Thailand’s military is conducting a systematic reshuffle to blunt the power of officials seen as loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in what seems to be an effort to dismantle his support base and ensure he can never return to power.
Governors in 13 provinces have been transferred, mostly from the country’s pro-Thaksin north and northeast, according to the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
The junta is also restructuring the police, long seen as a bastion of support for Thaksin and his sister, ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Thaksin was a police officer for 13 years before resigning to start his own business.
Thaksin himself was ousted from the premiership in a 2006 coup, and the constitution was re-written under a military-backed government in an effort to limit his political influence. But Thaksin’s sister came to power just a few years later, in 2011, after after winning a general election
This time the military seems intent on ensuring neither he nor his family can return.
The military has detained people from both sides of the political divide, but a disproportionate number are Thaksin’s red-shirt supporters. It has closed down radio stations of his supporters and frozen the bank accounts of some.
Kan Yuenyong, political analyst at Siam Intelligence Unit:
“They will finish what they started in 2006. They will make it difficult for Thaksin loyalists to make a comeback.”
It has secured a $1.5 billion load to make payments to rice farmers, seeking to reach out to Thaksin’s rural power base.
Deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree:
“These appointments are not political. They are based on appropriateness.”
The police force is under the command of the prime minister’s office. Critics accuse the ousted Yingluck of stacking the police wiht loyalist,s including appointing Thaksin’s brother-in-law, Priewpan Damapong, as chief, following her 2011 election win.
He stepped down in 2012 and was replaced by Adul Saensingkaew who was sidelined after the coup through a transfer to a post at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Restucturing the police force and ridding it of a “bribes for jobs” culture was a key demand of six months of street protests, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, that helped trigger Yingluck’s ouste.r
Thaksin started his career as a police officer in 1973 before building a telecommunications empire and he built up the force during his tenure as prime ministe.r
The demonstrators vilified the police as Thaksin’s lackeys and the military appears to have acceded to the protesters’ wishes, moving swiftly after the May 22 coup in places such as the northern province of Chiang Mai, the home of the Shinawatra clan, where at least four senior officials were reshuffled.
Among the first to go was provincial police commander General Krit Krittileuu.
Lieutenant General Preecha Chan-ocha, a younger brother of military chief General Prayuth chan-ocha, ordered Krit to be transferred because of evidence he helped Thaksin’s son, Pantongtae Shinawatra, evade a military summons.
Chiang Mai’s governor, Wichien Puttiwinyu, was also among those removed.
New governor Suriya Prasatbuntitya:
“I am not aware what the previous governor did to be moved … but it’s better to find a brand new person.
The fact that we are not siding with anyone means that I can coordinate with every side.”
Older Brother Thaksin
“The elite have designs to limit Thaksin’s influence, for example, by adding clauses in a new constitution to limit the number of elected senators, most of whom are Thaksin allies.”