As we move into 2015 the outlook for freedom and democracy in Thailand is very bleak. The junta has set its face in using repression and violence against freedom-loving dissidents. Witch hunts continue, along with arrests and Stalinist show-trials in military kangaroo courts. Those accused of “heresy” under the lèse majesté law are imprisoned for years in dreadful medieval conditions. The innocent are pressurised to “confess” to their so-called crimes.
The junta’s various agents in the communications industry are busy trying to identify and catch those who express free opinions on the internet. Soon people will be forced to register their names before being able to use Wi-Fi. Thailand is a society gripped by fear where people are forced to swear allegiance to the Leader, reminding us of North Korea or Nazi Germany.
Added to all this misery is the deteriorating state of the economy. Even the junta’s own people admit that the poor will “have to” tighten their belts. But of course, the top generals, businessmen and the royals will continue to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.
The junta’s Deputy Prime Minister and economics advisor, aristocrat Pritiyatorn Tewakun, recently boasted that the dictatorship was managing the economy “better than an elected government”. Yet the reality is that the country is sliding into economic misery, partly because of the political unrest and repression, and partly because the junta hasn’t a clue or is not interested in how to boost living standards when the world economy is in difficulties.
The lies, hypocrisy and deception continue. Vicious killing machines, recently used against unarmed pro-democracy Red Shirts are brought into Bangkok for children to “enjoy” on Children’s Day.
What is most frustrating is that although anti-dictatorship activities continue to take place, they are not coordinated and therefore lack the power to reflect the continuing anger against the junta among ordinary people.
This is our midnight, our dark winter. But as the poet Shelly once wrote in the depths of repressive reaction in Europe: “O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” That must remain our hope today.