Ultra-Royalist General Wants Charter To Permit King's Intervention

Gen. Saiyud Kerdphol, former Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, said the new constitution should allow His Majesty the King to intervene directly in politics in order to prevent further coups in Thailand.

BANGKOK — A retired commander of the Thai armed forces has urged drafters of the new constitution to allow His Majesty the King to intervene directly in politics in order to prevent further coups in Thailand.

Gen. Saiyud Kerdphol, former Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, said in a press conference today that the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) should "clearly" outline channels for the King to intervene and "solve any political crisis in the country" in the new charter. 

"In the past, constitutions have not clearly defined the scope of the King's royal authority, especially when crises take place in our country," said the 92-year-old retired general. "So I want the CDC to define and write about such power very clearly in the new constitution."

The CDC, whose members were appointed by the military junta that staged a coup on 22 May 2014, is currently working to write Thailand's 19th Constitution. A draft of the charter is expected to be completed by late 2015. 

According to Gen. Saiyud, His Majesty the King should have the constitutional authority to exercise power "through the military, or the Statesman that he has appointed." In Thailand, the honorary title of "Statesman" is currently held by Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the former unelected Prime Minister who is now serving as a top adviser to King Bhumibol. 

Gen. Saiyud said he believes this measure will help prevent more military coups in Thailand by allowing His Majesty to solve political crises as soon they arise, thereby freeing the Thai military from "needing" to intervene.

"I think solving problems with military coups is not a right thing to do. A coup will only run into an abyss," the general told reporters. "I believe that members of the military don't like [coups] either. They don't want to take the risk. Therefore, there should be a clear channel to find solutions to crises."

However, Gen. Saiyud was one of several retired generals who issued a joint statement in early May calling on then-army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to stage a coup against the elected government in response to mass protests in the capital city.

Calling themselves Ratthabukkol (Men of the State), the group also requested Gen. Prayuth seek "royal advice" from the King on appointing a "neutral" government to replace the toppled administration.  

Upon receiving the open letter, Gen. Prayuth said he admired the Men of the State for expressing their loyalty to the monarchy, but did not comment on whether he had plans to stage a takeover.

Less than two weeks later, Gen. Prayuth led the 22 May coup, which he said was necessary to prevent the street protests from spiraling out of control. Gen. Prayuth is now chairman of the ruling military junta and Prime Minister of the interim government appointed by the junta after the coup. 

Under previous Thai constitutions in recent decades, His Majesty the King has been cast as constitutional monarch who only exercises symbolic power through signing off on the government’s laws, decrees, and official appointments.

However, King Bhumibol, who turned 87 last December, has directly intervened in Thai politics on several occasions. His Majesty famously instructed the military junta and anti-junta protesters to stop their confrontations during the Black May uprising in 1992, in which more than 50 demonstrators were killed by security forces. 

More recently, His Majesty the King urged a group of judges in a televised broadcast to nullify the 2 April 2006 election, which was boycotted by parties opposed to then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Constitutional Court voided the poll in May of that year.

 

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