Thai coup predicted by fortune-teller

Editorial, Normal

A THAI fortune-teller predicted that “after a coup the country would have a new prime minister whose name begins with the Thai letter pronounced “Awe”, according to The Nation.
In response to that prediction, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said: “There are people who want to bring about violence but it is my and the government’s duty not to let that happen. I reiterate that whoever thinks violence is an answer to this society is thinking wrong.”
Probably Abhisit could dismiss the prediction as it came from a fortune teller.
But perhaps he should also read an article suggesting Thailand was in the early stages of a civil war that appeared in Naew Na daily (a Thai journal) on Dec 28.
It is a must-read because Prem Tinsulanonda, the 88-year-old adviser to the Thai King, says it is a must-read.
And Gen Prem, a former unelected Prime Minister and army chief, is a puu yai (Thai for “senior elder”) whose words and action are taken seriously.
For example, when Gen Prem donned military attire to meet military leaders in his Bangkok residence on Dec 28, Thai political watchers speculated why the retired army chief was in uniform.
For some it was a hint that a coup was in the making.
The last time the retired general appeared in military gear in public was when talking to military cadets in July and August 2006, lecturing them on their role to serve the King and the nation.
And then … the Sept 19, 2006, coup which ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra happened.
However, Admiral Phajun Tamprateep, personal secretary to Gen Prem, insisted that “there is nothing to interpret”, as reported by the Bangkok Post.
“Gen Prem is a soldier and he loves the military profession. He likes to wear the uniform on occasion, and he does so when he deems it appropriate,” Phajun explained.
On the day Gen Prem was in military uniform he told military leaders that an article published in Naew Na daily was “important and a must-read”.
The article, headlined “We are in a period of civil war”, was written by Chirmsak Pinthong, a critic of Thaksin.
Chirmsak contended that Thailand was in the initial stages of civil war.
“On one side is the ‘legitimate government’ of the kingdom of Thailand and on the other side there are the Thaksin forces,” he said, as translated by a blog on Thai politics.
“They aim not just to overthrow the Abhisit government but to also radically change the system of government, eventually establishing a republic and a dictatorship.”
Chirmsak painted a scenario on how Thaksin would ignite a civil war.
The Thaksin forces, according to Chirmsak, would reject the authority of the Abhisit-led government (which it accused of being illegitimate).
For example, ministers could not perform their duties in certain part of Thailand due to hostilities from the pro-Thaksin Red Shirts.
He wrote about the soldiers for hire in the Thaksin forces, referring to Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh (a former army chief and Prime Minister who recently joined the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai party) and the Class 10 army officers (who are Chavalit’s classmates).
“They are a minority, unlike the police who remain loyal to Thaksin, as evidenced by their failure to investigate the attacks on ‘peaceful PAD rallies, causing several deaths’,” said Chirmsak, a diehard supporter of the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy, an anti-Thaksin movement popularly colour-coded as the Yellow Shirts).
Chirmsak, as the Thai blog colourfully forecast: “The ‘big boss’ is firing off the ‘intercontinental missiles’ that ‘drop from the skies on the Kingdom of Thailand’. Some Red Shirts are the ‘infantry’ creating all the problems in the country.
“Others are the ‘artillery’, using television as their weapon. The Pheu Thai Party in parliament are the ‘cavalry in tanks’, protected by their parliamentary position but causing confusion. The ‘spies’ are the senior government officials who provide secret information, impede and disrupt.
“The civil war has begun but the outcome is not certain, so what can be done?
“The government needs to be more aggressive in maintaining the state’s power.
“The Constitution has to be maintained.
“The power of the judiciary has to be protected so that it can enforce the law.”

* Philip Golingai is a Bangkok-based correspondent of The Star newspaper in Malaysia.