Giles Ji Ungpakorn
“We are ruling in a democratic system without elections” – General “Pig-face” Prawit, deputy junta leader.
“Thailand’s democracy has not developed properly because Thai people have no morals” –Generalissimo Prayut, head of the junta.
“I am a democrat….. If the country isn’t ready for democracy, I’ll stay on longer. Those protesting against the government will be the first to be dealt with.” Generalissimo Prayut, head of the junta.
It would be tempting to explain this verbal nonsense by questioning the intellect of the generals that now rule Thailand, but although they are certainly not that bright, the real explanation is more complex.
Arrogance, stemming from their monopoly control of the means of violence is an important factor. Like most powerful gangsters, the top generals of the military junta have little need to justify anything they do or say. Waving a gun in someone’s face or bringing the tanks on to the streets can be very persuasive. In fact, Generalissimo Prayut also has a law (article 44) where he can rule by decree, bypassing even his tame military-appointed parliament. They feel confident that they can spout any old rubbish and know that they will never face scrutiny from an electorate in the future. They are also prepared to lock up people who criticise the junta, whether it be via the use of the internal security article 116 law, which is being used against a prominent journalist, or via detention in army camps for “attitude-changing sessions”. If all else fails they can also accuse opponents of Lèse-majesté, like in the case of student activist Pai Daodin.
The fact that the generals do not care what the general population think, because they never face elections, is an indication that Thai citizens use their intellect when choosing politicians. Most of the general population know very well that the junta leaders talk rubbish all the time. The middle-classes ignore this rubbish because they prefer dictators who rule in favour of the rich and powerful and they are probably under the illusions that the “stupid” poor people will believe anything coming out of the mouths of the big shots.
The generals do not care either what the so-called “international community” might think about their rantings. Foreign governments might make lame statements about the need to return to democracy, but the generals know that in practice relations with foreign governments will be “business as usual”. Junta leaders are never excluded from international meetings and arms sales to the junta continue, despite the fact that these arms may be used to kill pro-democracy demonstrators in the future. General “Pig-face” Prawit was invited to the giant arms fair in London by the British Government and the US has just sold more weapons to the junta and still conducts military events with the Thai army.
However, despite the various reasons given above for the nonsense “Junta-Speak”, there is also a sly reason why the generals constantly talk about freedom and democracy. They are busy designing a system of “Guided Democracy”, under their control, via the National Strategy and National Strategy Committee. All public agencies and elected politicians will have to abide by the National Strategy, which acts like a “super law”. This means that when elections are finally held, any future government will remain under the control of the military. This is similar to the “Burmese Model of Democracy”. As previously flagged-up on this blog site, even British Foreign Office consultants believe that Burma is a “beacon of democracy” in the region. The “Junta-Speak” on democracy will provide an excuse to foreign governments to accept that Thailand’s “Guided Democracy” will be “democratic” after elections are held. It will provide cover for all those Thai anti-democrats among the middle-classes, bureaucrats and the Democrat Party, to claim that the country has returned to democracy under the guidance of the democracy-loving junta.
The majority of the Thai population have never been fooled by “Junta-Speak” and they are well aware of the plans from “Guided Democracy”, but awareness is not enough. In order to bring about freedom and democracy there will have to be a mass pro-democracy movement from below. Unfortunately, this movement is yet to be built.