Giles Ji Ungpakorn
It should not be necessary to remind people that Thailand is not a democracy, even after the elections this year. Yet some governments and individuals are turning a blind eye to this.
The military junta is still in charge and repressive actions are still being taken against those who oppose the government. The only thing that has changed is that the election process and the parliament are being used as a fig-leaf to cover the present parliamentary dictatorship run by the military junta.
But as we say in Thailand, this is like covering up a dead elephant with a single lotus leaf!
The latest outrage is the disqualification and banning of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, from being an MP. This was carried out by the junta-appointed Constitutional Court on the dubious charge that Thanathorn held shares in a media company. He denied the charge. Compare this with the status and suitability of Generalissimo Prayut!
The Human Rights lawyers’ organisation iLaw has published an article explaining ten reasons why Generalissimo Prayut cannot claim to be an elected Prime Minister [https://ilaw.or.th/node/5292 ]. These reasons are: Prayut is not an elected member of parliament, he held full powers as head of the junta during the entire period of the election, the junta wrote all the election rules, the Electoral Commission and Constitutional Court were appointed by the junta, Opposition parties faced numerous obstacles, the second largest opposition party was dissolved during the election, the opposition Pua Thai Party won most seats in parliament, parties opposed to the junta took nearly double the popular vote compared to the junta parties, opposition parties won more than half the number of seats in parliament and the 250 junta appointed senators were used to support Prayut.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights organisation [https://bit.ly/35dDry0 ] and the independent news outlet “Prachatai” have reported that although the use of article 112 or the lèse-majesté law has decreased in recent months, the repression against those critical of the monarchy and the establishment has not disappeared. Previously article 116 or the “Computer Crimes” law was being used to target dissidents instead of the lèse-majesté law. Now the military have changed tactics by circumventing the law altogether. Soldiers turn up at peoples’ homes, without a proper warrant and subject citizens to intimidation and interrogation while demanding pass words for phones, computers and social media accounts. They force people to sign statements agreeing to all this and agreeing not to engage in any further dissident activities. Those targeted are not just critics of the monarchy but include people criticising the government. These actions are all “illegal”, but the military is a law unto itself.
Myths about the so-called power of the idiot and thug King Wachiralongkorn are merely diversions. The power lies with the military and their conservative allies in the ruling class.
It is a pipe dream to believe that governments around the world or the United Nations will help to establish Thai democracy. It is a pipe dream to think that the “dictator’s club” of ASEAN will do anything positive. The key lies with ordinary Thais.
There are plenty of Thai people opposed to this lack of freedom and democracy. Yet the junta’s rule is yet to be seriously challenged because activists lack the confidence to build a mass social movement outside parliament, involving ordinary working people and farmers.