Tag Archives: Militarisation of society

The militarisation of labour relations

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

As we approach the end of 2017 we are seeing another aspect of the militarisation of Thai society.

The end of the year is traditionally a time when workers look forward to bonuses, which are essential additions to their low wages. Most workers rely on these bonuses as an integral part of their annual wages in order to survive. Since the military overthrew the Yingluk government in 2014, the junta have been forcing down wages by refusing to adequately increase the minimum wage. The Yingluk government had previously made a significant increase to the minimum wage rate, even though this was still not enough to provide ordinary working people with a decent living. The military junta has said that it will carry on the policy of decreeing different minimum wage levels for different provinces, something which is designed to keep down wages in the interests of the bosses.

Immediately after Prayut’s coup, and also after the 2006 coup, military personnel were stationed outside key factories which had strong trade union organisations with reputations for pro-democracy struggles.

Lately there have been two disputes over bonus payments, resulting in mass meetings and factory gate protests. The first one was at Fujikura Electronics factories in a number of different provinces. The second dispute was at Triumph underwear factories. Triumph has a long history of strong trade union activity, although in recent times the union has been weakened by the victimisation of key activists. [See http://bit.ly/2kPNX9E ]

In the case of Triumph, the employers broke an agreement with the union to pay the end of year bonus.

What is noticeable is that the military have been involved in both disputes, blatantly intervening under the age-old excuse of “national security”. Of course the presence of security forces was not to ensure that the employers kept to their agreements or treated their employees fairly.

At Triumph the military were photographed sitting in on negotiations between the union and the employees.

In addition to this, the present minister of Labour is a military general.

Minister of Labour

All this has echoes of the militarisation of labour relations under the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. This was carried out under the “dwifungsi” doctrine of the military having a double function of defending the country and also intervening in politics and society.

Vedi Hadiz, wrote in his book, “Workers and the state in new order Indonesia”, that the involvement of security organisations in labour matters was legitimised by the characterisation of industrial disputes as a threat to national stability. This military intervention in labour disputes was supported by law under the Suharto dictatorship. Local military dominated committees in each region were created in order to control labour disputes and the workings of trade unions. The Minister of Manpower was often also a military officer.

The situation in Suharto’s Indonesia was worse than what we currently see in Thailand under Prayut’s dictatorship, but there are significant similarities in terms of the militarisation of society. I have also posted an article on this site comparing the Thai “National Strategy” with the use of Pancasila under Suharto. [See http://bit.ly/2l63Z1I ]. Pancasila was also used as an enforced “guide” to labour relations in order to weaken trade union struggles.

If we do not put a stop to this creeping militarisation of Thai society, there can never be freedom and democracy.

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Thailand’s Military “New Order” Continues

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Three years ago I wrote about how Big Brother Generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha had pushed forward the militarisation of politics, economics and society. The aim was to create Thailand’s New Order, Suharto-style, with a double function for the military. What Suharto called “Dwifungsi”, was designed to enshrine the political and social role of the military in addition to the usual defence functions. As with Indonesia under the dictator Suharto, the long-term aim of the Thai junta is to install “Guided Democracy” in the interests of the conservative elites.

The latest chapter in this militarisation is the enforced “induction” of state employed doctors, dentists and pharmacists, within the central region, in a military camp. According to reports, these new health care professionals are forced to undergo military style training while soldiers shout, insult and scream at them. The so-called induction involves standing in the sun and rain for hours, crawling through mud, jumping over fires and being humiliated by Drill Sergeants. Participants have described it as a form of torture. It is obvious that this has nothing to do with instilling the ideals of “patient centred care” or respect for future patients. It has nothing to do with democracy. But the military block-heads who are running the country would never understand such ideals anyway.

At the same time, pictures have been published from an elite primary school in Bangkok of soldiers brain-washing little kids from years 3 and 4. The children were taught how to march like soldiers and no doubt had their heads filled with anti-democratic ideals.

Three years ago the junta made sure that all government ministries were controlled by military personnel.  Top civil servants who were in post before the coup were replaced by those who were loyal lapdogs or cronies of the junta.

New executive board members were appointed to state enterprises, with military men on every board and with HE Generalissimo Prayut as overall chairman. Civilian cronies were carefully chosen from among the ranks of the whistle-blowing middle class mobs who hate democracy. Historically the military has always used the state enterprises as cash cows to line their own pockets. This is especially the case with the profitable ones like the Petroleum Authority or the Airports Authority. This corrupt tradition started with the dictatorships in the 1950s.

Prayut also put himself in charge of the economy, ensuring that it took a nose-dive while the generals enjoyed huge benefits. Those who are poor have been insulted for “being lazy”.

Conveniently, the so-called Counter Corruption Commission stated at the time that junta members did not have to declare their ill-gotten earnings before and after holding office, unlike previously elected politicians.

In every region, military officers carry out normal policing duties and some people are still being tried in military courts.

Three years ago schools were having to change their curriculums to follow the dictates of the junta. Discipline, nationalism and love of Big Brother were emphasised in the new moral code. State employed teachers now have to strictly adhere to uniform dress-codes. But education must be done on the cheap in order to fund the bloated military and junta budget.

Three years ago the junta reassured the mass media that sending in troops to sit in their offices was “nothing to worry about”. According to the uniformed thugs, the media were “free to report the news”. They just had to avoid reporting anything critical of the junta. Now the junta has drafted a new law to heavily control the media in the future.

After his 2014 coup, Prayut ensured that the country had a military constitution and he packed the so-called “reform committees” with lackeys of the military in order to enshrine his dream of Military Guided Democracy.