Associated with years of military rule and anti-democracy, the old men who have run Thailand for decades are dying off. But they are replaced another group of royalist military thugs who intend to maintain political control and repression for decades to come.
We say this after the announcement of the death of royalist policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn. Usually no one would take much notice of the death of a former deputy police chief. However, Vasit gets plenty of attention because he was seen as close to the dead king, a relationship Vasit played up.
A long time ago we wrote this of Vasit, citing Michael Montesano (where the link is now defunct):
“Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.”
His background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remained a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief. Vasit “retired” years ago, but kept popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. His royalism and extreme views were inflected with racism, extreme nationalism, support for lese majeste and the rejection of constitutional monarchy as being to constraining of his king.
He was associated with all kinds of rightist, royalist and nationalist efforts to eject elected governments.
As expected, his funeral will be a royal one, with Princess Sirindhorn presiding. That’s a sign of a man who did the palace’s work.
Several of the other old men are on their last legs, including Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, now seen in a wheel chair.
In recent years as Prem, Vasit and others schemed against elected governments and worked to mobilize opposition on the streets and in the barracks, they also managed a transition to “tough” military royalists, trusted to carry forward their preferred royalism and anti-democracy well into the future.
Think Meechai Ruchupan’s role in constitutional manipulation and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as military strongmen. This “new generation” of political manipulators are the legacy left by the departing old men.