If leading coup-maker Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin acknowledges that Thailand has “many problems, little time” such that the “interim government should solve immediate problems facing the country urgently as it has less than a year to administer”, he should perhaps steer clear of the political process.
Instead, as the Bangkok Post reported, Sonthi volunteered, “The military is ready to assist the government.” What Sonthi does not realize is that he is not helping the situation and the public is now ever more convinced that the CNS wants to maintain power.
Both the Bangkok Post and the Nation newspapers have come up in strident criticism of Sonthi, especially in light of the proposal to have a non-elected prime minister. The Bangkok Post told the CNS to take a good look at itself, saying that it “appears to be courting more trouble, unnecessarily” when “certain members of the council have recently unwittingly made known their wish that the new constitution, not yet drafted, be written in such a way that it opens the door for a non-MP to be appointed prime minister”. It also said that this represented “a big step backward for democratic development in this country and reflects poorly on the CNS as a whole”. Among its other mistakes were the installation of key army personnel on the boards of state enterprises, “the short-listing of 100 people to form the National People's Assembly and the appointment of the 35 charter writers”.
Criticism also came from other quarters. Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the People’s Assembly for Political Reform (PAPR) and secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said, “We can see the goals of the CNS, [but it] lacks solutions to many problems and this could lead to public scepticism of the CNS over the next year.”
Unsurprisingly, the Democrat and the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) parties have added castigation. In response to Sonthi’s name-calling of Thaksin as “the boy who cries wolf”, the TRT deputy spokesman Jatuporn Promphan said, “I want to tell Sonthi that democracy isn’t born by authorities’ approval but by majority’s.” He added that it was the appointed bodies that were in charge of political reform not the CNS, saying, “If Sonthi wants things to go his way he should do one more coup.”
Democrat spokesman Ongart Klampaiboon announced that “Sonthi must not express his views to interfere or influence the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) otherwise it will be dangerous to Sonthi and the CNS” but “welcomed the coup leader’s idea to limit a prime minister’s term for two terms”, the Nation reported. On the business front, in light of the iTV debacle, it appears that Shin Corp may “sell its stakes in the television station”. In addition, the Nation also reported that iTV and the “PM's Office will discuss the matter between themselves [this week] to avoid resorting to litigation”. The Assets Examination Committee will also be reviewing “a working committee’s report on the details of payments made by Temasek Holdings of Singapore to the Shinawatra-Damapong families for their Shin Corp shares”.
Over in the South, Zulkifli Abdullah, the police chief of Kelantan (the Malaysian state that borders Thailand) told the New Straits Times that the group of 11 men and 9 women who had allegedly crossed the border due to military maltreatment had returned to Thailand. He added that it was doubted asylum was really desired and that it might have been a publicity stunt.
This point has been reiterated by the Thai Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command (SBPPC). The Nation noted that Army spokesman Akkara Thiproj said that this incident was meant “to mislead the global Muslim community into believing that the government had been heavy-handed in dealing with Thai Muslims in the three southern provinces” and that another “exodus of …100 Muslim people from Narathiwat's Rangae district to Kelantan state… would [also] claim harassment”.
Sonthi: Many problems, little time (Bangkok Post, 19 December 2006)
Harassment claims by Muslims doubted (Bangkok Post, 18 December 2006)
Charter pledge on PM urged (Bangkok Post, 18 December 2006)
Put 'independent' back in the iTV (Bangkok Post, 18 December 2006)
CNS should look in the mirror (Bangkok Post, 18 December 2006)
Interim Government Criticised (Nation, 19 December 2006)
Democrat, Thai Rak Thai warns Sonthi to distance himself from charter drafting (Nation, 19 December 2006)
Democrat welcomes proposal to limit PM's term (Nation, 19 December 2006)
Thai Rak Thai attacks Sonthi for "causing rifts in society" (Nation, 19 December 2006)
20 Muslim Thais in Malaysia return home: Malaysian report (Nation, 19 December 2006)
Highlight of the week: PM's Office likely to talk with iTV (Nation, 19 December 2006)
Shin Corp may sell iTV's shares: iTV chairman (Nation, 17 December 2006)
Sonthi: Thaksin is the boy who cries wolf (Bangkok Post, 16 December 2006)