THAILAND: Did I Hear That Right?

ELIZABETH NAAI WRITES – It seems as if George Orwell’s 1984 has become a reality in this technological age — anyone could be listening or doctoring conversations.

Two weeks after Yuthasak Sasiprapa was appointed Deputy Defense Minister, a YouTube clip was released on July 6 of two voices: one allegedly belonging to Yuthasak and the other to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Both Yuthasak and Thaksin’s aid, Noppadon Pattama, refute the clip’s authenticity, claiming it’d been doctored. Anti-Thaksin party leaders, Suriyasai Katesila of the Green Group, and Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democratic party believe the suspicious timing makes the authenticity possible.

The conversation allegedly took place in Hong Kong on June 22, eight days before current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reshuffled her cabinet, naming Yuthasak Deputy Defense Minister, and appointing herself as Defense Minister. Key elements of the discussion include:

1) The first voice [supposedly Thaksin] insists they are loyal to the crown when the other voice [supposedly Yuthasak] mentions some military men have expressed doubts of loyalty.

2) Supreme Commander Gen. Thanasak Patimapakorn now accepts Prime Minister Yingluck as the country’s legitimate leader.

3) Defense Council support is required for an amnesty proposal; National Security Council must forward the proposal to the cabinet to issue an executive decree to prevent unrest.

4) Connections with Myanmar’s Supreme Commander Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will influence Myanmar leaders to Thailand’s benefit.

5) Admiral Amornthep Na Bangchang, top advisor to the current Naval chief ,will be promoted to Naval chief.

6) Air Force chief Prajin Jantong is now comfortable with the Thaksin. camp

7) The voice that is allegedly that ofThaksin places a lot of trust in Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

8) The voice supposedly belonging to Yuthasak claims military brass needs assurance that retaliation will not be taken against “Pa,” Privy Council President Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, if a general amnesty is granted.

9) [Thaksin — alleged voice of] suggests his appointment as advisor of Crown Property Bureau to avoid politics, assuming amnesty is granted and his return to Thailand becomes possible.

Democratic senator Somjet Boonthanom has called for Yuthasak’s resignation if he cannot prove the voice is not his. Abhisit Vejjajiva warns civil war could ensue if such an “unconstitutional amnesty decree were granted.” Those opposing Thaksin worry that Prime Minister Yingluck will use her power, and new cabinet members, to garner military support for an executive decree for amnesty to avoid the parliamentary process.  All in all, it looks like yet another royal  Thai mess.

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