Thai junta turns the political clock back fifty years

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The coup d’état that took place on 22nd May last year has turned Thailand’s political clock back fifty years. Today we have a vicious, patronising and self-deluded military government, headed by a mass murderer. Generalissimo Prayut is responsible for shooting down almost a hundred pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010. The military has continued its barbarity in Patani, with the killing in cold blood of innocent civilians. The junta and Thai security forces have also been involved in the human trafficking of Rohingya refugees and their cruel expulsion from Thailand’s borders.

Since the coup, human rights have been non-existent. People staging peaceful anti-dictatorship protests have been arrested. The number of prosecutions against free-thinkers, under the draconian and illegitimate lèse majesté law, have escalated dramatically. Those arrested face military courts and are denied justice. Academic seminars have been banned. Opposition activists have been dragged into military camps for “attitude changing” sessions. Opposition media are constantly closed down. Thailand is being ruled by the Law of the Gun.

Yet the generals and their civilian acolytes are self-proclaimed “good people”, unlike democratically elected politicians who win the hearts and minds of the people.

Thai society has experienced rapid militarisation, with the generals in charge of all branches of administration. Rich pickings have been laid bare for the corrupt and greedy military men.

The junta’s patronising attitude to most citizens and the self-delusions of the top generals are echoes from Thailand’s past during the 1960s. In those days top generals in the dictatorship would issue slogans such as “Do Good, Do Good, Do Good” or “Money is Work, Work is Money, the way to Happiness”. In those days the corrupt and murderous generals may have done little work, but they certainly knew how to line their own pockets. They were also in the habit of making ridiculous statements in public which merely exposed their stupidity. But they were confident that they could bully others to stay in power…. That is until mass protests erupted in the streets and workplaces and they could not shoot enough people to suppress the democratic movement.

Today Prayut is so arrogant, self-deluded and stupid that he thinks that he can appoint himself as the “moral guardian” of society. He issued his “12 commandments”, a list of reactionary attitudes, befitting any dictatorship. His ministerial toadies, who fawn over him and lick his boots, quickly sang Prayut’s praises and committed government funds for the promotion of these commandments. Some of these people actually have PhDs from western universities.

Prayut is fond of talking endlessly about “Thainess”, yet his knowledge of Thai history is rudimentary and out of date. He believes that Thais emigrated south from the Altai Mountains near Mongolia, an historical lie perpetuated in the past by nationalists.

Prayut also believes that women who wear bikinis on Thai beaches only have themselves to blame if they are raped and murdered.

When questioned by the normally docile press, on many occasions Prayut has exhibited toddler tantrums, lashing out and threatening violence against reporters.

The new draft constitution, written under the watchful eye of the military, will formalise the influence of the generals and the conservative anti-democratic elites, vastly reducing the democratic space. Elections will be crafted to fit specifications of the junta and self-appointed “good people” will control elected representatives of the people. If this were not enough, the whole document shows utter contempt for citizens. It is full of patronising definitions about the qualities “good” representatives and “good” governance, written by gangsters. It emphasises the duties of citizens rather than ensuring human rights. It outlaws “too much” government spending of pro-poor policies while ensuring that military spending remains high.

The draft constitution drones on ad nauseam about the monarchy. The monarchy has always been a useful tool of Thai dictatorships, rubber stamping all the abuses of democracy and human rights committed by the military. This time round, the elderly and feeble king was used by Prayut to justify his coup d’état without Prayut even bothering to speak to him. But anyone criticising the monarch or the relationship between the monarchy and the military will be charged with lèse majesté.

There can be no freedom of speech or democracy in Thailand without abolishing lèse majesté.

If you want to understand the relationship between the monarchy and the dictatorship you need to view the king like a deity. In the West in the past, kings claimed to be appointed by God. There was never any logical argument to prove this, since in the real world deities do not exist. Deities can never be heard to speak their real minds. So the King of Thailand is said to appoint dictators and guide their evil deeds without anyone needing to prove anything. He just does what he is told while pocketing the cash for his bloated wealth.

The anti-democratic thugs around Sutep Tuaksuban, who wrecked the elections last year in the name of the “People’s Democratic Reform Committee”, have now dropped all pretence at being “independent” from the Democrat Party. You had to be of feeble mind to believe this in the first place. But they have now “re-joined” the Democrat Party in preparation for the junta’s future gerrymandered elections. Most Pua Thai politicians will probably take part, hoping to get their snouts in the political trough. Politicians from both parties have called for the junta to stay on for another 2 years to give time for further “reforms”.

The junta’s filthy constitution needs to be opposed, whether a referendum is held or not, and the forces of reaction and authoritarianism must be brought down. But without addressing the issue of ruling class power and fighting it by political organisation, we will not succeed.

Below are some pictures of anti-junta protests by student activists in Bangkok and Khon Kaen on the anniversary of the coup (22nd May 2015). The junta’s thugs were quickly on the scene to protect Thailand from democracy.