In an interesting development, the anti-coup protest movement has launched a petition calling for the removal of General Prem Tinsulanonda from the Privy Council. Those who are sympathetic to the cause can sign up to an online petition which is hosted by the Saturdayvoice web site. The symbolic target is 100,000 “signatures.”
As publicity stunts go, this is very interesting indeed. Prem is very close to the king. One of the most useful contributions of Handley’s controversial biography of the king is his documentation of this close relationship and of Prem’s enduring influence in Thai political life. Whether or not Prem had any direct role in the coup is beside the point. What is important is that in this protest action Prem appears to be a symbolic proxy for the king himself. Clearly, given legal sanctions and cultural taboos, anti-coup protesters are reluctant to explicitly open up critical discussion on the monarch’s role in the coup and its aftermath. Highlighting Prem’s role instead is not without risks, but it is a much safer alternative. It will be interesting to see how far this goes.