What can activists outside Thailand do to help the struggle for democracy?
Firstly, you can counter any lies put out by the junta and its allies in your local media and among your friends and colleagues. It is important that people understand that the military junta has set its face on anti-reforms which entrench the power of the military and the conservative elites. They are aiming for a “Burmese model” of pretend democracy. The current junta head General Prayut was not only involved with the previous 2006 coup d’état, but he is directly responsible for the killing of 90 unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010. He staged this latest coup in May in order to destroy democracy on a more permanent basis. He has acted in the interests of the anti-democratic elites. This is not about “creating peace and stability”.
In short, Thailand is now being run by an authoritarian Prime Minister who is guilty of murder and gross human rights abuses.
Secondly, you can help campaign for the release of political prisoners, especially those in jail under the lèse-majesté law. The website “Political Prisoners in Thailand” has details of those in jail. Everyone who believes in free speech and democracy can campaign against the junta’s use of lèse-majesté by writing protest letters to Thammasart University, the Thai authorities or embassies and local newspapers.
People should call for the abolition the lèse-majesté law.
It is always better to write as a group of people rather than as a single individual. If you are a union activist you can also write an open letter to raise your concerns and invite your colleagues to sign. If you are involved with a human rights organisation, make sure that they take up this issue and campaign for the release of all those now in jail.
Thirdly, any students or academics who are involved with Thai Studies can denounce pro-junta academics who are contributing to the destruction of democracy and the increase in human rights abuses. Thammasart and Chulalongkorn Universities are prime examples of where senior academics are collaborating with the dictatorship. Pro-democracy students are being harassed and some have been jailed under the lèse-majesté law. Ask the Rector of Thammasart University, who is working with the junta, whether he believes in academic freedom. This problem should be robustly discussed in international academic conferences which have Thai participation. In doing so, at least academics who support the junta can be exposed so that they have no place to stand on international stages. Recently, Harvard University set up a Thai Studies program with a number of Thai anti-democracy academics. This has now been exposed in the journal “Harvard Crimson”.
Fourthly, you can help provide support and sponsorship, where necessary, for Thai exiles who are seeking asylum after the latest coup.