Failures of past coups hold lessons for NCPO chief

national August 15, 2014 01:00

By Samudcha Hoonsara
The Nation

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It's a sure bet that National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha will become the country's 29th prime minister.

Not only has Prayuth received strong public backing, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) key figures have also thrown their weight behind the Army chief.
Some members of the NLA, tasked with calling a vote on the PM, have even voiced opposition against other candidates challenging Prayuth’s nomination, reasoning that the general is the most suitable and most qualified at this political juncture.
“The good intention behind the power seizure must not be wasted,” say Prayuth supporters, in encouraging the NCPO chief to double as PM and take absolute control in running the country.
Does this sound justifiable? 
Evidence gleaned from the records of two previous coups show coupmakers were strongly condemned by democracy enthusiasts for “tearing up the charter” and were unable to accomplish the mission as they envisaged.
Under the interim administration led by the National Peace Keeping Council (NPKC) led by General Sunthorn Kongsompong and General Suchinda Kraprayoon who staged a coup against the General Chatichai Choonhavan government, respectable technocrat Anand Panyarachun was appointed PM.
NPKC members reportedly were not pleased with the role carried out by “the Rattanakosin elite” for some time but they could not act against Anand because Suchinda had handpicked him for the post.
At the Council for National Security helm, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who staged a coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government, was reportedly not happy at times with the administration of the Surayud Chulanont government. 
Sonthi could not do much, as he had great consideration for Surayud, his former boss.
Taking previous lessons into account, the NCPO and Prayuth must be decisive. They must have supreme control.
Nevertheless, full-throttle acceleration without taking circumstantial factors into consideration may wreck the engine.
Transparency is the key to prevent the realisation of the saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
It is a good sign that Prayuth has affirmed there will be no interference in the justice system. Political rivals should be allowed to prove their innocence in court battles. Lies, distortion of information, systematic propaganda and underhanded tactics must not be used.
The NCPO chief should learn from the lessons of history and refrain from repeating those mistakes. He must act to normalise the country’s situation, bridge the gap and heal the rift for sustainable happiness of all Thais.