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Post Coup Developments in Thailand

Categories: East Asia, Thailand, Arts & Culture, Governance, Media & Journalism, Politics

The latest in Thailand is the swearing in of the new prime minister, retired General Surayud Chulanond. General Sonthi's Council For National Security – CNS (formerly known as Council for Demorcratic Reform) is still active and will continue to advise the new prime minister

Agam's Gecko says [1]

Gen. Sonthi vows that the CNS will not interfere in the operation of the new government — as long as things proceed smoothly — but will serve the PM in an advisory role in national security matters. However, the constitution retains the military council's power to sack the PM should things go haywire. It's the reason for not wishing to institute an all-powerful PM position, apparently, until the checking and balancing systems, and independent oversight bodies get repaired in the next permanent constitution. That will be a project for the next 6 months or so.

The blogger adds

It's a shame that this ultimate role will be retained, because it will surely be played up by the foreign media as a point to discredit the next government. But it probably doesn't matter much, because acceptance will only come after our next elections anyway. The Generals are showing that they prioritise national interests above foreign opinion, and I suspect most citizens would agree with that.

In a follow up post, the same blogger analyses the new constitution [2] and counters some of the claims made by the media.

In respect to the role of President of the National Security Council, several foreign media have reported that Gen. Sonthi will retain the right to remove the Prime Minister or any members of the Cabinet. This is not accurate. This is how that power is described in Article 14:
The King has the prerogative to remove the Prime Minister from office as advised by the President of the Council for National Security and the King has the power to remove Ministers from office as advised by the Prime Minister.
The CNS has the role to advise HM regarding the Prime Minister, but the PM retains authority over his cabinet. The perogative in these matters rest with the King.

Some reporters seemed surprised that the new PM appeared in a fancy military uniform at the palace ceremony.

Agam's Gecko says

Reporters seem to also be having difficulties with the scene yesterday of PM Surayud Chulanont at the palace ceremony, where it was noted that he wore a fancy uniform. Implications were being made that this demonstrates a continuance of military dictatorship, or something.

Perhaps these reporters might check pictures of Thaksin's swearing in ceremonies, or of Chuan Leekpai, the former PM from the Democrat Party. Fancy white uniforms with gold braid etc. are the standard for these formal occasions. During June's 60th Coronation anniversary celebrations, Thaksin and all his ministers were wearing them when they met foreign dignitaries. Heck, if a schoolteacher is running for elected office, her campaign posters (more often than not) will feature the candidate in this same formal dress. Sheesh, get a grip, journalists!

Thai Election Poster
A Thai election poster showing the candidate in a seemingly military uniform.

Don Gilliland at thingsasian.com writes about new rules for soldiers in a post on Bangkok's public transport [3].

Meanwhile, the Council for Democratic Reform – which is the official identity of Thailand’s new Military-backed interim government – has announced new measures to combat over-exuberant fans of the recent coup. According to newspaper reports, the CDR “has told soldiers it will not allow dancers to perform near tanks, nor can they give their weapons to tourists to handle” when posing for photos.” You gotta love it. Only in Thailand!

Bangkok residents bored with the coup now have a new tourist attraction to interest them. Richard Barrow at Thai-Blogs.com visited the new Bangkok airport [4].

With the withdrawal of the tanks from the Royal Plaza at the weekend, people of Bangkok had to look for another new attraction. They found one with the newly opened Suvarnabhumi Airport. The latest and biggest tourist attraction in neighbouring Samut Prakan. According to a television report that I saw early Sunday morning, officials were pleading with the public to delay visits to the airport. The number of sightseers were outnumbering the passengers. Traffic jams were being reported on the spacious airport roads and families had been spotted inside the terminal having a picnic of som tam!

[som tam is the spicy thai papaya salad]