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General Sonthi Boonyarataglin answers questions regarding Thailand's current political state and deposed Prime Minister Thaksin
Friday, October 27, 2006
In a candid interview with The Nation, General Sonthi Boonyarataglin gave insights into events taking place behind the scenes and his plans for the future. Excerpts:
When will the Council for National Security (CNS) scrap enforcement of martial law?
Personally, I want to quickly abolish the martial law enforcement, considering negative views against it from the outside world. But for now, the law still has its merit in helping to control national security. Those who might be planning unrest would be deterred by the power of the law.
What was the real situation when you had to accompany former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his unscheduled trip to Myanmar before the coup?
At first I did not understand why he wanted me to go with him. He told me to wear a military uniform but I asked to put on a suit instead since I could hide something inside. I did not know what would happen then and I had to take precautions by taking a seat next to the pilot and close to an exit. I would be able to make an easy escape thanks to such strategic seating in case something bad were to happen.
Did the timing of the coup have anything to do with Thaksin's plan to sack you as army chief?
I knew that he planned to sack me without prior notice and thus had to move the coup date, originally planned on Sept 20, one day forward to Sept 19. This was to avoid possible bloodshed since the People's Alliance for Democracy had planned a major anti-Thaksin rally on Sept 20 and Thaksin's supporters would likely come out to confront them. Without me, no one else would have led the coup.
Did Thaksin plan to declare a state of emergency to help him retain power then?
He did and he knew that I would not cooperate. I had always been against any use of force against the people and he knew that he could not command me. The only thing he could do was sack me.
Did you inform or seek approval from Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda before staging the coup?
I could not do that. I did not want him to get involved.
If Thaksin would charter a flight back to Bangkok without notifying the CNS, what would you do?
I will not allow him to land. He would have to notify me first if he wanted to come back.
What will you do with cases of Thaksin's possible acts of lese majesty while he was in power?
He has cleared some of the cases and our officials are looking into the remaining ones. I am not sure how far the office of the Auditor General can investigate suspected corruption cases involving him. They might get nowhere at all.
Will there be any investigation of Thaksin's financial accounts?
We cannot impound the money he made with accountable legal evidence but can only look for possible hidden ones with questionable background.
Who coined the name "Council for Democratic Reform" (CDR)?
I came up with the name Council for Democratic Conservation. General Winai Phattiyakul revised it to CDR because he is the son-in-law of Admiral Sa-ngad Chaloryu who staged a coup under the National Administrative Reform Council. He wanted the key word "reform" in the name.
How about the political undercurrent against the CNS?
I'd like to say two things about the military coup. First, I received calls for the coup from many people. Second, soldiers are obliged to protect national security, safeguard the nation and uphold loyalty to the monarchy. The military cannot tolerate any leaders who lack or have limited loyalty to the King.
Under the previous government, widespread corruption was evident. The administration was plagued by irregularities. Independent organisations failed to function; the administrative mechanisms as per the 1997 Constitution were stalled.
In politics, the government was in charge of caretaker duties. There was no functioning legislative body, and the judiciary could not function. There appeared to be no way out. This was before factoring in the social divisions. The country could not survive under the circumstances, and the coup was deemed necessary.
The armed forces' aim is to reform politics and introduce sustainable solutions. The administrative system should be rectified in line with true democratic rule. We want to place emphasis on having the King as Head of State.
People across the country, including those in rural areas, have thanked the armed forces for staging the coup. Many even told us we were late in intervening.
I understand the coup may have tainted the country's image internationally. But I believe a little interruption is acceptable in order to enable everyone to move forward once again.
I can say that none of the military leaders want to run the government or get involved in politics. We want to return power to the people as quickly as possible.
The transition of power will take place when the people are ready for it. The people should understand what happened and strive to prevent a repeat by introducing charter amendments and adjusting the administrative system.
I suspect many Thais still lack a proper understanding of democracy. The people have to understand their rights and their duties. Some have yet to learn about discipline.
I think it is important to educate the people about true democratic rule.
Date Posted: 10/27/2006