It may be seen as fitting that the men at the head of major institutions in Thailand are now all authoritarian loyalists of the deceased king.
The youngest of the royalist trio is General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized government in a military coup in 2014. The Dictator made his career through acts of loyalty for the palace. Prior to becoming Army boss, he commanded troops that murderously crushed red shirt protesters in 2010. That was also an act of loyalty.
At 96 years of age, the doddery General Prem Tinsulanonda is now regent. When unelected prime minister, he presided over the years in which the monarchy was catapulted into a more exalted position than it had enjoyed since the days of absolutism.
The third of the royalist stooges is doddery privy counselor Thanin Kraivixien, 88, who is now selected as head of the Privy Council while Prem assumes the position of regent. Thanin was catapulted into the prime ministership in 1976 following a massacre of students and a military coup. He was a palace favorite and it is accepted that the king wanted the right-wing Thanin as premier. He presided over a period of fascist-like repression that was so extreme that even the military leadership soon ditched his government, much to the displeasure of the king who immediately vaulted Thanin to the privy council.
Wikileaks notes that Thanin was “ideological and politically extreme. After his taking office, he sent police special forces to notoriously [sic.] liberal book shops, and ordered the confiscation and burning of 45,000 books, including works of Thomas More, George Orwell and Maxim Gorky.”
In recent days, this unreformed rightist royalist has provided advice to the Prayuth dictatorship. Indeed, the junta’s 20-year “roadmap” to “democracy” is modeled on Thanin’s 16-year plan for “democracy.” There are other similarities and comparisons can be made. Among them, the draft constitution draws inspiration from the Thanin era, with Meechai Ruchupan having served the book burner in 1976-77. Like Prayuth’s military dictatorship, Thanin’s civilian dictatorship made use of the lese majeste law to repress political opponents.