No Politics in Stripping Thaksin’s Award, Armed Forces Say

Former leader Thaksin Shinawatra at his daugther's wedding in Hong Kong on March 22, 2019.

BANGKOK — A top military figure said Thursday politics wasn’t behind the army’s decision to strip former leader Thaksin Shinawatra of an award.

Gen. Pornpipat Benyasri, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, told reporters the ex-premier lost his Chakdao medal in accordance with the military’s regulations, which call for awards to be rescinded if recipients “fail to deserve the honor.”

“The media and Thai people may already know that answer from many websites and social media,” Pornpipat said when asked why Thaksin lost the award. “But it disturbs the ethics and values of the armed forces is any action that amounts to insulting and disrespecting higher entities.”

Gen. Pornpipat did not elaborate, though the term “disrespecting higher entities” is sometimes used as a euphemism to describe hostility toward the monarchy.

Chakdao medals are given yearly to prominent alumni of the Armed Forces Preparation Academy. Thaksin, enrolled at the academy before his stint as a police officer, won the award in 1991.

The former leader retains immense popularity among supporters in Thailand despite being ousted in a 2006 coup. He was later found guilty of corruption in 2008, but fled the country shortly before the verdict was handed out, citing the ruling was politically motivated.

Thaksin lashed out at Sunday’s election by calling it “rigged” in favor of the junta. Writing in an op-ed to the New York Times from Hong Kong, the ex-premier said there were numerous allegations of fraud during the votes.

Gen. Pornpipat said Thaksin was not stripped of the medal because of his criticism. He also said the timing has nothing to do with the current political situation.

“Things can be fast and slow. It’s normal,” the general said.