment: Thaksin’s fear of the Eastern Tigers goes back several years.

The main impetus and goal of the 2010 Red Shirt siege of Bangkok was to prevent the Eastern Tiger clique of generals from assuming top positions of power in the military during the reshuffle that year.

This is why, even when the government acceded to Red Shirt demands for elections in 2010, the elections were to be scheduled for November which was safely after the military reshuffle. Thus, the Red Shirts were forced to continue to protest on the streets of Bangkok even though their stated demands had been met.

Having the Eastern Tigers in power raised the stakes for Thaksin. Not only would they oppose him, but they would constrict his ability to act and make a coup more likely.

Any military class or clique that becomes dominant in the Thai military increases the likelihood of a coup as it takes close alignment of viewpoints and goals to support military action in politics. Perhaps this is due to collective ambition as there is great social cohesion down to the family level in these military groupings. Having a unified military class in key positions makes it much more likely the military would exert its power–especially on a politician like Thaksin bent on curbing the power of all other areas of society.

In 2013, Thaksin apparently thought he had pacified Gen. Prayuth–the purposely leaked Thaksin audio was meant to broadcast this to the political world. After the audio was released, bold moves to grant Thaksin amnesty were started along with constitutional amendments that would result in cementing Pheu Thai power in government for the foreseeable future.

This confidence was apparent in the scope of Thaksin’s amnesty. The mass amnesty that was being pushed would have stretched all the way back to 2004–well before resistance to Thaksin’s rule and mass political turmoil became widespread.

This was to cover controversial actions by Thaksin himself during his time as prime minister–such as mass extra-judicial killings of drug suspects and enforced disappearances. This would enable a new Thaksin premiership to begin unburdened by court activism that had hampered Thaksin at every turn in the past.

When the Shinawatra family first heard that Eastern Tiger Gen. Prayuth had declared martial law in 2014, they must have wished that they had fought even harder in 2009 and 2010 to prevent him from ever gaining power in the first place.] Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

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2 Responses to Thaksin’s Fear of the Eastern Tigers

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, this is really insightful.

    Although I’m sure you’re right the military angle is the most important, a second credible line of thinking for the 2009 and 2010 events is financing.

    In the events leading up to and following the 2006 coup, in a trend that has continued to this day, Thaksin lost many of his financiers from the Chinese-Thai business elite. From having an overwhelming war chest in 2000 supported by a who’s-who of Thai-Chinese business elite, Thaksin increasingly found himself looking at an opposition that could match or even outspend him.

    How does this relate to the 2009 and 2010 events? First, from the 2006 revelations of disillusioned Thaksin ally Snoh, we know it is likely that Thaksin had installed a system to systematically drain ten percent of ministerial budgets for the financing of his political party. If his party indeed was built around such enormous ongoing spending, then it could risk unraveling in opposition, without access to this powerful revenue generation system. Thus the need to quickly regain control over government once the Democrats and their allies came to power.

    Second, in the events leading up to the 2010 unrest, the now financially challenged Thaksin saw a court decision seize a substantial portion of his fortune, which further exacerbated the financial pressure on his political organization. As you know, the red shirt protests commenced immediately following this court decision, lending credence to the hypothesis that financing was a key factor behind the 2010 siege of central Bangkok.

  2. Wiz says:

    For the case of Eastern Tiger (Boorapha Phayak – the 2nd Division), Big Too has started the strategy of Union with “Bloodline of Heaven” (Wong Thewan – the 1st division) to end any potential conflicts within RTA which is working well.

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