Giles Ji Ungpakorn
The military junta has once again postponed the date of future elections to 2019. Previously it made many promises about elections in 2017 and then in 2018. But as usually, the junta’s promises all turned out to be lies.
Meanwhile General Pig-Face Prawit, Prayut’s deputy, has been crying that he has been unfairly criticised for displaying numerous highly expensive watches on his wrist and not declaring his assets. Generalissimo Piggy claimed that they were all “loans” from friends. People have had a field day on social media making jokes about watches and borrowing items from friends. No one with an ounce of intelligence believes him, especially after his lavish spending on an official junket to Hawaii.
At the same time the minimum wage level for millions of workers has been raised by a mere pittance because the junta are keen that any wage increases should not affect the profits made by their friends in the business community.
Some commentators claim that the junta has no credible exit strategy [ http://bit.ly/2FX1lBZ ]. But this is not the case. They have been planning for the nature of any future elections for some years with the new elections rules and the National Strategy. The whole process is designed to ensure that the reactionary undemocratic ideas of the junta remain in place to control any future “elected” governments and also to ensure that as many obstacles are in place to make political life hard for Taksin’s allies. [See http://bit.ly/2l63Z1I ]
The junta are not really interested in an exit from politics as such. They merely wish to install a system of guided, Thai style, “democracy” under their control. It is a strategy to exit from a military dictatorship to a military controlled civilian government. Included among so-called civilian politicians could be generals like Prayut who merely slip out of uniform and put on a suit. There is even talk of setting up a pro-military party or encouraging many so-called small “independent” parties to fragment parliament and allow Prayut to be chosen as Prime Minister in the future.
Part of the junta’s strategy continues to be the stifling of any criticism. A whole barrage of laws now exist, alongside lèse-majesté, which are designed to limit freedom of expression. A prominent academic has been summoned by the police over a social media post concerning the price of a hand bag belonging to General Prayut’s wife. The satirical “Kai Meaw” internet page which poked fun at the junta, through its cartoons, has mysteriously disappeared. The site enjoyed the highest number of visits among those interested in politics. Naturally the junta has denied all knowledge of this, just like they denied all knowledge of how and why the 1932 revolution plaque disappeared.
What we must never forget, however, is that the strength and the ability of the junta to survive is always inversely related to the strength of pro-democracy social movements. The Egyptian revolution and the overthrow of Suharto in Indonesia were never predicted in advance and events can change rapidly. But what makes the overthrow of the junta and its legacy more likely is a large body of people who are prepared to get organised.