CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Yingluck Shinawatra government is not fully in charge of Thailand as the Army has a “veto” power over some key issues – including who will be the Army Chief or what is to be done with the lese majeste laws, said red-shirt movement lawyer Robert Amsterdam yesterday.
Amsterdam is funded by Yingluck’s elder brother, convicted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
He said General Prayuth Chan-ocha remains the Army Chief despite his role in the April-May 2010 crackdown on mostly red-shirt demonstrators, which demonstrates that the government is not fully in charge.
“The Yingluck administration is not fully in charge of this country. We all know it. We all know the Army has a veto over what happens here. Let’s not pretend. And therefore I understand that were this government to [sack General Prayuth], it would be removed militarily without hesitation,” he said. Nevertheless he wished Prayuth could be removed.
Amsterdam, who was interviewed by this writer on a pro bono basis for a special video-interview series for prachatai.com on-line newspaper, said the Yingluck government was not going to amend the controversial lese majeste law, as proposed by the Nitirat group of law lecturers, because the government “is a hostage to the Army”.
“Anyone with the political knowledge understands that if they touch it, it’s a red line… I think it’s very important for people who support democracy in this country not to be angry at a party that is a hostage to an Army veto.”
Amsterdam criticised both Amnesty International (AI) and the US government for failing to act regarding the twelve or so known lese majeste detainees currently being incarcerated.
He called AI “spineless” and described the US as a force that has until recently been “pro-Army and anti-democratic” in Thailand.
“I think the history of American policy in this country is shameful,” said Amsterdam, referring to the US engagement with Thailand during the Cold War and after.
Regarding the perpetrators of the killing of 91 people, mostly red shirts, in April-May 2010, Amsterdam warned that it could take 20 years to identify them – as it did in Argentina – but added that he’s confident “these people will be made accountable”
He said the Thai elites must ask themselves why so many poor Thais are upset and decided to demonstrate in 2010.
“The elites have to ask themselves how they could allow people, in this country, to be so disenfranchised that they felt they had no choice but to virtually commit suicide [in front of] the Army to have their rights ratified.”
He also said Thai society had to ask why the Army shoots its own citizens every decade or so. “Until we understand what are the drivers [and] why the Army keeps killing its own citizens …,we’ll never have peace or reconciliation.”
Amsterdam refers to the Democrat Party as “the Army Party”, but at the same time urged red shirts to stop calling the now opposition party an insect party, saying it’s “dehumanising” to do so. “Whatever they stand accused of, we need to always show that our differences are political.”