Military pledges firm backing for PM Prayut
Supreme commander hints at other military leaders also joining pro junta parties.
AMID apparent efforts by the junta and its backers to ensure the return of Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister after the election, the military yesterday pledged its full support to the ruling junta and its leaders.
Supreme Commander Thanchaiyan Srisuwan yesterday admitted that the military remained a tool of the government even though Prayut had shown signs of political ambition. He said to support the government was the military’s central role.
The military support came after a series of political moves from junta chief Prayut to consolidate power in preparation for the election, which is planned for next February.
The junta leader last week appointed an influential politician as his political adviser.
He is also travelling upcountry to attend a mobile Cabinet session but there has been speculation that he will meet other popular politicians, wooing them for support. Regardless of Prayut’s political machinations, the supreme commander reiterated that the military stood by the government and its leader.
Under the military-sponsored charter, Prayut can return to the top government job after the election if 376 out of 750 parliamentarians vote for him even if he does not lead any political party. Prayut has in his pocket 250 senators handpicked by the junta’s committee. The general needs 126 votes from the House of Representatives, where elected politicians sit.
Thanchaiyan did not rule out the possibility of military leaders also joining the pro-junta party that could be set up to back Prayut.
However, personally, the general said he might not be involved. His role remains only within the National Legislative Assembly of which he is a member.
In response to a question about the military being politically non-partisan, Thanchaiyan said the Armed Forces support the government’s policies. Normally, the framework was laid out long before and the Army followed it, he added.
Asked if the military would become a tool in Prayut’s political campaign, the supreme commander said the military did what it did regardless of people’s perceptions.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a military and security affairs expert from Rangsit University, said the military’s support for the military-led government was not unexpected.
The relationship between the military and the junta government, even after the next election, was well secured not only by the fraternal ties among military personnel but also by mutual interest, he said.
“The military network now has close ties with key junta leaders like Prayut and his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan,” he said. “They would continue to help secure the junta, overseeing dissent. On the other hand, the junta will also reward them with a liberal budget and smooth and continuous implementation of policies.”
That is one of the reasons why the military prefers a military-led government to a civilian one, Wanwichit explained.
They trust generals-turned-politicians better than they do ordinary politicians when it comes to shuffling positions, he said. This was due to their strong comradeship, he added.
After the next election, although the junta leaders may lose their absolute power provided by Article 44 and may seem distant from the Army, the expert said he believed Prayut and Prawit would continue to be powerful and have the potential to retain power. They would have the support of both the military and politicians, he said.
“They will be protected by the senators they appoint and they have politicians they are wooing now,” he said. “And these figures also have to yield to the Army’s power. Politicians don’t want to have problems with the military. They prefer to stay on the same side. And all this makes Prayut powerful,” the expert said.
This scenario was unlike the previous coup led by Sonthi Boonyaratglin in 2006, he said.
Sonthi toppled the elected civilian government of Thaksin Shinawatra, formed a party when he stepped down more than a year later to enter the electoral fray, which portrayed a power-hungry image, he said. In Prayut’s case, he has politicians and technocrats as a cushion, he said.